Shreddin' at South by Southwest
SXSW is the place to be to see just about everything important happening in music this year.
South by Southwest is perhaps the biggest date on the musical calendar in North America, especially for bands trying to make a name for themselves. The SXSW Music and Media Conference is a new media, film and music festival and is now the premiere event for everything related to music. It provides a ton of stimuli for any music lover. It seems like everybody heads down to Austin, Texas to take it all in.
The days are host to musical discussion, gear shows, the Flat Stock music poster sale and lots of unofficial parties. The nights are full of showcases put on by labels, promoters, festivals, blogs, magazines and anyone in the music business.Holy cow! Lead singer Marissa Paternoster performs like a venerable metal master with killer shreds and all the aggressive stage presence you could ask for.
The big focus is on new and emerging artists but I couldn't help ending off the nights with some of my favourite veterans including Emmylou Harris, Psychic TV and Peter Murphy. These shows were beautifully peppered with some acts I'd never seen or heard of before including Hunx and his Punx, Random Recipe, Screaming Females, tUne-YarDs and Janka Nabay.
One of the very first bands I caught at the festivities was called Screaming
Females. Holy cow! Lead singer Marissa Paternoster
(also in the band Noun) performs like a venerable metal
master with killer shreds on the guitar and all the aggressive stage presence
Hunx and his Punx you could ask for. When she takes the microphone everyone in the audience is sold. She's screaming away and shredding while King Mike on bass and Jarrett Dougherty on drums are providing the blistering rhythm.
Hunx and his Punx really stole Friday night. Their charisma, unique doo-wop garage-pop style and sensational stage performance add up to one heck of a dance party. Seth Bogart becomes a character akin to Rocky Horror's Frank-N-Furter with a cast of sensational punk-rock ladies that sound more like a 1960's girl group than what their leathery outfits would lead you to believe.
Ahmed Janka Nabay
Some of the most beautiful shows I caught took place at the French Legation Museum, a grassy knoll just outside of the downtown where stone walls hold in some of most amazing bands while the sun sets on Austin. On Thursday I caught Ahmed Janka Nabay, a Sierra-Leonean musician who is joined by members of Skeletons, Gang Gang Dance, Starring and Zs to create the super group Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang. The result of these combined forces is an infectious dance festival. Within the first three songs a crowd tUne-YarDs creates a seamless medley of indescribable music that is as soulful as it is experimental and as lo-fi as it is incredibly complex of a dozen or more people were up at the front of the lawn dancing wildly to the tribal rock music. Everyone on stage has an untamable energy whether they are wailing on a sax, pounding the electric drum pads or just dancing while someone else takes center stage.
I also caught tUne-YarDs (a.k.a. Oakland's multi-instrumentalist Merrill Garbus). While Garbus doesn't have a ton of albums under her belt her style is nearly perfect. She takes the stage layering chants and harmonies into a voice recorder to create a seamless medley of indescribable music that is as soulful as it is experimental and as lo-fi as it is incredibly complex.
One of the last shows I caught out in Austin was a Montreal band called Random Recipe. This energetic duo, formerly known as Fab & Fanster, are battling female rappers who are backed up by a live band with drummer Liu-Kong Ha and guitarist Vincent Legault. Frannie Holder and Fabrizia Difruscia rap with ferocity over top of catchy pop tunes laid down by the gents. The final package comes off as an exciting and well constructed new style of hip-hop.
Of course, their were countless other shows that blew my mind. Braids, Pontiak, Yuck, Teen Daze, Grimes, Eugene Mirman, Telekinesis, Humans, Shit Robot and so many more!