Wednesday, November 26, 2014

FFF Fest Review

FUN FUN FUN fest 2014

Several of our interns had the good luck to make it to Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, TX earlier this month. Check out some of the things they had to say about the shows! 


Fat White Family

When I think of Fat White Family, sophisticated is not the word that comes to my mind. In fact, whatever you consider the opposite of sophisticated would probably work best. For me, it’s punk. The word ‘punk’ first originated as a derogatory slang for prostitute, degenerate, or really anybody that you considered to be a filthy, low-life human being. Once bands like The Stooges or The Sex Pistols started coming out with their gritty, ear-numbing style of rock, they took on the term punk rock. Over time, many bands have started misappropriating punk rock, and those who were punk took on a lifestyle and music that disillusioned punk rock and has left us wondering where are the punks? What happened to Rock'n'Roll? Now, I can take comfort in knowing that Fat White Family exists. They live and breathe as the physical embodiment of punk rock; however, most of this can only be seen in their live show. They had every awkward quality that seems necessary of a rock band from the UK, and their performance at Fun Fun Fun Fest was incredible. From the jerky, arrhythmic pelvic thrusts, to the shirtless corduroy pant combo with missing belt loops, tucked-in T-shirt, long, greasy sideburns
and platform shoes, every member of the band took part in the irreverent worship of punk-rock past. Or maybe themselves? Either way, they looked the part, and they’re neck-vein-popping, spine-writhing, sunken-dead-eye style of performance only made it more enjoyable to watch. Their performance made it clear that they live the punk rock lifestyle, and are most likely the most authentic Rock’n’Roll band out there today. Is that a good thing or not? I have no fucking idea. Do they give a shit? Probably not. And because of that, I will remain in steadfast prayer to the newborn son of punk.
- Joseph Erik


alt-J

Though the will call line was half a mile long the first day of Fun Fun Fun Fest 2014, everyone was definitely there when alt-J took the stage Friday night. alt-J’s set began with the blinking of a red light to the opening notes of “Hunger of the Pine,” as the audience eagerly awaited the arrival of our English friends. As soon as they took the stage, the crowd immediately erupted then quickly silenced, as front man Joe Newman began to work his magic on the mic. The band then continued to play both favorites and deep cuts from their latest album This Is All Yours with many throwbacks from An Awesome Wave mixed in. For me, alt-J has always been more of a mellow band perfect when accompanied by rainy drives or last minute term papers. However, after seeing this show, I can now say they are quite the opposite. alt-J commanded the stage like no other band I saw at Fun Fun Fun. They didn’t get on stage and talk to the audience. They didn’t headbang, jump around, or exaggerate notes. They got on stage and performed, and it sounded perfect. It was like I was listening to their albums in full surround sound, each drum beat shaking Auditorium Shores, and each note resonating in the mass of people.  Tack on the amazing light display, and the stunned, speechless, deer-in-the headlights look from concert-goers at the closing note of “Breezeblocks” was completely understandable.
- Benji Gomez

Courtney Barnett

From the singer-songwriter/rock mixed genre, to the clever lyrics and deadpan singing, I have been a fan of Courtney Barnett’s music for a while; however, I was not prepared at all prepared for her performances at Fun Fun Fun Fest. Although there was plenty of acoustic guitar and piano in her record, they were not to be found with her on stage at all. Instead, she exchanged these for a well loved fender telecaster with a single distortion pedal plugged into her overdriven fender combo amp. I am still in shock from the heavy and grungy set that Courtney would perform both for her show at the Belmont and on stage at the festival. In fact, only next to Fat White Family, she performed one of the strongest sets at the festival for the weekend. Rather than starting soft with a piano, like the album, A Sea of Split Peas, they started hard with overdriven bass, pounding drums and surprisingly noisy guitar riffs from their guitarist. Several times, Courtney would cover the mic with her mouth and growl at the ends of phrases, while the show
ended with her turning the gain on her pedal all the way up and placing it in the crowd to play with and destroy their ear drums. In fact, the resemblance between Courtney at her performances and a young Kurt Cobain are uncanny. The long dangling hair, the plaid flannel shirt, worn-in jeans and converse hi-tops made me wonder if Courtney did all of this in tribute; however, it is clear that Courtney is her own person. She is a powerful frontwoman, able to expose other acts for the mainstream fluff pieces that they are. She is able to establish a strong identity through her music and now has shown us that she can work that identity however she pleases. Courtney Barnett’s performance has made me reimagine her album and work everytime I listen to it, and now leaves me anxious to hear more from one of the few powerful and grungy frontwomen that we have in the music scene today.
- Joseph Erik

