Favorite Films of 2014

Here, at long last, is the list of my favorite films from 2014. Or a list, anyway. I’d better post this before I change my mind again about what to put on it. It’s a mix of fiction features from the United States and other countries, along with documentaries. I included films that played in 2014 at the Chicago International Film Festival and art venues like the Gene Siskel Film Center. And of course, I didn’t see everything that’s worth seeing.

1. The Grand Budapest Hotel

01-grandbudapesthotelAn exquisite jewel box of a film as well as a thrilling adventure. I recently saw it on the big screen for a second time, along with my other favorite movie of 2014, Boyhood, and my appreciation for both films only deepened as a result of those repeat viewings. I feel torn over which movie to put at No. 1, but my second watching of The Grand Budapest Hotel — when I found myself focusing on all of the intricate details, like the typefaces on every object in the background — helped me to realize just what a stunning achievement of artistry it is. I have been an unabashed fan of Wes Anderson’s movies ever since I saw Rushmore, so it’s no surprise that I fell for this one, which ranks in the top tier of his work. Even as I tried to concentrate more on the way Anderson put together this marvel, tears welled up in my eyes as I watched the friendship and bond building between the young character Zero (Tony Revolori) and his mentor M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes). Like the best of his movies, it works on more than one levels: It’s highly artificial — very self-conscious of the fact that it’s a work of art — but it also resonates for me on a deeper emotional level. It turns out to be a delightful story about the power of storytelling. And now, I must really try to find the time to read the books of Stefan Zweig, the Austrian novelist whose early 20th-century stories inspired The Grand Budapest Hotel.

2. Boyhood

02-boyhoodRichard Linklater is another director whose films I’ve admired and enjoyed for years, especially his superb trilogy of talky romantic relationship movies: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight. Watching Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy play the same characters as they age over the course of those three films has been fascinating. Witnessing the passage of time is also the main attraction of Boyhood. The concept was almost ludicrously ambitious: filming a cast of actors playing a family over a dozen years. It’s amazing to watch these people (the characters as well as the actors) evolve over time. Boyhood doesn’t have the sort of plot structure that’s standard in Hollywood movies, but I found it absorbing. It unfolds in a natural way, and it feels like an authentic portrait of a boy and his family.

3. 20,000 Days on Earth

Nick Cave in 20,000 Days on Earth. Picturehouse Entertainment

This groundbreaking movie by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard about Nick Cave is not exactly a documentary. At times, it’s more like a filmed work of performance art, with Cave participating in staged situations. But even if those scenes are depicting Cave’s real life in a cinema verite style, they do seem to capture the true charisma and searching creativity of this remarkable musician. Maybe it’s more accurate to call this movie a portrait. It’s also one of the best rock ’n’ roll films of recent vintage.

4. Ne Me Quitte Pas

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Two grizzled Belgians chat as they guzzle booze in this startlingly intimate documentary, directed by Sabine Lubbe Bakker and Niels van Koevorden from the Netherlands. It’s touching, humorous and sometimes unsettling. Without any voiceover or any explanation of why we’re even watching these two men, it becomes a subtle examination of alcohol’s effects on their lives, as well as a moving depiction of their friendship.

5. Winter Sleep

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An engrossing character study set against a desolate but picturesque landscape. Like director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s previous masterpiece, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, this film moves at its own pace and confounds our expectations about where the story’s going. Ceylan knows how to linger on a conversation between his characters, subtly revealing their histories and personalities.

6. Force Majeure

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A penetrating moral drama plays out at a ski resort, where the snow itself seems sinister. Director Ruben Östlund’s previous film, Play, was equally riveting and thought-provoking; he is proving himself to be one of Sweden’s most interesting and important filmmakers.

7. Under the Skin

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Freaky and marvelously weird. Even months after seeing director Jonathan Glazer’s movie, it lingers in the mind like a bad dream.

8. Only Lovers Left Alive

08-onlyloversOne of the coolest vampire movies ever, and yet another Jim Jarmusch movie worthy of cult status.

9. Two Days, One Night

Two Days, One Night

One woman’s struggle for her livelihood and her dignity — and the latest gut-wrenching drama by Belgium’s masterful brothers, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne.

10. Leviathan

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Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev, a vivid and disturbing tale of Kafkaesque political corruption in a small town in Russia, where you really can’t fight city hall. Most of the recent films from Russia that I’ve seen portray the country in a similar light — for further viewing, I recommend two films by Yury Bykov, The Major and The Fool, and Andrey Zvyagintsev’s surreal trip My Joy.

Runners-up

Here are more 2014 films that I liked, in roughly descending order. As with any such list, my opinions are subject to change. Many of these outstanding movies might move up into my top 10 after subsequent viewings.

Parviz (Majid Barzeger, Iran)
Exhibition (Joanna Hogg)
Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson)
Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski, France)
Selma (Ava DuVernay)
Enemy (Denis Villeneuve)
Gone Girl (David Fincher)
Snowpiercer (Bong Joon-ho)
Mr. Turner (Mike Leigh)
Citizenfour (Laura Poitras)
Birdman (Alejandro G. Iñárritu)
Norte, the End of History (Lav Diaz, Philippines)
Of Horses and Men (Benedikt Erlingsson, Iceland)
We Are the Best! (Lukas Moodysson, Sweden)
Life Itself (Steve James)
The Strange Little Cat (Ramon Zürcher, Germany)
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Ana Lily Amirpour)
The Fool (Yuriy Bykov, Russia)
Jodorowsky’s Dune (Frank Pavich)
Night Moves (Kelly Reichardt)
The Red Army (Gabe Polsky)
Ilo Ilo (Anthony Chen, Singapore)
The Private Life of Mr. & Mrs. M (Rouhollah Hejazi, Iran)
Snow on Pines (Peyman Moaddi, Iran)
Honeymoon (Jan Hrebejk, Czech Republic)
Revenge of the Mekons (Joe Angio)
The President (Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Georgia)
Mistaken for Strangers (Tom Berninger)
Hairy Who & the Chicago Imagists (Leslie Buchbinder)
The Immigrant (James Gray)
The Babadook (Jennifer Kent)
Calvary (John Michael McDonagh)
Algren (Michael Caplan)
Free Fall (Gyorgy Palfi, Hungary)

Blackout Fest 2014

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Blackout Fest was back this past weekend at the Empty Bottle, and once again, Chicago’s HoZac Records delivered a fun package of garage rock, punk and power pop. I missed the first night on May 15 (an art show and opening party), but I was there the following two nights.

