The Dodos @ SXSW, the Parish, Austin, TX, 3/16/11

I got back from this past weekend, but I’m still in a bit of shock and awe (and recovery) from my five days down there. I’ve been meaning to post this since Sunday, but I’ve also been battling some kind of post- plague while trying to catch up at work.

is this weird, all-encompassing free-for-all that showcases the best and not-so-best of this industry I have somehow found myself engulfed in. While I came away totally exhausted and fairly overwhelmed, I also managed to run a very successful Day Party (for eMusic at the ), see some solid panels, eat some great BBQ and tacos, and, of course, catch a ton of killer shows. I also put my new lens to its first true test, so my review below is pretty photo-heavy a few themes and thoughts to pull it all together.

There’s really no way to include a review of every band I checked out, so here are my highlights:

The Work Gig:

My officially started on Wednesday a work gig for eMusic at the which I actually helped organize. Although I put a s***load of time and effort into planning and running the event, the one thing I didn’t have much to do was the actual . The bands chosen were more geared towards lo-fi garage rock and unique takes on indie pop, and not necessarily in styles I typically dig: , Grass Widow, , , , Pains of Being Pure at . But, man, all of these bands put on great performances and sucked me in at various points throughout the day. I especially liked the Sabbath-esque stylings of guitar & drum duo , as well as the Indie pop/punk of (more on that one below).

Killer Band, Lame (Conference Center) Scene:


Goddamn do these guys rock! I’ve liked them for years, but it was great to finally catch their set. And I always dug them as a trio, but they’ve since added another guitarist. Justin expressed some concern on the change, but I think he really adds a nice dimension, especially in the way he can help deal with some of the proggy dual-guitar leads from their album material. Unfortunately, I had to catch their set at the Convention Center, which is just a lame scene. These guys should only be seen in a dark, dank, sweaty rock club. Next time, I’ll plan it better, but it was still a great set nonetheless.

White Denim @ SXSW, 3.17.11
White Denim @ SXSW, 3.17.11
White Denim @ SXSW, 3.17.11


This was another “convention center” set, but I wanted to at least catch a few songs from Sam’s new project while I was down in (this was necessary since all of his other showcase shows were on Saturday, when I’d already be on a plane back to ). Luckily, Sam is from and plays a lot of local shows, so I know I’ll be able to see Yellowbirds soon. In the meantime, I seriously digging his new album, The Color. It takes a few listens to dig in, but I highly recommend it.

Yellowbirds @ SXSW, 3.17.11

Surprise (that I liked this) Set:


I caught ’s set waiting for (which is ’s soulful, almost R&B side project). I had no idea who these guys were, so it was a very pleasant surprise to hear them tear into a dancey, dark groove with a bit of an untz and some nice vocals.

SXSW 2011 - Thursday, March 17

Pains of Being Pure at :
Though I’ve definitely got a space in my heart for classic bands like and the Stone Roses, I never really got into the pop-punk aesthetic that the Pains seem to subscribe to. But sometimes seeing a band makes your ears put two and two together and take another listen. And my ears dig it. Their sound has plenty of jangly lead guitar riffs, just enough punch, and the right amount of familiar major chord progressions to make it feel right and to let the super breathy vocals slide. I a fan of . eMusic has turned me.

Pains of Being Pure at Heart @ eMusic SXSW Day PartyPains of Being Pure at Heart @ eMusic SXSW Day Party

The Up-and-Comers:


put out one of my favorite records of the year thus far, which I discovered entirely based off of an eMusic editorial recommendation….they’re actually the current “eMusic Selects” band (which is eMusic’s program to find and promote interesting unsigned bands). Yellow Ostrich is basically the of Alex Schaaf and relies heavily on his stellar vocal chops and a loop pedal. The rest is all textures and rhythm and frankly, it’s a sound that’s very hard to explain through the written word. You just have to hear the way this guy crafts a pop song with his vocal loops. It’s very reminiscent of ’s approach, but with a completely different set of textures and a sound that’s totally unique. Although they’re young and still have a few screws left to be tightened in their live set, I thoroughly enjoyed their showcase and hearing some of the new material. Also, seeing them live made me realize that their drummer looks just like circa 1993….which is definitely a plus.