Fred Armisen

What I thought was going to be a stand up comedy sketch turned out to be an easy going set by Fred Armisen, main protagonist in IFC’s Portlandia.  Being the comedian that he is, Armisen started the set by pretending to be Ian Rubbish and the Bizarros. Complete with a blonde wig, Cockney accent, and cheeky remarks, Armisen was reminiscent of Russell Brand. The first song was called “Hi Police Man,” a parody of Ian Rubbish’s “Maggie Thatcher” and the second song in the set was called “Livin’ In the Guttah,” both overflowing with a brand of sarcasm and attitude you can only find in the UK. After a few more Brit-pop tunes, Mr. Rubbish went backstage to change and out came Fred for real this time. Performing as himself, Fred and his band delivered a short thirty minute set of danceable tunes. He wasn’t wild and crazy, rather a rhythmic bounce and lean to each song. No crazy strobes or fog machines or other bells and whistles, just a man and his guitar accompanied by bass and drum. Fred also invited Tim Kerr from the Big Boys to perform a tune with him.  This is significant for two reasons: 1. The Big Boys are native to Austin, Texas, and 2. this is Fred’s long time favorite band.  After their performance together, Tim left and Fred punctuated his set with a song he loved listening to growing up from The Big Boys called Sound on Sound.  Overall, Fred’s set had the amount of comedy, fun, and energy one would expect from the SNL and Portlandia star.  I was so elated to see one of my all-time favorite actors in person, performing some pretty awesome tunes.  Until next time Fred!
- Bria Woods

Zorch

I spent most of my time walking through downtown Austin on my way to the festival wondering why the UK band from the 70’s was performing at Fun Fun Fun Fest, and why they were performing so early on the second day; however, as I walked up to the stage, and heard flying cymbals and rolling toms, I knew that this could not be the same analog-synthesizer-exclusive group that I thought it was. They weren’t. And I am glad they weren’t. Zorch is an analog synth and drum kit duo that gives an unending energy and an unbelievably full sound through the illusion of their music. Stage presence is hard enough to pull off when you have three guitarists running around on stage, so the thought of having one keyboard player and one drummer astounded me. It was through their music that the energy came to life on stage. The employment of live triggered sound rather than pre-recorded loops, and their mirrored set-up on stage allowed them to communicate effectively. The push and pull of their rhythms and the dynamic phrasing convinced the audience to sway to the music with them. They did not need a light show or dancers or an alcohol-induced rage to provide a great show; instead, the combination of their constant communication and their driving pseudo-electronic-pop-noise songs made them a powerful ensemble, even with only two players. And for that, I will be eternally grateful I saw Zorch and not the two old dudes from the UK.
- Joseph Erik

First Aid Kit

Staying true to their folk and bokeh-infused niche, First Aid Kit brought all of these elements with them on stage. Sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg made a charming duo, decked out in sequined jackets and performing every song with a combination of excitement and earnest focus. They managed to join sultry power in their vocals with genuine happiness at being on stage. Most songs came off their latest album, Stay Gold, but favorites, such "Emmylou" and "The Lion's Roar" bookended their set. They also included a cover of Jack White’s “Love Interruption.” The sisters managed to stay true to the original song while including more of their signature harmonies and emphasis on folksy guitar. Klara’s guitar added more elements to the White’s simple version, while their all-female version of the harmonies made for an interesting variation on the original. Whether Johanna and Klara were singing a cover or an original song, their distinctive voices were the main focus, which has always remained consistent in their albums. Though their talent is evident in recordings, the power and energy behind their voices was especially clear on stage. Often, their live renditions added emphasis and power behind certain words that were glossed over in the studio versions, adding more insight into song meanings. With their first albums focusing mostly on Klara’s guitar and the sister’s harmonies, their music has continued to add elements over the years. However, hearing their live performance with these special moments of emphasis brought the focus right back to their vocals. Their songs typically showcase both sisters’ voices but performing live also allowed them to display their individual personalities as well. Johanna hair-flipped her way through the set while Klara stood quietly at her mic, but the combination made for a fun and endearing show. Clearly, these Swedish sisters have evolved from a charming child duo to powerful performers who command attention while remaining true to their sweet, harmonic roots.
- Elena Souris