The Boys

The headliners on May 16 were a pretty big deal: The Boys, a legendary British punk band from the 1970s, played a Chicago gig for the first time — and amazingly, it was only the fourth time the Boys had ever played in the U.S. As these older blokes ripped through their old tunes (including a bunch of memorable shout-along songs, such as “Brickfield Nights”), a bunch of young garage-rock lovers packed the dance floor in front of the stage, moshing and bopping up and down with reckless joy.

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Friday’s lineup also included the Man (I showed up too late for their set), the fuzzy guitar riffs of 999999999 (apparently pronounced “all nines”) and First Base, a Toronto band with a slew of sweet and catchy songs. They even did a cover of the ABBA song “Mamma Mia.”

999999999
999999999
First Base
First Base
First Base
First Base

The Dictators

The headliners on Saturday, May 17, were another band that started back in the mid-’70s punk explosion: The Dictators, from New York City. Maybe the Dictators are actually a kind of proto-punk, since they formed all the way back in 1974. And on Saturday, as the current lineup played old Dictators songs as well as covers of songs by bands like the Flamin’ Groovies, they jammed more than you’d expect from punks. The frontman, Handsome Dick Manitoba, insisted on telling stories to the audience in his gruff New York accent, which slowed down the pace of the gig a bit, but still proved pretty entertaining. He’s quite a character. For the most part, the crowd ate it up.

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The rest of the lineup on Saturday was solid, with three bands playing the kind of straight-ahead, no-frills rock that HoZac is known for: Rainbow Gun Club, A Giant Dog and — my favorite of the bunch — Shocked Minds.

Rainbow Gun Show
Rainbow Gun Show
Rainbow Gun Show
Rainbow Gun Show
Rainbow Gun Show
Rainbow Gun Show
A Giant Dog
A Giant Dog
A Giant Dog
A Giant Dog
Shocked Minds
Shocked Minds
Shocked Minds
Shocked Minds

SXSW Day 5 Photos: Burgermania

On the final day of South By Southwest, March 15, 2014, I arrived at Hotel Vegas in late afternoon and stayed throughout the night for the Burger Records showcase. Here are my photos — click on these links to jump ahead — of Burnt OnesAJ DavilaCoathangersFletcher C. Johnson, the Bad Lovers, the YolksGap DreamGal PalsBad SportsShocked MindsCosmonautsWarm Soda and Habibi.

Click here for an index of all my photos at SXSW 2014. And here’s my recap of the festival.

Burnt Ones (San Francisco)
Burnt Ones (San Francisco)
Burnt Ones
Burnt Ones
Burnt Ones
Burnt Ones

AJ Davila (San Juan, Puerto Rico)
AJ Davila (San Juan, Puerto Rico)

Coathangers (Atlanta)
Coathangers (Atlanta)
Coathangers
Coathangers
Coathangers
Coathangers

Fletcher C. Johnson (Brooklyn)
Fletcher C. Johnson (Brooklyn)
Fletcher C. Johnson
Fletcher C. Johnson
Fletcher C. Johnson
Fletcher C. Johnson

The Bad Lovers (Austin)
The Bad Lovers (Austin)
The Bad Lovers
The Bad Lovers
The Bad Lovers
The Bad Lovers

The Yolks (Chicago)
The Yolks (Chicago)
The Yolks
The Yolks

Gap Dream (Akron, Ohio)
Gap Dream (Akron, Ohio)
Gap Dream
Gap Dream

Gal Pals (Austin)
Gal Pals (Austin)
Gal Pals
Gal Pals
Gal Pals
Gal Pals

Bad Sports (Austin/Dallas)
Bad Sports (Austin/Dallas)
Bad Sports
Bad Sports
Bad Sports
Bad Sports
Bad Sports
Bad Sports
Bad Sports
Bad Sports
Bad Sports
Bad Sports
Bad Sports
Bad Sports

Shocked Minds (Brooklyn)
Shocked Minds (Brooklyn)
Shocked Minds
Shocked Minds
Shocked Minds
Shocked Minds
Shocked Minds
Shocked Minds
Shocked Minds
Shocked Minds

Cosmonauts (Fullerton, Calif.)
Cosmonauts (Fullerton, Calif.)
Cosmonauts
Cosmonauts
Cosmonauts
Cosmonauts
Cosmonauts
Cosmonauts

Warm Soda (San Francisco)
Warm Soda (San Francisco)
Warm Soda
Warm Soda
Warm Soda
Warm Soda
Warm Soda
Warm Soda

Habibi (New York)
Habibi (New York)
Habibi
Habibi
Habibi
Habibi

Click here for an index of all my photos at SXSW 2014. And here’s my recap of the festival.

SXSW Day 5 Photos: Day Parties, etc.

My photos from daytime shows during the fifth day of South By Southwest, March 15, 2014, including — click on these links to jump ahead — WatchOut!SivuProtomartyr and the Melodic. (I have a separate gallery for another band I saw this afternoon, Ex Hex.)

Click here for an index of all my photos at SXSW 2014. And here’s my recap of the festival.

WatchOut! (Santiago, Chile) at the International Day Stage
WatchOut! (Santiago, Chile) at the International Day Stage
WatchOut! at the International Day Stage
WatchOut! at the International Day Stage
WatchOut! at the International Day Stage
WatchOut! at the International Day Stage
WatchOut! at the International Day Stage
WatchOut! at the International Day Stage

Sivu (Cambridge, England) at the International Day Stage
Sivu (Cambridge, England) at the International Day Stage

Protomartyr (Detroit) at Beerland
Protomartyr (Detroit) at Beerland
Protomartyr at Beerland
Protomartyr at Beerland
Protomartyr at Beerland
Protomartyr at Beerland

The Melodic (London) at the Flat Stock Stage
The Melodic (London) at the Flat Stock Stage
The Melodic at the Flat Stock Stage
The Melodic at the Flat Stock Stage
The Melodic at the Flat Stock Stage
The Melodic at the Flat Stock Stage
The Melodic at the Flat Stock Stage
The Melodic at the Flat Stock Stage

Click here for an index of all my photos at SXSW 2014. And here’s my recap of the festival.