Yellow Ostrich @ Antone's, SXSW, 3.18.11Yellow Ostrich @ Antone's, SXSW, 3.18.11
Yellow Ostrich @ Antone's, SXSW, 3.18.11
Yellow Ostrich @ Antone's, SXSW, 3.18.11

:
This is another recent discovery (also, as it happens, from an emusic editorial recommendation). I simply can’t get enough of their latest EP, , which I recently flagged for one of my “Song of the Day” posts. But as much as I love their EP, their live show fell a little bit flat for me. I dug the tunes where they featured the trumpet, but overall, they lacked a little bit of charisma and the vibrant energy I typically want from a live show.

Generationals @ Cedar Street Courtyard, SXSW, 3.18.11Generationals @ Cedar Street Courtyard, SXSW, 3.18.11
Generationals @ Cedar Street Courtyard, SXSW, 3.18.11
Generationals @ Cedar Street Courtyard, SXSW, 3.18.11

The Rager:


I caught the tail end of ’s set, but what I saw was….raging. And this coming from a band whose you’d never, really ever characterize as “raging” (it’s more of a softer, slower dance-pop which is mellow enough that some have even labeled it — gag — “chillwave”). But damn, these guys had the crowd seriously bumpin.’ I kinda can’t wait to catch their next show in after this throwdown.

Small Black @ Red 7, SXSW 3.16.11
Small Black @ Red 7, SXSW 3.16.11

The Sit-Ins:
w/
. . Moody Theatre. Nuff said.

SXSW 2011 - Thursday, March 17

w/
Seriously one of my highlights from the entire ….not much else to say, just watch the video:

Surprise Me Mr. Davis @ SXSW, Stephen F's, 3/16/11

The “Headliners”:


I was super impressed with ’ late-night set at on Wednesday (not to mention, I totally surprised myself with my ability to rally for this one after a ridiculously long day on very little sleep…at SXSW, red bull is your friend). These guys have carved out a unique sound. I think my initial description from the show via twitter was actually pretty spot-on: “The dodos are great live. Killer guitar interplay & picking patterns, interesting dynamics, driving rhythm. Got it all.” Yup.

The Dodos @ SXSW, the Parish, Austin, TX, 3/16/11
The Dodos @ SXSW, the Parish, Austin, TX, 3/16/11
The Dodos @ SXSW, the Parish, Austin, TX, 3/16/11
The Dodos @ SXSW, the Parish, Austin, TX, 3/16/11
The Dodos @ SXSW, the Parish, Austin, TX, 3/16/11The Dodos @ SXSW, the Parish, Austin, TX, 3/16/11
The Dodos @ SXSW, the Parish, Austin, TX, 3/16/11The Dodos @ SXSW, the Parish, Austin, TX, 3/16/11

I actually grabbed a quick video of the final jam from their encore:

The Dodos Live at SXSW

Surprise Me Mr. Davis
Catching Surprise Me Mr. Davis on my first full night of shows was a nice treat. I liked seeing some familiar faces both on the stage and in the crowd, and put on a killer set. The show ran the gamut in terms of styles and sounds, highlighting ’s mellower acoustic folk as well as more traditional rock styles with Brad Barr taking the lead on guitar and vocals. Highlights included a bluesy rocker — featuring sit-ins by John Popper (on harmonica, of course) and Jojo from Widespread (on keys) — as well as the encore that had the five core band members singing a cappella in what I can only compare to the vocal style of . It was a powerful, and dare I say, emotional end to the Surprise Me Mr. Davis ‘variety show,’ and simply a ton of

Surprise Me Mr. Davis @ SXSW, Stephen F's, 3/16/11

Surprise Me Mr. Davis @ SXSW, Stephen F's, 3/16/11Surprise Me Mr. Davis @ SXSW, Stephen F's, 3/16/11

Surprise Me Mr. Davis @ SXSW, Stephen F's, 3/16/11


The crowd was out in full force for Gayngs, which is the and R&B-esque side project of the frontman. Overall, I was impressed with -of-sound these guys produced. The slower cadence of their songs lended itself to an emotional power that I rarely hear from bands in this space. I’m not yet sure I love this band, but their sound was interesting to my ears and I definitely left intrigued…which is really one of the best ways to spend your nights at South By, isn’t it?