Yo La Tengo

Yo La Tengo is a band that always leaves me confused. I always revisit their music, hoping to find the value that many people see. Their performance at Fun Fun Fun Fest didn’t help. Performing as their usual 3-piece set up, they struggled on stage to maintain a full sound throughout the show. Whenever Ira Kaplan would drop from maintaining the harmonic phrase, there was a clear drop in the sound, even as he added noise. And when they performed three, 8+ minute tunes that consisted of 2 minutes of song material with the rest being a noise jam where the drums and bass would maintain a monotonous riff and rhythm, the thin sound made it difficult to remain attentive. I found this difficult to believe for a veteran band such as Yo La Tengo, especially when Kaplan had two guitars doing feedback on stage and he somehow found a way to make it quiet and unimportant. There were some moments where the sound was full, and there was a catchy riff placed in there, but the performance’s tendency to drift into ambling jam sections reaffirmed their lack of harmonic and melodic direction. The final straw for me was when was when Kaplan started swinging his guitar in an attempt to create feedback and ended up making zero sound. I love listening to the same riff 30,000 times as much as the next guy, but I am not gonna pretend that their use of quiet, almost inaudible noise jams lived up to their cult reputation. Keep swinging, Kaplan. Keep swinging.
- Joseph Erik

Modest Mouse

Day two of Fun Fun Fun Fest closed with Modest Mouse, and it was clear from the massive huddle of Mouse followers that I was not the only fan to arrive early and wait through hours of other shows just to get the best spot possible for Isaac Brock, Jeremiah Green, and Eric Judy. I was very excited to hear the band open with my favorite song, “The World at Large,” since they skipped over it when I saw them at Coachella 2013. They were wildly energetic, mirroring their dancing and lively fans. In the past, Isaac Brock has been known to go a bit psychological on his fans - for example, at a show last year he repeatedly discussed the tricks the mind can play on us all in between songs. With that habit of the lead singer in mind, it was surprising and unexpected to see the band abandon their deep life advice performance for one that was carefree and featured more music, less talk. Although this approach was better for fans that only wanted to hear music and dance, it took away from the fans who were interested in the personality of the band and the beliefs that define Modest Mouse’s band culture. They kept the mood lively by skipping slower, sentimental hits such as “Little Motel” in favor of upbeat songs that kept the crowd moving. Bonus magic moment: during “Dark Center of the Universe,” a huge meteor could be clearly seen flying across the nighttime Austin sky. Their set included tunes from across their discography, such as “Custom Concern,” “Fire it Up,” and the ever popular “Float On.” They also played several newer songs from the past few years, such as “Sugar Boats” and “Lampshades on Fire,” that are rumored to be on their upcoming first full album since 2007’s We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. Finally, the band encored with crowd favorite “The Good Times are Killing Me.” All in all, it was (as always) a terrific live show from Modest Mouse.
- Elyssa Garza


Failure

Failure was an alternative rock band from the 90’s that only performed for about seven years before disbanding. They developed a strong cult following that apparently has remained trued for a decade and a half. And I think all of their followers were there at their performance for Fun Fun Fun Fest. Many people sung along strongly for this long awaited reunion, and I even think someone next to me started crying at the end of their set. Even with all of this, I could not help but feel like their performance was as artificial as their reunion this year. Frontman Ken Andrews looked Rivers Cuomo trying to sing like Kurt Cobain while playing what looked like a mirror plated Gibson Les Paul. All members remained completely still, while the sound was so modified that the drum kit sounded like it was electric. And most distant of all was the lack of any amplification on stage. I am almost positive that the guitarist and bassist were playing directly into the sound system, and Ken Andrews was using an iPad for his digital guitar effects. After every song, Andrews would walk off stage to adjust the levels on his guitar and voice. This lead to several sound problems where Andrews’ guitar would just cut out and there would no longer be any guitar. The bass was so loud that the notes were indistinguishable. And ultimately, the sound of the performance was only a reflection of the distance that they had from the audience and maybe even their own music. The same effect probably could’ve been had if you went to your car stereo, played the song at full volume with the low end turned all the way and the high ends all the way down. Either way, it was clear that others around me were very happy to sing along to a band that has been gone for almost twenty years, even though all I could see was a fake performance of the band formerly known as Failure.
- Joseph Erik