Ex Hex at SXSW

Ex Hex is a new band on the Sub Pop label starring Mary Timony of Helium and Wild Flag, Fire Tapes bassist Betsy Wright and the Aquarium drummer Laura Harris. They played several times at South By Southwest; I saw their gig on Saturday afternoon, March 15, 2014, during Brooklyn Vegan’s party at Red 7. Wright in particular seemed to having a blast onstage, frequently coming over toward Timony to face off with her, one rocker to another. (You can hear Ex Hex’s song “Hot and Cold” here on Soundcloud.)

Click here for an index of all my photos at SXSW 2014. And here’s my recap of the festival.

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Click here for an index of all my photos at SXSW 2014. And here’s my recap of the festival.

SXSW Day 4 Photos

My photos from the fourth night of South By Southwest, March 14, 2014, including — click on these links to jump ahead — EMA, the ShilohsConnectionsDeath By Unga BungaNive Nielsen & the Deer ChildrenGulp and Songs of Water.

Click here for an index of all my photos at SXSW 2014. And here’s my recap of the festival.

EMA (Portland, Ore.) at Central Presbyterian Church
EMA (Portland, Ore.) at Central Presbyterian Church
EMA at Central Presbyterian Church
EMA at Central Presbyterian Church
EMA at Central Presbyterian Church
EMA at Central Presbyterian Church
EMA at Central Presbyterian Church
EMA at Central Presbyterian Church

The Shilohs (Vancouver, B.C.) at Maggie Mae’s
The Shilohs (Vancouver, B.C.) at Maggie Mae’s
The Shilohs at Maggie Mae’s
The Shilohs at Maggie Mae’s
The Shilohs at Maggie Mae’s
The Shilohs at Maggie Mae’s

Connections (Columbus, Ohio) at Lamberts
Connections (Columbus, Ohio) at Lamberts
Connections at Lamberts
Connections at Lamberts
Connections at Lamberts
Connections at Lamberts
Connections at Lamberts
Connections at Lamberts

Death By Unga Bunga (Oslo, Norway) at Icenhauer’s
Death By Unga Bunga (Oslo, Norway) at Icenhauer’s
Death By Unga Bunga at Icenhauer’s
Death By Unga Bunga at Icenhauer’s
Death By Unga Bunga at Icenhauer’s
Death By Unga Bunga at Icenhauer’s
Death By Unga Bunga at Icenhauer’s
Death By Unga Bunga at Icenhauer’s
Death By Unga Bunga at Icenhauer’s
Death By Unga Bunga at Icenhauer’s
Death By Unga Bunga at Icenhauer’s
Death By Unga Bunga at Icenhauer’s

Nive Nielsen & The Deer Children (Nuuk, Greenland) at Esther’s Follies
Nive Nielsen & The Deer Children (Nuuk, Greenland) at Esther’s Follies
Nive Nielsen & The Deer Children at Esther’s Follies
Nive Nielsen & The Deer Children at Esther’s Follies
Nive Nielsen & The Deer Children at Esther’s Follies
Nive Nielsen & The Deer Children at Esther’s Follies

Gulp (Cardiff, Wales) at the Hideout
Gulp (Cardiff, Wales) at the Hideout
Gulp at the Hideout
Gulp at the Hideout

Songs of Water (Greensboro, N.C.) at the Hideout
Songs of Water (Greensboro, N.C.) at the Hideout
Songs of Water at the Hideout
Songs of Water at the Hideout

Click here for an index of all my photos at SXSW 2014. And here’s my recap of the festival.

Bloodshot SXSW Party at Yard Dog

My photos from the Bloodshot Records party during South By Southwest, March 14, 2014, at the Yard Dog art gallery, including: the DeslondesRobbie FulksRosie FloresBobby Bare Jr.Luke Winslow King with Esther Rose, and Ha Ha Tonka. (I have a separate gallery of Lydia Loveless photos from the same party.)

Click here for an index of all my photos at SXSW 2014. And here’s my recap of the festival.

The Deslondes
The Deslondes
The Deslondes (New Orleans)
The Deslondes (New Orleans)

Robbie Fulks (Chicago)
Robbie Fulks (Chicago)
Robbie Fulks
Robbie Fulks

Rosie Flores (Austin)
Rosie Flores (Austin)
Rosie Flores
Rosie Flores
Rosie Flores
Rosie Flores

Bobby Bare Jr. (Nashville)
Bobby Bare Jr. (Nashville)
Bobby Bare Jr.
Bobby Bare Jr.
Bobby Bare Jr.
Bobby Bare Jr.
Bobby Bare Jr.'s band
Bobby Bare Jr.’s band

Luke Winslow King (New Orleans)
Luke Winslow King (New Orleans)
Luke Winslow King
Luke Winslow King
Luke Winslow King
Luke Winslow King
Esther Rose
Esther Rose
Esther Rose and Luke Winslow King
Esther Rose and Luke Winslow King
Esther Rose
Esther Rose

Ha Ha Tonka (Springfield, Mo.)
Ha Ha Tonka (Springfield, Mo.)
Ha Ha Tonka
Ha Ha Tonka
Ha Ha Tonka
Ha Ha Tonka
Ha Ha Tonka
Ha Ha Tonka
Ha Ha Tonka
Ha Ha Tonka

Click here for an index of all my photos at SXSW 2014. And here’s my recap of the festival.

The Launderettes at SXSW

The Launderettes, an all-female rock band from Oslo, Norway, who have been together since 1999, played the final time slot of the night at B.D. Riley’s on March 13, 2014, at South By Southwest — and it was one of the most fun shows I saw all week. The Launderettes play songs in the style of 1960s girl groups, occasionally dipping back into 1950s styles or evoking later punk-era bands like the B-52s and throwing in a few Theremin solos. A good way to acquaint yourself with this group is the best-of collection Fluff ‘n’ Fold, which came out in 2007 on Steven Van Zandt’s Wicked Cool Record Co. label.

Click here for an index of all my photos at SXSW 2014. And here’s my recap of the festival.

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Click here for an index of all my photos at SXSW 2014. And here’s my recap of the festival.

Dog Trumpet at SXSW

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The Australian rock band Dog Trumpet has been together since 1990, and its two key members — brothers Peter O’Doherty and Reg Mombassa (aka Chris O’Doherty) — have been playing even longer than that. They were members of another Australian band, Mental as Anything, which formed in Sydney in 1976. And yet, somehow Dog Trumpet had escaped my attention until now. And the band had never played in the U.S. until a visit to Austin, Texas, last week for South By Southwest.

