SXSW Recap: Thursday, March 13

In between the Lou Reed and Steve Reich interviews at SXSW, I stopped by the day stage, hoping to catch a set by the Barcelona band Les Aus, whose mp3 file on attracted my attention. As it happened, Les Aus was running late because of travel delays, so MAZONI, another one of Spain’s Catalan-language musicians, substituted for the group. He gave a decent solo performance, including a Catalan translation of Bob Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm,” playing electric guitar in a style that was more reminiscent of indie rock than Spanish guitar. PHOTOS

Later in the afternoon, I arrived at the Rhapsody party at the Mohawk Patio in time to hear a few songs by CUT COPY through the fence while I was waiting to get in. Not my cup of tea. The reason I was there was to see SONS AND DAUGHTERS for the first time. I love this Scottish band’s records, and they did not disappoint as a live act. There’s so much tension in every song, with an almost perfect combination of guitar, bass and drums with female and male vocals playing off each other rather than trying to blend together. Vivacious singer Adele Bethel is clearly the star of the show, but all four of these Sons and Daughters make vital contributions to the band’s raw sound. There’s just a smidgen of rockabilly and country (an influence reflected in guitarist Scott Paterson’s pompadour haircut) and a bit of X. In the middle of their song, “Johnny Cash,” the band dropped in a bit of the Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” Sons and Daughters were not a discovery for me at SXSW this year, since I was already familiar with their recordings, but they were probably my favorite band. I caught them again on Saturday at the Press Here Garden Party. PHOTOS

Latitude 30 hosted UK-themed parties all week long, including a show Thursday afternoon featuring New Music From Wales. CATE LE BON sang some nice acoustic songs, including a couple in the Welsh language. And then came THE VICTORIAN ENGLISH GENTLEMENS CLUB, who really kicked out some striking post-punk rock tunes. And, from my viewpoint at least, the female two-thirds of this co-ed trio were pretty hot, which didn’t hurt. The drummer was in a fancy pink dress, hiking the skirt up as she straddled her legs around her bass drum. The bassist had a stunned look on her face much of the time, as if her own pounding bass notes were knocking her out. And, oh yeah, there’s a guy in the band, too, singing and playing guitar. I hadn’t heard anything other than a myspace track from this band before seeing the show, but I’m definitely interested now. PHOTOS

From Wales to New Zealand… The New Zealand Music Commission was hosting a barbecue at Brush Square Park. PIG OUT played some intriguing electronic dance music – intriguing, for me, because of the actual drumming – but I didn’t hear enough to decide what I thought. And then came one of the most disappointing moments of the week, the show by THE RUBY SUNS. The disappointment had nothing to do with this band, which has a wonderful new album, Sea Lion, out on the Sub Pop label. The music from the Japan tent next door was blaring so loud that it was hard to hear the Ruby Suns, even standing right next to the stage. The party was running late, the Ruby Suns didn’t get much time to play, and the delicate layers of their sunny pop were buried under all of the din. I did hear enough to know that I like this band, and I’m looking forward to seeing them give a proper show March 28 at Schubas in Chicago. If nothing else, the Ruby Suns deserve a medal for putting on a serviceable concert under very trying circumstances. PHOTOS

HORSE + DONKEY kicked off Thursday evening at B.D. Riley’s with some cool, drony garage rock anchored by melodic, repeating bass lines. It reminded me of their fellow Austonians, the Black Angels. PHOTOS / Download “dot dot.”

Walking down Sixth Street, I stopped at Friends long enough to hear a few songs by NOAH AND THE WHALE, a folkie band led by London’s Charlie Fink. I later caught a full set by the band, at Saturday’s Press Here party, and I found their music to be pretty charming. PHOTOS / Download “2 Bodies, 1 Heart.”

The Wave Rooftop was crammed for a show by Kansas City rockers THE LIFE AND TIMES, who seemed to be giving it their all, despite the fact that they openly wished they had cooler lighting. PHOTOS

I purposely avoided seeing Chicago bands at SXSW this time, thinking I have plenty of opportunities to see them in Chicago, so why see them in Austin? But I happened upon a show by EZRA FURMAN AND THE HARPOONS at Spiro’s and caught most of their set. Furman was wearing a yellow T-shirt with the slogan “I DID IT FOR THE MONEY” and singing his impassioned folk-rock with full-on fervor. I chatted a bit with Furman’s manager, Mitch Marlow, who told me that Furman had played “Heroin” and “New Age” that afternoon at the Fader Fort’s Lou Reed tribute. Reed himself was at the event, and he snapped some photos of Furman as Furman was performing. PHOTOS That Spanish band, Les Aus, was scheduled to play down the street at the Red Eyed Fly, so I stopped in there but discovered that the schedule had changed. VERACRUZ was playing, and I have to say the band didn’t do much for me. The post-punk guitar sound wasn’t bad, but the vocals were mediocre.

One of the musicians I hoped to see at SXSW was Bon Iver, aka singer-songwriter Justin Vernon, whose new album, For Emma, Forever Ago, is top-notch folk rock (think acoustic Big Star rather than Nick Drake), but I kept missing him. (Oh, well, at least I can see him April 10 at Lakeshore Theatre in Chicago.) While I missed Bon Iver, I did see MEGAFAUN, which includes Vernon’s former bandmates in DeYarmond Edison. I’d heard these guys described as a sort of avant-garde jazz versions of bluegrass. Now, what’s that going to be like? The description turned out to be more accurate than I’d expected. Sure enough, Megafaun plays songs with a strong vein of old-time folk running through them, but they also break out into some bizarre, atonal instrumental breaks. That doesn’t sound like it would work, but it did. They reminded me a bit of Califone, Akron/Family and the more experimental moments of Wilco. But what really won me over were Megafaun’s sing-along choruses, which sounded so old-fashioned that I’m thinking Stephen Foster and Civil War-era music might be the big influence here. The guys in Megafaun stormed up into the crowd from the darkened stage at the Hideout and roused the crowd to join in song – one of my highlights from all week. PHOTOS

NORTHAMPTON WOOLS, an experimental duo consisting of Thurston Moore and Bill Nace, followed Megafaun at the Hideout. This is the sort of music that involves a lot of scraping and tweaking of guitar strings, building from tinkly noise to a wall of feedback. The droning was almost too much to take after a while, but it was certainly intriguing to see these two guitarists experimenting with their instruments without any constraints. PHOTOS

I ended the night back where I began, B.D. Riley’s, with another drony garage-rock band, DARKER MY LOVE. I didn’t realize until later that some of the players in this San Francisco group had played in the past with The Fall. They put on a strong show, a perfect bookend to the earlier set by Horse + Donkey. PHOTOS / Download “Summer Is Here.”

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