Some time around 3am Sunday morning, the end of South by Southwest drew nigh. The phones needed to be recharged and the people did too. The streets were full of walking wounded and you vowed you were never going to subject yourself to this again. Then you remember you said the same thing last year, and maybe the year before too. A man stood on a balcony dressed as a Pope, but his hat was green, so eager was he to honor St Patrick’s Day, just a few hours old.
Near the closing bell we nearly stumbled over a man’s seeing eye dog in the back of a dark club. What was it doing there? That’s a worthy question that we didn’t ask. After four days strung out on music, performed everywhere from Goth clubs to sunny backyards, you’re not sure what you’re seeing. Was that really an origami swan sitting in a martini glass? When we looked again it was gone. Somebody probably tried to drink it.
Here are a few impressions that cut through the noise.
Weekend: Four lads from, wait for it, Brooklyn play what might be called post-shoe gaze, influenced by favorites like Ride and My Bloody Valentine. Through a haze of distorted vocals your attention focuses on swirling guitars and an updated sound that’s vital and exhilarating. Their second record comes out in June. Highly anticipated.
Savages: Four women from London play post-punk mixed with PJ Harvey at her most ferocious. This was a convulsive sound that actually sounded dangerous. Lead singer Jehnny Beth is a force of nature, short hair, incisive gestures, you can’t ignore her and you don’t want to.
The Wide View:
The range from power players to newcomers is still a thrill. When you hear David Lowery or Emmylou Harris, it’s great to be near masters of their craft. But more often, you’re witnessing young performers refining their own sound. It’s not always perfect, but you see what they’re trying to do, and that aspiration, that struggle, is perhaps the most rewarding of all.
So we look forward to more from Paws (straightforward propulsive rock from young Glaswegians); Valleys (ethereal dream pop from Montreal); Xeno & Oaklander (serious, unrelenting dance synth). And when we ask ourselves why we fight the madness, we remember that if the bands can go on then so can we. Their creativity and invention gives the crowds strength to continue the long march. And so it should. —DAVID COGGINS