I saw Dog Trumpet play a gig at B.D. Riley’s on the third day of SXSW, and the group’s songs immediately hooked me. Something about the way the brothers sing reminds me of the Faces, especially Ronnie Lane’s songs. They also came across as talented musicians who know how to play guitar solos in the classic rock style. And if I had any doubt, how could I not like a band with a song about the Kinks?

I liked Dog Trumpet enough that I decided to buy a copy of the band’s double CD from 2013, Medicated Spirits, and sure enough, it sounds terrific. Now, I’ll have to dig deeper into the Dog Trumpet discography. And hope that these guys decide to visit our shores again sometime soon.

(A note on these photos: Can you tell I was struggling to overcome the terrible, i.e., heavily red, lighting at B.D. Riley’s?)

Click here for an index of all my photos at SXSW 2014. And here’s my recap of the festival.

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Click here for an index of all my photos at SXSW 2014. And here’s my recap of the festival.

SXSW Day 1 Photos

My photos from Tuesday, March 11, the first day of South By Southwest, including: Neil Young, Shelby Earl, Mozes and the Firstborn, Mister and Mississippi, Landlady, Those Howlings, Quiet Company, GHXST and Together Pangea.

Click here for an index of all my photos at SXSW 2014. And here’s my recap of the festival.

Neil Young speaks at the Austin Convention Center.
Neil Young speaks at the Austin Convention Center.
Neil Young speaks at the Austin Convention Center.
Neil Young speaks at the Austin Convention Center.
Neil Young speaks at the Austin Convention Center.
Neil Young speaks at the Austin Convention Center.

Shelby Earl (Seattle) at Javelina
Shelby Earl (Seattle) at Javelina
Shelby Earl at Javelina
Shelby Earl at Javelina
Shelby Earl at Javelina
Shelby Earl at Javelina

Mozes and the Firstborn (Eindhoven, Netherlands) at Bar 96
Mozes and the Firstborn (Eindhoven, Netherlands) at Bar 96
Mozes and the Firstborn at Bar 96
Mozes and the Firstborn at Bar 96
Mozes and the Firstborn at Bar 96
Mozes and the Firstborn at Bar 96
Mozes and the Firstborn at Bar 96
Mozes and the Firstborn at Bar 96

Mister and Mississippi (Utrechet, Netherlands) at Bar 96
Mister and Mississippi (Utrechet, Netherlands) at Bar 96
Mister and Mississippi at Bar 96
Mister and Mississippi at Bar 96
Mister and Mississippi at Bar 96
Mister and Mississippi at Bar 96
Mister and Mississippi at Bar 96
Mister and Mississippi at Bar 96
Mister and Mississippi at Bar 96
Mister and Mississippi at Bar 96
Mister and Mississippi at Bar 96
Mister and Mississippi at Bar 96
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Mister and Mississippi at Bar 96

Landlady (Brooklyn) at Trinity Hall @ Old School
Landlady (Brooklyn) at Trinity Hall @ Old School
Landlady at Trinity Hall @ Old School
Landlady at Trinity Hall @ Old School

Those Howlings (Austin) at Cheer Up Charlie’s
Those Howlings (Austin) at Cheer Up Charlie’s
Those Howlings at Cheer Up Charlie’s
Those Howlings at Cheer Up Charlie’s
Those Howlings at Cheer Up Charlie’s
Those Howlings at Cheer Up Charlie’s
Those Howlings at Cheer Up Charlie’s
Those Howlings at Cheer Up Charlie’s
Those Howlings at Cheer Up Charlie’s
Those Howlings at Cheer Up Charlie’s

Quiet Company (Austin) at The Main II
Quiet Company (Austin) at The Main II
Quiet Company at The Main II
Quiet Company at The Main II

GHXST (Brooklyn) at Lit Lounge
GHXST (Brooklyn) at Lit Lounge
GHXST at Lit Lounge
GHXST at Lit Lounge
GHXST at Lit Lounge
GHXST at Lit Lounge
GHXST at Lit Lounge
GHXST at Lit Lounge
GHXST at Lit Lounge
GHXST at Lit Lounge
GHXST at Lit Lounge
GHXST at Lit Lounge

Together Pangea (Los Angeles) at Haven
Together Pangea (Los Angeles) at Haven
Together Pangea at Haven
Together Pangea at Haven
Together Pangea at Haven
Together Pangea at Haven
Together Pangea at Haven
Together Pangea at Haven
Together Pangea at Haven
Together Pangea at Haven
Together Pangea at Haven
Together Pangea at Haven
Together Pangea at Haven
Together Pangea at Haven
Together Pangea at Haven
Together Pangea at Haven
Together Pangea at Haven
Together Pangea at Haven

Click here for an index of all my photos at SXSW 2014. And here’s my recap of the festival.

SXSW Recap

This was the year people died at South By Southwest.

The sprawling, raucous, nebulous combination of a trade show, academic conference, rock festival and backyard barbecue went silent for a minute on Thursday night. I happened to be at a bar called Holy Mountain, waiting for a band from Glasgow called Honeyblood to play on the “backyard” stage, when a 20-something woman in a green SXSW shirt stepped up to the microphone and asked, somewhat meekly, for quiet. She had an announcement to make.

It took a minute for the usual bar chatter to subside, but fairly soon, everyone paid heed to the chorus of shushing. And then the woman at the mic asked us all to be silent for a moment of reflection about those who were killed and injured the night before, by an allegedly intoxicated motorist who has been charged with murder. The silence was not complete, of course — sounds floated into the room from the city around us — but for a tent in the middle of a rock festival, the hush seemed remarkable. A full minute or more elapsed.

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Honeyblood

And then, glancing at her watch and exchanging a look with another SXSW volunteer, the young woman thanked us. People returned to their conversations and drank their beers. The two young Scottish lasses who make up the band Honeyblood took the stage and began pounding out their scrappy songs. The moment had passed. The music went on. But I think it’s safe to say that the tragic events of the week remained on the minds of many people throughout the rest of SXSW. (The SXSW Cares Fund is accepting donations to help people affected by the tragic events of March 13.)

As David Carr and Manny Fernandez wrote in The New York Times, the tragedy “crystallized a question floating around the edges of the festival for years: Has South by Southwest become too big and too rowdy, and has it lost the original spirit of what it intended to be?” Based on everything I’ve read so far about Thursday night’s terrible incident, I don’t believe it’s fair to hold SXSW itself or Austin officials responsible for what happened. Anywhere large crowds gather, it’s always possible that that someone will create havoc. There’s only so much authorities can do to prevent crimes and accidents.

