SXSW 2012: Thursday photos and recap featuring Sharon Van Etten, Girls, the Men, Gary Clark Jr., the War on Drugs, moreBy Reverb Staff | March 16th, 2012 | No Comments »
All of the South by Southwest clichés typically set in on the third day. (Feet aches, hangovers, stomach revolt.) Yeah, we’re no different. But the music – it’s why we come to Austin each March, and damn was it great on Thursday.
Of all the acts we caught Thursday, the Staves left the most substantial impression. Imagine this: Three beautiful women, each with musical talents that reach far beyond their sterling voices. There’s chemistry there, and there’s also a couple solid songs that I would kill to hear live in a non-South by Southwest venue. (The industry getting-to-know-you chatter rivaled the band’s amplified acoustic music at times.)
They’re from England, and they’re now signed to a major label here in the States – they were playing the Warner Sound party on Thursday at La Zona Rosa. Surely it’s somebody trying to capitalize on the Mumford & Sons freighter. But the Staves are quite different, like a haunting, folk-rooted Wilson Phillips. And if you think that sounds bad, think again.
Earlier in the day we finally caught buzzy punk band the Men – at an early-afternoon slot at the Mess With Texas party on the east side of the highway. There were technical issues – the PA went out for nearly two full songs – but the guys played on, unfazed, awash in the noise coming from their monitors and in a daze. (They’re playing a lot down here.) I like their approach. It’s simple and fun, straightforward and melodic.
We caught a jumpy little band called Eight and a Half at the Fader Fort, and their energy connected with the few people in the house. And we spent most of the night at the Mohawk for the Jagjaguwar showcase – which meant seeing the terrific Sharon Van Etten, the dynamic Gardens & Villa, the familiar War on Drugs and Denver’s own rock champs Gauntlet Hair.
The showcase, as it was last spring, was one of the festival’s strongest single nights of music – a brawny display from the label home to Grammy-winner Bon Iver.
Van Etten’s set was intoxicating and lovely, just like her latest record, “Tramp.” Gauntlet Hair was a blast in the Mohawk’s tiny (and packed) downstairs room, seemingly channeling a more violent Band of Horses at times. War on Drugs started with its more Dylanesque goods and then got weird, and both Gardens & Villa and Bear in Heaven played upbeat sets that touched on the indie staples that have made them favorites in rock clubs across the U.S.
The day’s strangest find: Crystal Fighters, a meandering collaborative group that seems to have multiple personality disorder. At times they were Frantiesque, rocking the hippie thing. And then they’d drop into the kind of live-band dubstep I’ve never heard before, shaking La Zona Rosa’s walls and bringing people in from the sunny patio with bewildered looks in their eyes.
Cheers for doing something different, though they’d be smart to step up the live-dubstep angle of what they’re doing. That’s pretty wild, and those elements of their songs worked. –Ricardo Baca
What’s keeping Austin weird…
Celebrity sightings are not unique this time of year in Austin. Last year, a colleague caught Mischa Barton (of “The O.C.”) stumbling down 6th street, far from sober. As Reverb columnist Colin St. John mentioned in his Wednesday preview, stars as big as Aziz Ansari and Bill Murray have made famed cameos in years past. Most are just simply here to party.
Thursday morning, while writing about Carson Daly sitting in on drums with Thee Oh Sees, perpetual party enthusiast Andrew WK sat down two tables over from Reverb photographer Ryan Johnson and I. We are staying across the Lady Bird lake, slightly removed from the hub of all-night revelry. Though as Andrew WK stood waiting for his custom omelet from the breakfast bar, he was never, for one second, “out of character.” Black biker jacket, purple hat, huge sunglasses, plus his trademark white T-shirt/white jeans combo and a voice that boomed across the room. The dining hall was largely empty, he didn’t have to worry about being recognized. Or maybe that’s exactly what he wanted. –John Hendrickson
A different take: Ricardo Baca explores some of Austin’s unique cuisine.
Going to Austin this year? RSVP to the Reverb Party @ SXSW!
Ryan Johnson is a Denver videographer, social media strategist and guitar player for hire. Contact him here.
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