Friday, May 23, 2014

ISLANDS & TIGERS PLUGGED-IN SESSION

Check out some of the videos from our session with Islands & Tigers. You can find more on our Youtube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/kru917/videos




Monday, March 31, 2014

Maverick Music Festival Run Down



THE MAVERICK MUSIC FESTIVAL


The Maverick Music Festival was a whirlwind of bands, vendors, and San Antonio charm. KRTU's Indie Overnight had the pleasure of sponsoring and covering this up and coming festival. Check out Matt, Joseph Erik, and Elena's thoughts and reviews from the festival and Michelle's photography from this two day event. 

FRIDAY 


Roky Erikson

Roky Erikson was the first show I caught at the Maverick Music Festival this past weekend and it was a good way to kick off the weekend. Roky has lived a colorful and exciting life both onstage and off. Playing onstage since he was 18, his comfort with the stage was evident while he played a fairly tame set. However, tame definitely does not mean boring. Never leaving center stage or speaking, he sang with a passion that was sadly lacking in some of the other bands that would take the stage later that day. While some members of the audience found it understated and by the book, I disagree. This was good old rock n roll with a slight Texas twang. I thoroughly enjoyed the sincerity and tunes that Roky was throwing down.
 -Matt Peebles

The Joy Formidable 

The Joy Formidable put on a solid show that was unfortunately struck with a slew of sound problems for the first 10 minutes of their act. Lead vocals were not properly mic'd for the first song and the drums were suppressed for the first half which made for a rocky start. But those problems aside, the Joy Formidable entertained us and each other thoroughly with their set. The band commands an impressive stage presence, Ritzy wooed us with tunes from both of their released albums, the drummer, Matthew Thomas, stood on his set and practically tackled Rhydian Dafydd on bass. The entire set was a flirtatious affair and set the mood wonderfully for Washed Out and Phantogram later on in the night. 
 -Matt Peebles

Washed Out

Washed gave a great performance of an excessively layered and surprisingly acoustic show. I feel like everyone under the age of 30 likes Washed Out, and that was the crowd set-up for the night. I even saw a 10 year old boy walking into the VIP section for Washed Out’s performance. Either way, having heard Washed Out before, and not bowing to the east five times a day for them, I was ready to watch the fingers on a MIDI pad fly; however, to my surprise, Ernest Greene, master of the stationary keyboard head-bob, started with an acoustic guitar and had a full band with him! It was nice to see Greene incorporating a band for his performance, but this would lead to some other growing pains. Along with Greene’s acoustic guitar came four synthesizers and two drum pads, excluding the drum set, electric guitar and bass. At one point, I saw Greene playing a triad with one hand, the second guitarist playing the lead, and the girl in the back playing something, which I have no clue what it was. This kind of setting, whether it was doubled on the synths or the drum pads, continued for most of the night. The incorporation of this full band setting was a nice surprise for me, but the translation from tracks on computer to a full band could use some work. The performance was smooth, and I’m pretty sure Washed Out was the first band to not have sound problems, so overall a good performance from Ernest Greene and all those who imitated his computer with him
-Joseph Erik Montano

Phantogram
Phantogram is an expertly articulated group who commands a stage presence unlike any of the other bands that night. Their minimal setup on stage represented the blend of acoustic and electric sounds that they are so fond of on their records. Not all of the songs are exactly the most exciting or great songs(at one point she called one of their ballads the kind of song that you wave your lighters too, sooo…. Yea, I shut down after that one), but they all knew how to work the stage and how to maintain their energy in a somewhat awkward venue; however, the reflection that their setup initiated also led to a static translation from the albums to the stage. There weren’t any surprises or anything unexpected that you can’t get from listening to the albums. Although the music that was coming from the stage was not anything new from the albums, it was nice to see a strong and confident performance from those who know how to feed themselves off of stage energy.
 -Joseph Erik Montano