And yet, it’s true that downtown Austin’s main east-west drag, Sixth Street, which is closed off to motor vehicles, gets alarmingly crowded every night of the festival. Unlike Lollapalooza, Pitchfork and other music festivals where audience members need to a ticket to enter a fenced-in area, SXSW unfolds at nearly 100 nightclubs and other venues spread out in and around downtown Austin, without any wall to keep out anyone.

That’s part of what makes it so great, but it also makes it an attraction for people who just want to party in the middle of the street. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either, but it can result in dangerous crowding, rowdy behavior and many near collisions involving pedestrians, bicyclists, cars and Austin’s increasingly plentiful pedicabs. In the midst of this chaos, people like me are rushing from one music venue to another to see short concerts by the thousands of bands SXSW has imported into Austin for the week. It’s a wonder more people don’t get hurt.

At one point on Friday night, en route to catch a band from Greenland, I approached Sixth Street, looking for the entrance to Esther’s Follies. Several people came running recklessly around the corner. At first, I thought it was just a few revelers goofing around, but as I turned onto Sixth, I saw dozens of people were scrambling down the street. A man held his arm protectively in front of me and gestured for me to stand against the wall. I asked, “What’s going on?” A man passing by told me, “There was a huge brawl in the middle of the street.” We both looked up the street to the area where the action seemed to be happening. The noise subsided and the wave of people stopped rippling. “Oh,” the man said, “it looks like it’s over now.” It turned out to be just a passing moment of panic in the midst of the Sixth Street scene. [Update: This video on the Total Frat Move website, titled “Guy Nonchalantly Eats Pizza In Middle Of Chaotic Brawl At SXSW,” might be the same incident. Either that, or yet another brawl during SXSW.]

Bad Sports
Bad Sports

So, is SXSW too big? Perhaps, but I don’t see how it’ll ever shrink. As annoying as the sprawl can be, it’s also what makes SXSW special. The week of SXSW offers far more than just the official music, interactive and interactive conference. Countless unofficial parties and concerts are happening in just about every nook and cranny of Austin. The whole city feels alive with music and its legendary weirdness. It all adds up to an impossibly long list of entertainment options.

Think of SXSW this way: At a festival like Pitchfork, with three stages, you can see around 50 percent of the musical performances if you attend for the whole weekend. Lollapalooza has several stages, so you’ll probably see something like 10 percent of all the performances. How about SXSW? At any given time during the week, close to 100 official concerts are happening, plus dozens of unofficial shows. Now, many bands play multiple gigs, which does make it easier to catch them at some point during the week. But in the end, you’ll see only a fraction of 1 percent of everything that happened.

As a result, SXSW is an event where your experience may be utterly different from someone else’s.

For someone focusing on the big names, this was the year Lady Gaga ruled SXSW, delivering the keynote speech and faux-puking during her concert. And, according to another New York Times article, this was the year that “South by Southwest Festival Starts to Feel Corporate.” (“Starts?” you may be thinking… Austin Bloggy Limits has a good response to that review and some of the other SXSW press coverage.)

I really don’t care about Lady Gaga (or Keith Urban or Pitbull or Justin Bieber), so I avoided all of that folderol. This was my first visit to SXSW since 2008, and for me, this was a chance to see a lot of bands I haven’t seen before. I ended up watching full sets by 62 musical acts, plus portions of another eight shows. The vast majority of these bands and singers were completely new to me. In most cases, I’d listened to a song or two by these artists when I was trying to decide what to see.

And in most cases, these bands delivered some really good and even great performances. Stipulating that my SXSW was different from everyone else’s, for me this was the year that guitars and garage rock were stronger than ever. On the final night at Hotel Vegas, located over on an increasingly popular stretch of East Sixth Street, the young fans moshed like mad and tossed beers as bands like Dirty Fences and Bad Sports bashed out their songs.

Lydia Loveless
Lydia Loveless

I didn’t deliberately set out to see a lot of bands led by women, but the ladies dominated the stages this year, from the hard-rocking country singer Lydia Loveless (who wedged her guitar neck between her legs at one point) to St. Vincent, who moved like a wind-up doll in a bloodstained dress. Compared with those theatrics, Laura Cantrell and the Haden Triplets each gave low-key performances, and yet their vocals were among the most beautiful things I heard all week.

I did try to see as many artists from distant places as I could, including musicians from the Netherlands, South Korea, Uruguay and other countries. The Norwegian bands Death By Unga Bunga and the Launderettes topped almost everyone else with their sense of fun showmanship. The Japanese band Mothercoat, which I saw at SXSW in 2007, impressed me all over again with its jumpy, tricky art rock. And South Korea’s Jambinai gave me goose bumps with the powerful, almost orchestral sweep of its compositions, which blended traditional Korean instruments with elements of heavy metal.

Jambinai
Jambinai

Some bands traveled a long way to perform in front of just a few people — how disappointing that must be — while hundreds of people lined up elsewhere to see bigger-name and more-hyped artists. But you could sense how gratified and pleased musicians from distant shores felt when they roused even a small crowd with their music. The Australian band Dog Trumpet, which formed all the way back in 1990, had never performed in the U.S. until now, but it didn’t take long for these veteran roots-rockers to win over new fans — including me — with their instantly catchy songs.

My other favorites of the week included Ex Hex, Smacksoft, the Blind Shake, Burnt Ones, Cosmonauts, Warm Soda and Connections, a young group from Columbus, Ohio, that sounds so, so much like Guided By Voices in its prime. On the first night of SXSW, I stopped to watch the Dutch band Mozes and the Firstborn just because I liked the sound of their music coming from Bar 96 as I was walking past. At the end of the night, I spotted some of the guys from that band in the audience at another gig, by the excellent California group Together Pangea, moshing like true fans.

In spite of last week’s tragedy outside the Mohawk, SXSW 2014 was fun and even inspiring. So many people, speaking in all sorts of accents and languages, gathered in one weird place to make and hear music.

