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SXSW - Day 2

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Huw Stephens Huw Stephens | 15:11 UK time, Friday, 20 March 2009

The days and nights all turn into one big day and night here in Austin. You're not sure if the venue is indoors or out until you check if there's a roof above your head, and there's invisibles line and borders seperating the lines to get it, with music spilling from venue into venue. Trying to work out if the recession has hit SXSW, I'm told it has by sponsors not having the cash to sponsor gigs and parties as normal, and of bands having to cancel because of the financial commitmement. Maybe that's why there seems to be more US bands playing than usual? (But not Apes and Androids, who I was excited about, but of all the hyped, exciting new bands in the world, they're not on now).

For the second hot day of hot music busy-ness, I start with Northern Ireland's Skibunny; promoters, remixers, dj's and a mighty fine band. They make a kind of disco-shoegaze sound, exhubarant and exploding into feisty tunes that sound good. Later, General Fiasco and Fighting with Wire will play, showcasing the wealth of NI's current new bands.

Love Like Fire are from San Francisco and play in a little venue called Plush (I'm guessing Americans do do irony) and are excellent. They have mariachi drums, big echoing guitars with intricate lyrics and big ballsy distorted riff action. Singer, guitarist and keybordist Ann Yu keeps it emotional yet calm throughout before getting into the small but perfectly formed crowd at the end. I go and hassle them for cd's.

A friend who told me about Arcade Fire early on recommended I go see Wax Fang. I'm so glad I did. They're three lads from Louisville Kentucky and they're not as scary as the name suggests. Big desert-rock sounds with a theremin and some excellent shouting going on, the drummer's face isn't visible throughout the gig such is the shaking of his frazzled hair, but the lion's face on the drum kit most definitely was. A laptop wth some bkeys and beats on only adds to their earthy sound. Earthy but sexy. A hard thing to combine. Excellent musicianship, wailing and getting me hot under the collar.

I go to church for a bit, the Central Presbyterian Church, where Girls are playing. Not Women (also good and at SXSW) but Girls, a band yet to release their debut album and who impress by sounding not unlike Conor Oberst and Bright Eyes, which is no bad thing. Moving songs that I could imagine hearing coming out of dorms on campuses round Austin and beyond, the setting in a big church made this great. Almost had me in tears!

If you like Iglu & Hartly you'll like 3oh!3

South Africans Blck Jcks have been gigging in the US for a little while, and mix up world rhythms with some lively lyrics and is a nice change from the indie rock, as is Paparazzi from LA playing to not a lot of people and blending his favourite mix of electronic music, from dubstep to hip hop.

It's back to the church for The Local Natives, the finest band I've seen. Three part harmonies are sung with gusto, they're like all my favourite bands of the last five years all rolled into one. Fleet Foxes? Port O'brien? Arcade Fire? All in there, along with a Talking Heads cover, loads of percussion, and a band who look like they're having the best time ever, with the voices of angels. Big American Angels.


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