Four days in Austin, TX, should be enough for anyone. Like Mardi Gras without the boobs, SXSW is a monster party that rages at all hours of the day and night. You just need to find the right place to go. For me, most days were spent at the Levi's/FADER Trading Post, sipping on Red Stripe, listening to great music, making new pals and staring at Frodo Baggins (a.k.a. Elijah Wood) amazed that his eyes really are that blue. Nights, on the other hand, were a whirlwind of rock shows, street meat and Red Bull & Vodkas that seem to blend together into one gigantic music memory.
Some of the highlights from the daytime extravaganza include Saul Williams and M.I.A.'s performances on Friday at the FADER space. They both packed the house and captivated the audience with their hodgepodge of musical influences. While those two artists were at the top of many must see lists, Saturday's line-up included a few pleasant surprises. The females got their rock on in the afternoon with performances from Broken Social Scener/solo artist Feist and London's hip shaking, tambourine-loving, The Duke Spirit. A rain storm of tornado-like proportions threatened to put a damper on the situation, but the DJ strapped himself in and rocked the house for an hour as partygoers huddled under the swaying tents, never missing a beat. The Magic Numbers were probably the most surprising band on the bill. They approached the stage looking like a grisly group of Dungeons & Dragons grand masters, complete with waist-length long hair that fell over their faces and overall heavy metal band-like appearance. There was a "what the hell are these guys doing here" sort of vibe when the band took the stage, but as they ran through their set, that question answered itself. The Magic Numbers' set was one of pure pop goodness. These guys were singing with perfect three-part harmonies and belting out some of the hottest indie-pop I've heard a while. They earned themselves a huge round of applause after their gig, so be on the look out for The Magic Numbers. They rule.
Five hours of music during the day can take it out of you, but that's what SXSW is all about. Pushing yourself to the limits to catch some of the best music on the planet. I tried to pick and choose wisely, using the evening mostly to catch bands I love but hadn't seen in action. Thursday night, after catching Bloc Party kick ass at Blender Bar, I decided that ass shaking should be a priority and opted to see LCD Soundsystem to see if James Murphy could pull off the hotness of his debut album in a live setting. I was more than pleasantly surprised, as a supporting cast of four or five additional musicians accompanied Murphy on stage and provided about 99% of the music. Murphy acted as the conductor, instructing his loyal followers and providing only vocals as they ripped through the majority of songs from LCD Soundsystem's debut album. By the fourth song, the entire room was jumping and shaking their asses to their favorite new record and though admittedly wasted, Murphy still completely nailed the entire performance. If LCD Soundsystem comes to your town, do NOT miss it (unless you hate music that makes your ass move involuntarily).
Canada's Controller.Controller was another band who knocked my socks off. Already a big fan of their debut EP, I have been hoping to hear new music from Controller.Controller for months now. Since I had never seen them in action, I jumped at the chance to do so. Like someone had ignited them on fire, the band set the stage ablaze with their rock & roll dance spectacular. The bass lines growled like a lion and provided the foundation for the two guitarists to build upon with their perfectly-timed two guitar solos. Lead singer Nirmala Basnayake was a powerful performer, dancing and gyrating and pumping up the crowd to make sure they did the same. The new album from Controller.Controller won't be out until late summer, but I hope these guys decide to tour well before that. The world needs to see them in action.
Another one worth mentioning was Robbers On High Street, who wowed fans with their pop goodness on a few different occasions, including the wild and crazy Diesel U Music party at a bowling alley a million miles from town. Getting there was a bitch, but the time was a blast. Nada Surf played a 1am Saturday night show that was incredibly crowded, but great nonetheless, as they ran through a few new songs from their forthcoming Barsuk album. Louis XIV killed, so did Stars and Willy Mason and Chicago buzz band Absent Star. IronWorks has awesome Bar B Q. Oh, and in Austin, you can buy a round of drinks for four people for less than 20 dollars. Amazing. See you next year.