A list of all the bands I saw at SXSW is below. A separate blog post compiles some of my tweets from throughout SXSW. And what about photos? Well, I took more than 29,000 over the five days of music, and I’ve barely had a chance to look through all those pictures to choose the best ones. My plan is to take my time and post a number of galleries in the coming weeks. Stay tuned…


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(*=partial set)
LINKS TO MY PHOTO GALLERIES

TUESDAY, MARCH 11
Neil Young SXSW interview
Shelby Earl (Seattle) at Javelina
Mozes and the Firstborn (Eindhoven, Netherlands) at Bar 96
Mister and Mississippi (Utrechet, Netherlands) at Bar 96
Landlady (Brooklyn) Trinity Hall @ Old School
*The Sour Notes (Austin) at Cheer Up Charlie’s
Those Howlings (Austin) at Cheer Up Charlie’s
*Quiet Company (Austin) at The Main II
GHXST (Brooklyn) at Lit Lounge
*banks (Los Angeles) at Haven
Together Pangea (Los Angeles) at Haven

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 12
LosPetitFellas (Bogota, Colombia) at the Radio Day Stage
Mothercoat (Japan) at the International Day Stage
Jarvis Cocker lecture
St. Vincent SXSW interview
Jambinai (Seoul, South Korea) at the International Day Stage
R. Ring (Dayton, Ohio) at the Sub Pop Licensing Party at North Door
Birth of Joy (Amsterdam) at BD Riley’s
Señor Faraón (Montevideo, Uruguay) at Speakeasy
The Haden Triplets (Los Angeles) at St. David’s Sanctuary
Lyenn (Brussels) at Stephen F’s Bar
St. Vincent (New York) at Stubb’s
Damon Albarn (London) at Stubb’s

THURSDAY, MARCH 13
Gary Numan SXSW Interview
“Warehouse: Songs and Stories” songwriting panel with Bob Mould,Steve WynnBritt DanielMatthew Caws and Jeremy Messersmith
Rebel Cats (Mexico City) at the International Day Stage
Air Traffic Controller (Boston) at Berklee’s Party
Elizabeth & the Catapult (Brooklyn) at Berklee’s Party
Tereu Tereu (Washington) at the DC vs. the World Party at New Movement Theater
The Blind Shake (Minneapolis) at the DC vs. the World Party at New Movement Theater
Dog Trumpet (Sydney) at BD Riley’s
Smacksoft (Seoul, South Korea) at Icenhauer’s
Arc Iris (Providence, R.I.) at Bungalow
*Alika & Nueva Alianza Buenos Aires, Argentina) at Vulcan Gas Company
Utopians (Buenos Aires, Argentina) at Vulcan Gas Company
Laura Cantrell (New York) at the 18th Floor at the Hilton Gardens
Honeyblood (Glasgow) at Holy Mountain Backyard
The Launderettes (Oslo, Norway) at BD Riley’s

FRIDAY, MARCH 14
The Deslondes (New Orleans) at the Bloodshot Party at Yard Dog
Robbie Fulks (Chicago) at the Bloodshot Party at Yard Dog
Rosie Flores (Austin) at the Bloodshot Party at Yard Dog
Bobby Bare Jr. (Nashville) at the Bloodshot Party at Yard Dog
Luke Winslow King with Esther Rose (New Orleans) at the Bloodshot Party at Yard Dog
Ha Ha Tonka (Springfield, Mo.) at the Bloodshot Party at Yard Dog
Lydia Loveless (Coshtocton, Ohio) at the Bloodshot Party at Yard Dog
EMA (Portland, Ore.) at Central Presbyterian Church
The Shilohs, (Vancouver, B.C.) at Maggie Mae’s
Connections (Columbus, Ohio) at Lamberts
Death By Unga Bunga (Oslo, Norway) at Icenhauer’s
Nive Nielsen & the Deer Children (Nuuk, Greenland) at Esther’s Follies
Gulp (Cardiff, Wales) at the Hideout
Songs of Water (Greensboro, N.C.) at the Hideout

SATURDAY, MARCH 15
WatchOut! (Santiago, Chile) at the International Day Stage
Sivu (Cambridge, England) at the International Day Stage
*The Griswolds (Sydney) at the Aussie BBQ
Protomartyr (Detroit) at Beerland
Ex Hex (Washington, D.C.) at the Brooklyn Vegan Party at Red 7
The Melodic (London) at the Flat Stock Stage
*Ditch Witch (Austin) at Burgermania at Hotel Vegas
Burnt Ones (San Francisco) at Burgermania at Hotel Vegas @ Volstead
*AJ Davila (San Juan, Puerto Rico) at Burgermania at Hotel Vegas
Coathangers (Atlanta) at Burgermania at Hotel Vegas @ Volstead
Fletcher C. Johnson (Brooklyn) at Burgermania at Hotel Vegas
The Bad Lovers (Austin) at Hotel Vegas
The Yolks (Chicago) at Hotel Vegas @ Volstead
Gap Dream (Akron, Ohio) at Hotel Vegas
Gal Pals (Austin) at Hotel Vegas
Bad Sports (Austin/Dallas) at Hotel Vegas
Shocked Minds (Brooklyn) at Hotel Vegas
Cosmonauts (Fullerton, Calif.) at Hotel Vegas
Warm Soda (San Francisco) at Hotel Vegas
*Dirty Fences (Brooklyn) at Hotel Vegas @ Volstead
Habibi (New York) at Hotel Vegas @ Volstead
*Mozes and the Firstborn (Eindhoven, Netherlands) at Hotel Vegas

SXSW, as told in tweets

Selections from my tweets at South By Southwest 2014. (Follow me at @robertloerzel.)

TUESDAY, MARCH 11

2:37 p.m. Landed in Austin #sxsw

2:52 p.m. I think those are grackles I hear. #austin #sxsw

3:11 p.m. Saw some actual longhorns grazing along the interstate. #SXSW #austin

5:33 p.m. Neil Young at #SXSW: “I’m running for president.” (Laughter) “I’m Canadian. No. That’ll never happen. That’s a joke.”

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5:56 p.m. Neil Young at #SXSW: “I always thought the ‘loudness war’ was something that was going to be really fun.”

5:57 p.m. Neil Young at #SXSW, on computer speakers: “Why don’t they make some computers that have balls?”

6:31 p.m. Overheard at #SXSW: “Jesus is white people’s fan fiction.”

7:21 p.m. My first Google Glass spotting #SXSW

7:26 p.m. The rickshaws/pedicabs are out in force. #SXSW

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7:45 p.m. Starting off the #sxsw music with Shelby Earl (who sounds great) at Javelina. Not sure about the rest of the night.

