SXSW Day 1: Arrival
A lot of running was involved in me getting to Austin. I left late for my flight and then I booked my connection giving myself only one hour to get through immigration, get my luggage, then recheck my luggage and check myself on to the next plane. The immigration cluster fuck went fairly well; I got through and made it to Austin in time to chin a couple of Dr Pepper’s drowned in whiskey and get out to see some bands.
There are between three and four thousand bands playing SXSW this year and despite our best efforts at Mint Magazine to do our homework we have got nowhere near the end of that list, and the redacted list we do have is still about 100 bands long. What makes things even harder and what I learned very quickly, however, was that any idea of coherent scheduling goes right out the window. Line-ups, on the whole, make about as much sense as those lenseless wayfarers hipsters love to wear. In at least one case you can go to a Cancer Bats show where the main support is that cancerous cunt from Busted (Charlie Simpson).
On the whole, my lack of constant internet and my overall inability to schedule my time means that whatever coverage happens is going to be largely down to cunning editorial skill, a discerning and highly trained ear and/or blind luck. Mainly that last one. It’s an orgy down here, thousands of people, thousands of bands and a total lack of time. Even if I knew what I was doing, I’d never get to see everything I wanted to. So, I’m winging it.
In the midst of my sleep deprived confusion I did manage to catch a couple of bands on my first night. For a period of about two hours I saw a mass of, what I thought at the time was never-ending, sludgy ‘rock bands’ most adequately summised by the ‘safely’ loud and moderately banal Band of Skulls. Don’t ask why I was there. I don’t even know why I was there. I think maybe I thought I was going to see Boneyards for some reason. Before that whole 2 hour accident happened I did manage to catch a French duo called Magnetix who made sleazy garage rock and did it at least as well as anything I’ve seen in a long time but on the whole a lot better. They’d also played a few shows with Chapter 24, who we will have more about tomorrow.
By about midnight things came back together for me and I got over the dirge and caught Craft Spells, who I’ve been wanting to catch since I heard their first album last year. Craft Spells are something special that make the sort of indie that sounds pop and the sort of pop that sounds indie. The Seattle band masterfully crafted their melancholic magic over the midnight crowd playing their well worn hits and sharing some new material that opens up what they started on the first album in a slightly brasher way.
After Craft Spells I wandered the streets trying to get either phone signal so I could find people or Wi-Fi so I could bemoan my lack of signal to Twitter. I ended up going to Swan Dive (where the Lexington showcase is happening tonight) and drank some whiskey. My drink of choice at SXSW seems to be a glass of bourbon and a load of ice with a water chaser. This came about due to the fact that Americans do huge measures, even more so if you are not mixing, and they are crazy for ice so if you get a mixed drink it’s gone within a couple of minutes, whereas whiskey is pretty hard to chin. Then again there are other problems with drinking straight whiskey. At least I kept hydrated with all the ice and water.
Whilst I was contemplating my damaged liver in Swan Dive, a blast of post rock noise perforated my eardrums in the form of We Will Destroy You. And for the next thirty minutes I was stood in awe on the edge of a cinematic abyss watching the band skilfully build layer upon layer of sound ultimately destroying that tension with transcendent crescendo.
I managed to top the night off with a big surprise. Not realising that the Dummy party was taking place in Barbarella next door to Swan Dive, I sort of meandered in after watching This Will Destroy You to discover a couple of guys playing with sequencers and keyboards on the floor, not just any guys but Mint Magazine Favourites, Blondes. Apparently some fuck up had occurred whereby there was nothing to put their gear on, so they just set up on the floor of the stage and built their sequenced layers of electronica from there, in pitch black. It was out of this world and for twenty minutes I think I came as close to complete mesmerisation as I have, or indeed will, ever be.