SXSW: Day Three


Yesterday was a long day that ended as eccentrically as it began First musical stop was a Berlin party, where I saw M.A.N.D.Y. and CLP. Both were highly entertaining, though at least partially for “Is this for real?” reasons. The former recalled early 1980s downtown NYC dance music with a techno overlay, and the latter featured two Germans on the laptop techno with a rapper and a flamboyant lead singer with straightened hair and a Jiffy-Pop jacket. Part of Jiffy-Pop’s brilliance was that he was a bad dancer and he fancied himself a good one. In both cases, more songs caught on than you’d expect from reading this, and the crowd got pretty involved with CLP, even if it was in a playing-along way.

From there to South Congress and the Yard Dog for the Bloodshot Records party. I sort of heard Ha Ha Tonka, but the general bustle and maybe the band itself made it hard for me to focus on them. Then the Louisiana party started across the street at the Continental Club. Shreveport’s Peekers opened and were exceedingly cheerful, but they could actually sing the harmonies that brightened the songs, and the songs had an appealing complexity. I want to hear them again. Then CC Adcock, Lil Buck Sinegal and Kenny Bill Stinson played with a couple of Adcock’s friends from Texas and a horn section that included a Dickie Landry and a couple of Iguanas. It all felt a bit off the cuff – the band signaling or calling out keys for each song – but it was still a fun set of R&B, blues, swamp pop and rock ‘n’ roll. The Iguanas followed, but I shot back to the Yard Dog for the Waco Brothers. When the crowd was too much to settle into that show as well, I opted for dinner.

The evening session started with the Alejandro Escovedo Orchestra at an outdoor show. This time he added horns and female backing vocalists to the lineup and played more or less the set he has been playing on tour this past year. As such, it felt a little familiar, but it gained urgency as the show went on. I cut out before the end to see Theresa Andersson at Antone’s. I wanted to see her in a bigger room than she’s played in New Orleans and see her in front of an audience that isn’t pre-sold. By the second song, she had the audience mesmerized, and a held note near the end of “Birds Fly Away” was one of the most exciting moments in this year’s SXSW. John Swenson observed the dearth of charismatic front people in this year’s indie rock crowd; Andersson was easily the most charismatic performer I saw yesterday, and she’s further made her one-woman show into a dance and figured out how to toy with the looping mechanisms, drawing attention to the method of musical production.

Rather than make work, I went to see Tricky, who was on before Devo at the Austin Music Hall. Considering I was bored by Tricky’s recent album, I was pleased that the show was as relentless and private and dark as ever. The live show sounded contemporary in a way that the album didn’t. Finally, Devo came out in gray jumpsuits with crossing guard vests and played three promising new songs. In typical Devo fashion, traditional tropes were inverted in one chorus where the blues boast “I’m a man” became a whimpering completion to the thought, “Don’t shoot.” Then the set became a pretty compelling greatest hits show with “Girl U Want” and “Uncontrollable Urge” standing out. Live, the fractured drums and guitar lines were particularly noticeable and impressive. “Satisfaction” and “Jocko Homo” suffered a bit from the lack of the distinctive, damaged sounds on the original recordings and were a little one note for it, but the odd element of the show was its lengthy encore – four or five songs most of which came from the B-list. The energy in the room started to flag as the set suddenly wandered, and by the time of “Wonderful World” sung by Boogie Boy, it was time to let it go. Night over.