8:16 p.m. Totally random stop at Bar 96, which has Dutch bands all night. I am liking this one (Mozes and the Firstborn) a lot. Catchy, 60s-ish. #sxsw

8:44 p.m. I’d consider going to a venue with a power strip near the stage for cellphone charging. #sxsw

8:46 p.m. I’m sticking with the Dutch bands for now. Next up is the curiously named Mister and Mississippi, which I had on my “to see” list. #SXSW

11:20 p.m. Asian dude in a mosh pit wearing 3-D glasses: check #sxsw

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11:36 p.m. This was a #sxsw first for me: a venue where the doorman didn’t know the name of the venue (the confusing “Trinity Hall @ Old School”)

1:30 a.m. Spotted at #SXSW: Chick in a black dress wearing a GoPro on her head.

1:56 p.m. Finishing my #SXSW night with a raging set by Together Pangea. Mosh pit is hopping.

2:03 a.m. I saw a Dutch musician, his shirt torn from the mosh pit, take off one of his shoes and sing into it. #SXSW

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 12

10:08 a.m. SXSW band bio: “their DNA is undeniably rock and roll.”

10:58 a.m. Starting off my #SXSW day with an 11 a.m. set by a band from Bogota called LosPetitFellas … because … why not?

11:00 a.m. The Japanese band mothercoat, which impressed me several years back with an insanely intense show, plays at noon at the Convention Center.

11:13 a.m. There are 11 people here to see the band from Bogota, in a room that could hold more than 1,000. #sxsw

11:20 a.m. An annoying thing about photographing people on Austin Convention Center stages: ad logos in the background for Penzoil, Deloitte etc. #SXSW

12:53 p.m. Attending a lecture by professor Jarvis Cocker #SXSW

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12:58 p.m. “Oh, I *hate* that noise,” Jarvis Cocker says — as his Apple makes that volume-adjusting “bloop.” #SXSW

2:29 p.m. St. Vincent, describing her early recordings: “It was a little more ‘jazz hands.’” #SXSW

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2:53 p.m. St. Vincent on singing about sex: “It’s not being done to me. I’m in control of this. I’m a human being with sexual faculties.” #SXSW

3:27 p.m. Holy crap, this South Korean band Jambinai is incredible. Traditional Korean instruments plus heavy metal. #SXSW

4:16 p.m. I got close enough to hear @AngelOlsen singing in the next room at Mohawk, but it was too crowded to get closer than that. #SXSW

5:12 p.m. No sign of Murray Hewitt at this New Zealand #SXSW party.

5:14 p.m. But there is dude wearing a black robe. #SXSW

6:06 p.m. This is where the action’s really at. #SXSW

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6:47 p.m. Up next for me at #SXSW is more Dutch rock: Pride of Joy, from Amsterdam, playing at B.D. Riley’s

8:10 p.m. Beautiful performance by Uruguayan singer-guitarist Senor Faraon, marred by sound bleed from the back room of the venue (Speakeasy). #SXSW

8:37 p.m. Someone just asked me, “Are you Hector?” #SXSW

8:40 p.m. St. Louis hip-hop act Doorway is rapping through the windows of a truck driving down Congress. #SXSW

11:26 p.m. After seeing a lot of bands no one has heard of, I am finshing the night at Stubbs with St. Vincent and Damon Albarn. #SXSW

12:56 a.m. RT @statesman Reports are coming in of a car accident involving several people outside the Mohawk. Story is developing. 

2:55 a.m. At 2 a.m. I left Stubbs, a block and a half south of the hit-and-run scene. This was the view down the street.

redriver2

THURSDAY, MARCH 13

10:05 a.m. I think this is because of the songs that bands tend to put on Soundcloud, but a lot of SXSW bands have cover tunes as their preview tracks.

10:06 a.m. Back to tweeting about the music at SXSW, I guess. Last night’s tragedy certainly casts a pall over things.

10:22 a.m. Bad planning by someone last night at Stubbs. Damon Albarn was supposed to play 12:30-2 a.m., but didn’t start until 1:20…

10:22 a.m. … And even then, there were sound problems. Needed more setup time after St. Vincent’s set. She played a little long (but was awesome).

11:14 a.m. Gary Numan: “I’ve met Bryan Ferry twice — both times in toilets, doing different TV shows.” #SXSW

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11:15 a.m. Gary Numan: “If I’m recording a song and I think, ‘That would sound good on radio,’ I erase it.” #SXSW

11:42 a.m. Gary Numan says he has Asperger’s, which made it difficult to deal with stardom circa 1980: “I just wanted to make it go away.” #SXSW

12:00 p.m. I’ve seen 3 Dutch bands at #SXSW this week. Great folks. I may well have encountered Steven Craenmehr, one of the victims, at these gigs.

12:52 p.m. Bob Mould doing an impromptu solo acoustic “Hardly Getting Over It” at the songwriting panel discussion #SXSW

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1:31 p.m. Bob Mould, picking up the acoustic guitar at the songwriting panel: “If I hit this hard, will it be OK?” #SXSW

2:48 p.m. Chicago dude @babystew‘s #SXSW party is fricking crowded.

5:19 p.m. The Blind Shake are kicking out the jams at @babystew‘s #sxsw party. Also, nearly kicking me in the head. (Better back up…)

6:44 p.m. Starting tonight’s #sxsw music with Dog Trumpet (from Sydney) at B.D. Riley’s.

10:37 p.m. Rickshaw traffic jam at 6th and Neches. #SXSW

12:02 a.m. #SXSW pauses for a moment of silence. (At least it did at this venue.)

12:54 a.m. Walking in the alley because the street is too crowded. #SXSW

12:58 a.m. I didn’t plan this, but 8 of 12 bands I saw at #SXSW today had female lead singers.

1:15 a.m. I saw bands at #SXSW today from Mexico, Australia, South Korea, Argentina, Scotland and Norway.

1:17 a.m. Checking it off on my #SXSW bingo card: Hot Norwegian blonde playing Theremin.

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FRIDAY, MARCH 14

10:52 a.m. Instead of attending Lady Gaga’s #sxsw keynote, I am at my hotel trying to figure out what I should see today.

11:13 a.m. “Drawing inspiration from bands like Weezer, Talking Heads, and the entire Tom Petty catalog, the band is pure songwriting excellence.” (Another SXSW band bio)

12:24 p.m. I think I’ll be safe from being puked on by Lady Gaga if I hang out here this afternoon.