SXSW 2011 - Thursday, March 17


burst onto the scene at last year’s and did so with a pretty rock-solid album of beach-infused guitar rock (which made it on one of my best of 2010 lists). I had a good time catching the end of their set, but couldn’t help feel that something’s missing from their live show. I can’t quite put a finger on it. Overall, I really like their sound, but their stage presence is just a bit…lacking. That said, I kind of happened upon this show on the way back towards my hotel, so it was a total bonus round and a fun way to end my night.

SXSW 2011 - Thursday, March 17
SXSW 2011 - Thursday, March 17

Trio
I’ve seen plenty of the Marco Trio in the past couple years, and all of my previous reviews probably better capture the essence of this band than my take on this quicker encounter with them in . That’s because heading over to Momo’s for this set was a bit more about getting a taste of home and seeing familiar faces than taking in every last drop of . It was great to see a big crowd come out, especially at a venue that’s a bit off-the-beaten path from the main hotspot over at 6th St and Red River Street. Good times.

Marco Benevento Trio @ Momo's, SXSW, 3.18.11
Marco Benevento Trio @ Momo's, SXSW, 3.18.11
Marco Benevento Trio @ Momo's, SXSW, 3.18.11


While this is probably my weakest set of photos due to some s***ty sight-lines and a seriously packed house, this happened to be one of my favorite sets of the week. I love ’s albums (especially Microscastle and last year’s Halycon Digest), but these guys are also a killer live band. From the mellow trippy stomp of “Fountain Stairs” to the psychedelia of “Helicopter,” led through nearly all of the high points of Halycon Digest, including “Desire Lines,” which proved to be a crowd favorite. But I think I was most impressed with the more driving sound of “Nothing Ever Happened,” which featured some serious guitar pyrotechnics during the outro, including a relentless guitar riff that just slayed me. Give it a listen and you’ll hear what I mean.

Deerhunter @ The Mohawk, SXSW, 3.18.11

My Bottom Line on South By:

Overall, I had quite a crazy five days in Austin for . A couple final takeaways…

Pain Points – aka things I did NOT dig about South By:
1) Foot pain – (I walked, stood, danced, and was on my feet for the good part of every day; by night two, my dogs were killing me!)
2) Music overload! (there’s music everywhere; it’s a good thing right up until it’s just too much)
3) Packed and s***ty sight lines (I’m admittedly a bit of a snob, but I was a bit taken aback by the sheer amount of people at all of these shows. No matter where you went, nearly every show was packed to the gills. The crowds and crazy mix of venue sizes and layouts also made for some occasionally s***ty sight lines. Is it too much to ask to get some different levels and tiers in some of these ? Argh. Yep, I’m a total venue snob).

File Under Awesome — aka things I really dig about South By:
1) There’s everywhere (in the venues, on the streets, and everywhere in between)
2) Great weather. It’s warm, but not too hot, and generally a dry heat. Heart.
3) Killer BBQ & great tacos. Yum.

Austin, :
SXSW 2011 - Thursday, March 17
SXSW 2011 - Thursday, March 17
View from Stephen F's Tarrace

Full Photo Sets:
My personal favorite photos from SXSW 2011
All of My SXSW 2011 Photos


WHITperson -- aka Marc Whitman or simply "Whit" -- is a long-time LMB contributor known for his in-depth posting style and his knack for crafting interesting podcasts. Whit currently resides in Brooklyn, where he's building up his web development chops and hoping to put his technical skills towards something interesting in the music world. Follow his updates over at whitperson.com...