Ahhhhh....Austin, Texas. Nothing like 95% humidity to put you in the mood for South By Southwest. Although the weather might not be cooperating yet, the week is shaping up to be quite an adventure, with a plethora of bands to check out, especially Thursday and Friday nights. The week looked to be starting off slowly on Wednesday, with not a lot of bands that fell in the "must see" category, so Wednesday night was open for whatever sounded interesting at the time.
The festivities commenced at the Levi's/FADER party at a warehouse space at Guadelupe and 5th. This invite-only affair was on the bottom level of a newish loft complex, and the pool tables, foosball, rock poster art and buckets of BEER made everyone feel at home immediately upon entry. I missed out on seeing Rocket Summer, but as the Dallas duo was playing a gig that night as well, I entered that gig in the "My SXSW" section of the festival's highly-useful PDA calendar. I did manage to catch hometowners Young Heart Attack and their take on 1974 dirt rock, mixing elements of AC/DC and Molly Hatchet to be performed for an audience who never saw those bands the first time around. Due to the drummer slipping a disc, scheduled headliners Longwave had to pull out of their slot (the start of their MTV2 tour with Raveonettes, Mooney Suzuki and White Light Motorcade may now be in question), so the final band on the bill was now Washington Social Club. After hearing WSC rock the house, it was back to the Omni to freshen up and then head out for an evening of drunken debauchery.
The first proper gig of the night was a jaunt to the adjoining venues of Privilege and Privilege patio. A band called Todd from London was playing, and as I had never heard of them and am a certifiable Anglophile, it was a show I was interested in checking out. However, right before the show started, I ran into my friend Jim Chancellor of Polydor Records in the UK, who was there to see Tulsa's Aqueduct, so our attention turned to this trio on the patio stage, instead. Starting off as a drummer, bassist and signing keyboard player, the band's Rental-esque pop sounds took a slightly harder edge when the singer and drummer both played guitar over a DAT-tape drum line. All in all, pretty interesting, much better than the screaming I heard from Todd when I went downstairs to get another beer.
From there it was off to see New York City's up and coming Morningwood. I crossed paths with our own Robert English and almost had the pleasure of watching him get his ass run over by a car as we chatted on the curb/street border. On to Morningwood...I didn't know what to expect from the band, but the "WHHHHAAARRRRGGGHHHHH!" that was screamed at the beginning of the first song was not a good sign. This couldn't be the right band, could it? I looked in my PDA. It was the right band...ONLY THE WRONG VENUE. Good one. Have another beer. I had read the address listing for the venue above the Roxy, where Morningwood was playing and we were at Room 710 instead, hearing U.S.S. Jacknecks or something. Ugh. We headed off to right our wrongs and made it to the Roxy with five minutes to spare before the quartet from NYC hit the stage, their first show ever outside of NYC. They sounded a lot like the current crop of NYC garage acts, except with a female frontperson, who spent most of the evening dancing on crowd side of a barrier that separated the stage from the floor.
The Hard Rock Cafe was next and I can proudly state that this was the first time I had ever been in a Hard Rock Cafe. Many people were in the crowd to see NYC's stellastar, including my boy Jim again, as well as Justin, the lead singer of the London hard rock act The Darkness. I talked to him about his band's recent tour with Def Leppard as well as their stellar rendition of Radiohead's "Street Spirit (Fade Out)," which you will be able to hear next week, courtesy of The Tripwire. Live, stellastar still had the Britpop quality of their Tiswas-released EP, but it was much more rocking. Second best band of the day.
Behind....Rocket Summer. We ambled down the street to catch this duo and were not disappointed in the least. Each member alternating between playing drums, keyboards and guitar, the mini, blond Dave Grohl-alike singer/drummer/keyboard player/guitarist led the twosome through a set full of indie pop gems. This is a band to watch, as was evidenced by the fact that Seymour Stein was in the house, as well as Pete Giberga of Epic, Tom Gates of Nettwerk and Sean Ziebarth of Nitro. Don't worry. I hassled Sean for being at an indie pop show...
The last band of the night was the most highly-anticipated: Austin's own Recover. Stumbling over to Emo's Annex, we got there five minutes before this heavy rocking quartet was set to take the stage. With an excellent EP out on Fiddler Records, the band has recently been inked to Universal and I was really excited to peep their set. Until I heard the vocal mix. It was virtually nonexistent. People five deep in the audience were screaming between songs that they "couldn't hear shit" and trips to the sound board didn't seem to be rectifying the situation. Sucks. Luckily, they will be playing again on Saturday afternoon at an Alternative Press party, so I hope my jones for them will be satiated then. Check back tomorrow for planned reviews of The Rapture, Electric Six and, more importantly, the "special guests" of the MTV2 event at La Zona Rosa.