12:36 p.m. Though I’m trying to focus on seeing musicians at #SXSW I haven’t seen before, I’m about to watch Robbie Fulks for the jillionth time.

12:59 p.m. Robbie Fulks to @BSHQ crowd at Yard Dog on his lost-cat saga: “The cat is now indoors. The house is locked.” #sxsw @gapersblock

1:05 p.m. Robbie Fulks, pointing out Rosie Flores in the Yard Dog crowd: “I’m only calling out famous people. The rest of you can go to hell.” #SXSW

5:52 p.m. Had a great time this afternoon at @BSHQ party at Yard Dog… Now, back to downtown Austin for some official #SXSW shows.

5:54 p.m. “We hope you’ve enjoyed our Neko Case tribute set… We’re ‘Little Neko Case,’” Lydia Loveless said. (They were actually her songs.) #SXSW

5:58 p.m. According to the hotel where I’m staying, #SXSW will end before it began. 

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6:27 p.m. My close-up view of a Blind Shake guitarist’s foot yesterday. 

blindshake

6:30 p.m. And yeah, my camera got pretty close to Luke Winslow King’s guitar today. #sxsw

winslow

6:31 p.m. And yes, I was standing awfully close to Lydia Loveless at Yard Dog. She didn’t seem to mind. #SXSW

loveless

7:03 p.m. Randomly hearing Roky Erickson singing as you walk down the street. #SXSW

7:31 p.m. I’m sitting in a pew at the Church of Pitchfork. #SXSW

7:43 p.m. I hope Central Presbyterian Church sounds better for Angel Olsen than it does for EMA. Horrible mix, way too much bass. #SXSW

8:04 p.m. “This is mental!” — @jasonsaldanha of @soundopinions describing the huge line of people to see Angel Olsen and Pitchfork showcase #SXSW

8:13 p.m. Audience pro tip: Worst time to try engaging musicians in conversation is when they have 30 minutes to play. #SXSW

8:45 p.m. Was that Debbie Harry strolling down 4th Street? #SXSW

8:50 p.m. Oh, look. More people waiting in lines. #SXSW

9:09 p.m. If you like GBV, you will like this Columbus, Ohio, band I’m watching now at Lambert’s: Connections #SXSW

9:54 p.m. I’ve walked 30 blocks in the last 80 minutes, just so I could see Connections AND Death by Unga Bunga. #sxswworkout

10:33 p.m. “We’re from Norway. Or is it Sweden? Nah, it’s Norway.” — lead singer of Death by Unga Bunga #SXSW

10:58 p.m. Big brawl in the middle of 6th Street. People running. … Now the havoc seems to be subsiding. #SXSW

SATURDAY, MARCH 15

10:15 a.m. I forgot to drink coffee yesterday. #sxsw pro tip: Don’t forget to drink coffee.

10:57 a.m. Last night’s random #SXSW find: I quite enjoyed the set by Gulp, a band from Cardiff that includes Guto Pryce of Super Furry Animals… with a great frontwoman, Lindsey Leven.

11:02 a.m. OK, let’s get this thing stated: Seeing Chilean garage rockers WatchOut! at the International Day Stage. (They were just in Chicago.) #sxsw

11:03 a.m. I am the only person in the audience right now for this set, which was supposed to start at 11. Sound check still in progress. #SXSW

11:04 a.m. Audience is up to 3 people. #sxsw

11:20 a.m. The audience is up to 7 people. WatchOut! is sounding great… No mosh pit, unfortunately.

11:21 a.m. Too early to mosh?

11:42 a.m. About 25 people in the room by the end of WatchOut!’s set. #sxsw

11:45 a.m. I think I’ll hang out at the International Day Stage to see the next act, Sivu, from Cambridge, UK… #SXSW

11:46 a.m. … and then maybe I’ll go to the @brooklynvegan #sxsw party at Red 7 for a while…

11:50 a.m. The #sxsw website has some pretty basic navigational problems. Like: Uh… where is that page I was just looking at?

11:56 a.m. I’m thinking that Hotel Vegas is the place to be tonight. #sxsw

11:56 a.m. I haven’t been over there yet.

12:21 p.m. Enjoying the lovely, wistful songs of English singer-songwriter Sivu at the International Day Stage. #sxsw

1:21 p.m. Pro-gun-rights group marching down Sixth Street #SXSW

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1:52 p.m. I just saw a fierce set by Protomartyr in the dim confines of Beerland. #SXSW

2:01 p.m. Dude in a patriot outfit walking down 7th Street. #SXSW

3:03 p.m. They did rule. RT @brooklynvegan: Ex Hex ruling on the outdoor stage at the BrooklynVegan day party #sxsw #marytimony http://bit.ly/1kTCpgJ

4:11 p.m. We’re in the home stretch here… #SXSW

5:50 p.m. I guess this is where I’ll be the rest of the day (and night). Hotel Vegas. #SXSW

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10:09 p.m. That was quite a mosh pit for Bad Sports. #SXSW

10:10 p.m. I asked Shocked Minds’ guitarist if they’re going to play “Kalamazoo” (one of my favorite songs of 2013), and he said, “Oh, yeah.” #SXSW

1:39 a.m. March 16 “Someone just unplugged me.” –Guy singing Johnny Cash songs in the food truck court on East Sixth, after his power is cut off. #SXSW

1:45 a.m. There’s a crowd in the Chevron parking lot and a man with a megaphone. #SXSW

1:49 a.m. The Doritos “Bold Stage” is quiet. #SXSW

1:51 a.m. A guy yells, “Want some weed?” at passing cars. #SXSW

2:01 a.m. Heading back to my hotel even though I COULD’VE SEEN ONE MORE BAND. Thus ends my #SXSW.

2:24 a.m. Keith Urban tweeted, “Keep Austin weird.”

See my SXSW recap. … Photo galleries are coming!

Yuck, Diarrhea and more at TNK

January’s Tomorrow Never Knows festival keeps getting bigger, featuring more shows at more venues in Chicago. I saw two shows in this year’s festival: A fantastic, energetic set by Superchunk on Jan. 18 at Metro, which I did not photograph, except for a few cellphone pictures; and a lively evening of music on Jan. 19 at Lincoln Hall, featuring Alvvays, Pink Front, Diarrhea Planet and Yuck, which I did photograph:

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Yuck
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