Huw's musings from SXSW - Day 2
Huw's back on the trail of new music at the world's biggest new music festival, South by Southwest in Austin...
The less sleep, the better, really, because at South by Southwest (just 'South by' if you're 'cool'), there is so much to see and hear it is enough to make you want to pack up and go home. Honestly, there's so much good stuff to hear, but so many scheduling clashes, so you have to choose wisely. Today I kept to my rule of seeing acts I haven't seen before (pretty much, bar a few songs here and there), and this is what I heard.
Active Child were the first band I saw: a duo from LA with sadly forgettable songs and not the best way to start the day. Their synthy style over substance frustrated me a bit, but it was probably not the best setting for them and seeing them in a dark and dingy club with some sweaty peeps bouncing would probably make more sense.
A much better duo were Jeff the Brotherhood from the home of country, Nashville. What they do is take a dose of 'country' music, scuzz it up, speed it up and amplify it until the drums and guitar combo is blasting full pelt. Check out their single on the Too Pure singles club, which is releasing very interesting and quality records these days.
Still in the Emo's marquee, I got very excited to see Magic Kids. I'd bought their ace single (Hey Boy) last year - a song that's on that barometer of taste, the Rough Trade Counter Culture 09 album - but to see them play live was a total joy. The six-piece band, some still in school, have these massive harmonies, short and perfectly formed happy-go-lucky songs that are packed with EXCITEMENT. There's nothing not to like, really.
Then it was time to visit the Cathedral of Junk. Vice (the 'Junk King' as he has tattooed on his fingers) started building this house made of fridges, car parts, typewriters, old radios and so on, back in 1988. Now it's a beautiful, incredible house you can climb in, with CDs dangling from old toys and a few bus seats placed throughout the huge construction. Ras Kwame was with me and was well impressed, too.
Later, I popped into Ras's showcase and caught some of Maverick Sabre, a singer-songwriter with soul in abundance and a voice that producer Laura describes as a male Amy Winehouse. His songs sound deep. Much deeper than Salem, a hotly tipped and interesting band from Michigan in the States. When their Andrew WK (also playing the festival) lookalike raps, their gloomy, spaced-out sound works well, but when their female singer started and the beats went all over the place, it was time to move on (watch as Salem become the tip from SXSW 2010, sell millions of albums and become bigger than the Beatles).
jj was another hot tip and not what I expected. I missed them yesterday and having played them on the show, I expected a band. But no, it was one lady sat on a stool Westlife-stylee, singing to a backing track. Luckily the backing track was a luscious, all-consuming mix of classical and beats with super sweet melodies and the vocalist had a stunningly low key, beautiful voice. She looked bored, though (or is it shyness?) and uncomfortable on stage, but let's hope she keeps playing live, as her songs are quite stunning. She's off on tour with The xx soon. Happy days.
Hollywood Holt is a rapper like no other. When I interview him before his set, he insists on speaking in a London accent, even though he's from Michigan. He's short and cocky, looks like he's just drunk 20 bottles of an energy drink, but has some killer rhymes. He gets the party started instantly, and everyone goes insane as he crowd surfs, cracks one-liners and generally owns the Beauty Bar.
I need Toro Y Moi to calm myself down a bit. Like a mellower Joy Orbison with added vocals, this is spaced-out electronics at its best. It's shuffling, smooth and full of subtle production ideas that get heads nodding and mouths grinning, but it never comes to the boil. Lush!
Finally, catching a few songs in a church by Anni Rossi was nice, seeing Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello going to check out a band was exciting, catching a bit of Estelle owning Ras's showcase was a treat, and seeing more from yesterday's highlight Bear in Heaven is a great way to end the day.
You can hear all the best music I saw at South by Southwest on my shows next Wednesday at 9pm and midnight on BBC Radio 1!
More posts from SXSW 2010: