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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    My musical odyssey: A Wildlifer at SXSW

    My musical odyssey: A Wildlifer at SXSW

    South by Southwest, Austin’s largest festival and one of the biggest American music festivals of the year, was a brand spankin’ new adventure for me this spring break. And boy was I in for a thrill. As a modest consumer of indie music and its corresponding shows, I was excited to experience SXSW for the first time. I didn’t have an official badge or wristband, but by RSVPing or showing up to unofficial shows early, I saw more than a dozen shows in three days — almost all for free.

    The good:

    Menomena, John Grant with Midlake and Sondre Lerche played sets at the Central Presbyterian Church. John Grant, former lead vocalist with The Czars now heading his own solo career backed by the band Midlake, was a highlight of the night. His satirical songs were so well orchestrated and his voice so serious(ly good) that the audience was almost fooled into accepting him as a casino-level hack before recognizing his comedic genius. Masked as a sappy piano ballad, Grant sang, “”Baby, you’re where dreams go to die / I regret the day your lovely carcass caught my eye.”” Precious.

    Norwegian singer-songwriter Sondre Lerche played his entire new self-titled album, slated to come out in June, at the three shows I sawat Maggie Mae’s, The Liberty and the Presbyterian Church. He was just as good live as he is recorded.

    Menomena played awesome sets at the Presbyterian Church and the Under The Radar Magazine party at Flamingo Cantina. The band played an eclectic set with a wide range of instruments including baritone saxophone and piano mixed with electric guitar and complex drum rhythms. Under the Radar’s showcase also included Surfer Blood and Okkervil River — they also gave out half a dozen pairs of Shure headphones.

    The bad:

    The Dodos played another underwhelming set, mirroring their performance at Club Congress earlier this month. Maybe I’m just not a big enough fan, but their stage presence is snooze-inducing to me. Even at the Mess With Texas Party, they played the same laid-back jam with limited movement and predictable melodies.

    The Under The Radar showcase was so packed I missed Owen Pallett play his set and instead waited in line for two hours. I also was packed into a tiny cantina with over 300 people for four hours, with no air conditioning and broken toilets. It was … sticky.

    The ugly:

    Nights got really wacky, really fast. Drunk people were crying, fighting, yelling and stumbling all over the place by 1 a.m. Even buying a quick bite to eat at a taco stand could turn into a tedious wait surrounded by obnoxious club crawlers, blissfully unaware of their own behavior.

    Case in point: There was a secret show at The Beauty Bar where Death From Above 1979 played at 1 a.m. on Saturday. But by 11 p.m. the show was limited to wristband and badge holders only (official SXSW participants). When the show started, a riot broke out, where mounted policemen tazed and maced participants for breaking down the bar’s back-patio fence. Good thing I went home.

    Overall, SXSW was magical. Seeing so many bands in such a short time was an unprecedented experience for me. And with success, disappointment and experience under my belt, I’m ready to do it all over again next year.

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