This year marks my 4th time at SXSW, and my first time at SXSW Music (thanks to a gift from my lovely and talented wife). I didn't really know what to expect, and with something like 2000 bands playing over a handful of days, planning out my evenings has been not unlike planning a small military operation. Every band I want to see is playing at the same time at different venues and nothing starts on time and everything's crazy and everyone's everywhere etc. etc. etc. So far, this has been a good experience in learning to let go of expectations, because all the planning can really go out the window once you try actually navigating the drunken hordes on Austin's 6th Street at 1:00 AM to get over to that one club with the really cool band playing.
But despite all the craziness, I've seen some great stuff so far, and I'm here to tell you all about it!
Wednesday night I caught a very short set from Canadian hip-hopper 4th Pyramid (I think he was told about 8 minutes into his set that the entire set would only be 10 minutes long). After that, I hopped on my bike and headed over to catch college-age rappers Chiddy Bang at the "Vibe SXSW House Party," whatever that was. They were listed as going on at 9:15, but the signs posted near the men's room indicated that they would be taking the stage closer to 12:15 (that's AM, people), so after sticking around for an hour of middling-quality West Coast hip hop acts, I ditched the House Party to host my very own gourmet sliders party at a local food truck.
Once sated, I parked myself at my final destination for the evening and saw three bands in a row, 2/3 of whom hail from Brooklyn these days, just like me. First up was The Vandelles, who seemed to have left most of their effects rack at home, so (despite turning the reverb way up on their amps) they did not manage to fully re-create their spacey psychedelic surf-rock vibe on a live stage, but they did feature 2 female band members sporting dangerously hip levels of bangs, so there's that. Next up was The Antlers, who easily won the coveted "Jordan's Favorite Band Of The Night" award with a killer set drenched in beautiful effects, high-pitched emotional vocals, and an overall sense of quality. Here's a totally legal video that someone who is totally not me shot of their closing number, (a personal favorite of whomever took this video), "Two" [Editor's note: the sound quality on this video is, to put it technically, not very good. But it's still cool.]:
The Antlers performing their song "Two" at the Parish during SXSW 2011 (3/16/2011).
Following that awesomness, The Dodos came on and practically bored me to tears. I really wish I had jumped ship at that point and tried to catch Parts & Labor (also from Brooklyn) at another club down the street, but by that time in the evening if you were already deeply ensconced in a crowd (as I was), changing venues was a bit of an uphill proposition. So I stuck it out for about 40 minutes, then finally walked out into the cool night air, just in time to catch a few songs from Kansas City's own hip hop legend Tech N9ne. He was performing inside the aforementioned "Vibe SXSW House Party" venue, and for a brief wonderful period the people in charge had left the doors and full-length windows open, so a small crowd on the street could enjoy the show as well as those inside. Then some jerk came along and closed the doors & windows, and I got on my bike and went home to sleep it all off.
But of course that's not the end of the story...stay tuned for more updates including the old-timey country singer lady, the next evening's winner of the Jordan's Favorite Band Of The Night award, and a surprise trip to the Austin ER!