Have you ever been so tired that all your days start blurring together? Mine have at this festival. It honestly feels like one long blur of bands, lines, food eaten over paper plates, and fitful sleep. It feels like a few hours ago that I saw Yelawolf, and that was close to 72 hours ago. And I realized that I saw shit for 14 hours yesterday, and literally couldn’t tell people which bands I saw when they asked me last night. Thank god for notepads, right?
The good: I spent my morning at Spin @ Stubbs, Spin’s annual bash at the BBQ hot spot, and my night at Prefix’s and Audible Treats’ hip-hop heavy showcase. I couldn’t have known in the morning, bias aside, that I’d enjoy the latter more, even though my favorite band, TV on the Radio, played the former.
Despite being old enough to be my dad, Keith Morris is single handedly keeping the threat of west coast hardcore punk alive with his new-ish band OFF!. They had the unenviable position of playing loud, fuck you music at 1 p.m. on a sweltering day. They managed to pull it off, easily, and took the mantle of the loudest fucking band I’ve seen so far. Plus, if Morris ever tires of wrecking shit, he has a career in spoken word, as his banter was worth at least $10 (“Photographers, don’t push each other. You need to be nice to each other, because everyone else won’t be.”)
I take back what I said about Dom earlier this week: Their performance indoors at Stubbs was a rocking party starter, with highlights like “Living in America” and “Bochicha” shaking dust off the bricks in the Stubbs basement. Maybe it was the Fader Fort’s sound after all.
TV on the Radio at Stubbs hit every pleasure center I hoped they would: They played a totemic “Young Liars” to start, and went on to do massive takes of “Wolf Like Me,” “Staring at the Sun,” and future jam--and Nine Types of Light single-- “Will Do.” I probably saw the weirdest thing I’ve seen all SXSW during their set though: A dude shoving people menacingly during “Red Dress,” which is apparently a bro-friendly fight song? Drummer Jaleel Bunton is the bassist replacing Gerard Smith, and they have a new drummer who I saw at my best show of the day. But at any rate, great set from a great band. In some ways totally predictable, but I loved it.
From there I went to see the best from Friday, and then onto Prefix and Audible Treats’ showcase. Audible Treats’ part of the bill was dominated by west coast rappers, the brightest of which was DaVinci, the San Fran rapper behind The Day the Turf Stood Still, a stone cold mixtape classic that could maybe be the defining San Francisco street album. He did a new single that sounds like a banger, and promised a new album this summer. I wasn’t that familiar with Moe Green, pre-SXSW, but his hard charging technicality and enthusiasm—he hung out and danced at the party all night—were charming. Dude makes references to Star Wars and being too chubby to wear skinny jeans, and he more or less sums up my scenario too. Same goes for J*Davey, the hip-hop&B, major label signed Erykah Badu-esque project that launched their set with a massive cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Never thought I’d want to hear any version of that song other than the original, but it was great. The best part of their set was seeing the Knux show up to holler out requests before the party got shut down a little after 2 a.m.
In some ways, the Prefix & Audible Treats showcase was the perfect encapsulation of the Prefix main page, where hard hip-hop meets indie rock. For the indie rock part, we had a gadget heavy set from Headless Horseman, a duo that shares a drum kit and make buzzy, hazy, pop. Acrylics played too, bringing their dream pop to a crowd not necessarily ready for them—by then J*Davey fans had started filing in—but when they rose above the club clatter, it was some of the most beautiful music I’ve heard all SXSW. It was a trip seeing the club kids rocking out to a Friendly Fire-signed band.
The not: I felt “lost in translation” during two performances at Prefix and Audible Treats’ showcase: Poirer, the dancehall producer who I saw in Montreal, and who is obviously great at what he does, but I still feel like I’m missing some kind of dancehall education to completely grasp. I maybe got closer here than in Montreal, though. The Bay Area’s Roach Gigz too, I felt sorta lost on: He’s a white-trashy west coast rapper that is like Yelawolf if he fed on a diet of west coast masters instead of the dirty south. I feel like I need to spend some time with his mixtapes, Roachy Balboa, to understand what I saw.
When I woke up yesterday, I was impossibly excited for the idea of the Spin party: Good music with allegedly good food. Both were wrong—I’ve eaten better barbecue at family gatherings in Stratford, Wisconsin than I had at Stubb’s yesterday—and the music wasn’t that great either. I saw Smith Westerns twice yesterday (once at the Spin thing, and once at Fader Fort) and both times they seemed slightly less than enthused to be there, like their performances here are just things to get through. “Weekend” still kills, though.
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark are one of those bands that I know people love, but I usually just peg as ’80s cheese. I was mostly right, as their sleepy set was heavy on synths and their cornball ballads about touching each other (or something). When the fact that Moby, that most exciting performer, played bass during your set is the best thing about it, you’re in trouble.
As one of the British music press’ favorite new playthings, Vaccines had a lot to live up to, and they mostly didn’t. I guess it’s cool that the Libertines sound can have about 400,000 different iterations, and there haven’t been many bands doing this poppy of a version of that sound either. But still; I didn’t hear anything but another British band doing post-pop-punk reasonably okay with a few singles that could be in an iPod commercial. Worth the hype? I’m not even sure they were worth the post-OFF! set time.
You know what was actually worse than anything I saw yesterday? DJ sets from both Skrillex and Designer Drugs, two euro-trash making DJs that Spin had playing between sets. They were the worst.
In what might be the biggest disappointment for me so far at SXSW, the Kills’ set at Stubbs was a mess: They were plagued by sound problems the whole time, complained openly about playing during the day (“Come see us at night in a club sometime,” Jamie Hince said at one point) and chose a set list that was heavy on every slow song in their oeuvre, ignoring the stomping shit kickers of their first album. It was the first time I’ve ever seen them, and sort of lost any motivation to try again.
The best: WOLF GANG WOLF GANG WOLF GANG WOLF GANG WOLF GANG WOLF GANG WOLF GANG WOLF GANG WOLF GANG WOLF GANG WOLF GANG
Today, I’m faced with the very real possibility that nothing I will see at SXSW—or in my life, perhaps—will be as much of a spectacle as Odd Future’s performance at the Fader Fort by Fiat yesterday. The posse was in full force: Tyler, Hodgy Beats, Domo Genesis, Left Brain and Syd could have come out and mugged at the crowd and people would have lost their shit. But they did every fantastic song from their mixtapes so far: “Fuck the Police,” “Sandwitches,” “French,” “Yonkers,” and songs from MellowHype and Domo Genesis. They played “Earl” on the P.A. as exit music, and people exploded. It’s the only performance I’ve seen where people were crowd surfing, shouting the lyrics back at the performer, and holding signs with Odd Future’s “Fuck Steve Harvey” slogan on them. There was a water bottle fight between the crowd and the group. I saw TV on the Radio’s drummer there, and he looked like he got his face blown off. Hodgy and Tyler dove hard into the crowd. There was talk of asthma attacks. Tyler threatened to break cameras of anyone not paying attention. I saw some lookie-loos fleeing like they were about to be hit by a wave. It was the best.