It is past noon and I have yet to drink a bottle of Red Stripe today. That must mean that SXSW is over. There were way too many amazing performances throughout my four days in Austin to cover in this recap so hopefully this scattershooting of favorite moments will do.
Bloc Party was easily the buzz band of the festival. You couldn’t miss them. Their FADER posters were plastered on every square inch of 6th Street. They played what seemed like 50 million performances. They chilled out at the Levi’s/FADER Trading Post, cheering and singing along during sets by Graham Coxon and Ash. I happened to catch Bloc Party’s show on Wednesday Night at the Ritz. The sound in that particular venue was horrible, yet frontman Kele Okereke still managed to blow the roof off the place. They blazed through “Helicopter”, “She’s Hearing Voices”, “Banquet” and plenty more. After seeing their high-energy art-punk in person, now I understand the hype. Their album Silent Alarm is genius, but hearing the songs live takes my love for this band to a whole new level.
On the opposite side of the music spectrum, I was fortunate enough to squeeze in the KCRW showcase for a performance by California’s singer-songwriter Inara George. Her beautiful swirling pop had the crowd eating out of her hands. I overheard a couple of guys talking about the musical precision of her set, as she carefully placed every word during songs such as “Mistress” and “Good To Me”. Her intelligent lyrics and sun-kissed pop perfection easily won me over. If you have yet to hear her fantastic album All Rise, hop to it!
Back at the Levi’s/FADER Trading Post, the party ended with a bang on Saturday night with a stellar indie-rock lineup. NYC’s The Cloud Room got the hipsters dancing to their irresistible pop. These are the songs that The Bravery wished they could write. Yeah, I went there. “Hey Now Now” was the perfect song to kick off springtime with its addictive sing-along chorus. Jon Petrow’s booty shakin’ basslines on “The Hunger” caught plenty of ears and made a tent-load of new fans. They were the perfect opener for the grand finale: Maximo Park.
Hands down the biggest surprise of SXSW for me was Maximo Park. I have been enjoying their Apply Some Pressure EP for quite some time, but had no idea that their live show was fucking brilliant. This quintet from Newcastle rocked the shit out their material, playing with an intensity rarely found these days. They have the songs, the talent and the stage presence to prove that they are the real deal. Frontman Paul Smith’s on-stage antics are a bit David Byrne and Ian Curtis with the attitude of Jarvis Cocker. After tearing through “The Coast Is Changing”, The Night I Lost My Head” and “Apply Some Pressure”, I had to see them again. In fact, I did catch them again later that evening. Could they be my favorite band of 2005?
So there it is. My official SXSW recap. Now it is time to hide under my desk to take a nap. Somebody please wake me up in a few hours…