SATURDAY

Main Stage


Lonely Horse

Lonely Horse is probably one of the biggest trending bands in San Antonio right now. As I walk around San Antonio, I hear people asking each other if they’re going to the Lonely Horse show. So it was nice to see Lonely Horse getting a slot on the main stage that only one other local band would get. Although Lonely Horse has an energy like no other, there are still adjustments to make when you stand on platform that is five feet above the ground, with a giant sound system into a huge open area with a an audience that does not move easily. Johnny made good use of the space around him and his noise sets and effects translated well through the system. There were some awkward tensions as Johnny begged the audience to dance and the few that were there refused. Even with some of these pains of being on the big boy stage, Lonely Horse has shown that they have the ability to grow and are ready for more stage time.
 -Joseph Erik Montano

YACHT




Part of the reason Rock Angels may have been a bit dull is because YACHT was anything but. Probably my favorite show of the entire festival, Claire Evans is an absolute fireball on stage singing absurdly catchy lyrics and infecting the audience with her dance moves. She simultaneous infatuated and seduced when she hopped off stage and pulled people right up to her face and sang with only the microphone separating their lips. Characterized by heavy synths, vocoders, French, and tons of personality, their sound is shamelessly electronic pop and damn fun.
 -Matt Peebles





Black Angels

I’m hesitant to be critical of bands as they put their heart and soul into what they do but Black Angels was incredibly disappointing. The heart was missing from their set, looking like they were just playing for the paycheck. Every song sounded exactly the same, the similar chords, similar lyrics, similar melodies, and similar everything. They had opportunities to capture the audience when they sped up the time but that became rote too. Singing with a Texas twang and rather upbeat tone, these guys don’t play bad music by any means and it could be somebody’s cup of tea. I’d play it while writing or concentrating on some task but it’s not something where I would sit down and honestly listen.
 -Matt Peebles

Candlebox

These guys have been around for a while and know what it means to rock. Playing a set that spanned from their 1993 self-titled album to their 2012 Love Stories & Other Musings, it was a nice tour through the last 20 years of Candlebox’s evolution as a rock band. And there is no other way to describe them. They are a rock band through and through. Screaming and spittle was flung around along with the microphone while they picked up the audience and relentlessly shoved us along. The audience loved it, the band loved it, and I loved it. It was an experience and really set the tone for the Psychedelic Furs to take the stage later that night. 
 -Matt Peebles

Run the Jewels

I’m not sure I have ever seen a weirder and more wide-spread range of humans at a festival than I have at the Maverick music festival. From the eight year old boy at Washed Out, to the Hispanic league of family members at Candlebox, and to the typical hipster crowd at Joy Formidable, there has never such an awkward bunch (probably a trademark of San Antonio). Run the Jewels was, strangely enough, one of the only bands to reach them all. Killer Mike and EL-P were surprisingly encouraging of the confused San Antonio crowd and got them chant “RUN THE JEWELS” at any moment. Along with their pretty talented DJ, Run the Jewels made use of the stage and reached everyone in the strange crowd with ease.  
 -Joseph Erik Montano

Twin Shadow 

After having been a little disappointed by some of the earlier bands on Saturday, Twin Shadow was the perfect band to catch that night. Each song had a lot of power and layers and while they sounded original and had a lot of variety, the songs were also just repetitive enough to be catchy so even a new audience could sing along. When he performs, George Lewis Jr. commands the stage and audience, interacts well with them, and knows how to capture attention and draw it to his music. Although Twin Shadow is specifically focused on him, the songs aren’t vocal-heavy and include strong beats between the drums and keyboards. All of these factors make Twin Shadow enjoyable to hear at home, but they translated even better into an amazing live performance that I was sad to see end. 
 -Elena Souris

The Psychedelic Furs

The Psychedelic Furs were the last band I caught at Maverick but definitely stood out the most to me. Of course, the musicians were older than all the other bands, but they seemed to have the most personality and stage presence. Richard Butler, the lead singer, was incredibly exuberant and almost flamboyant with his hand motions and dances, and the rest of the band looked like they were having just as much fun. Like the musicians, the songs themselves had a lot of variety and took turns focusing on drums, sax, guitar, bass, and keyboard. It’s rare to see a band right now that includes sax, which was a welcome change, especially since Mars Williams wasn’t just playing in the background, but often took center stage. Each instrument created its own layer in a song and sometimes they fit perfectly together and other times they were disjointed enough to highlight them individually. With all these different layers, technical skill, and personality, The Psychedelic Furs were one of the most original and enjoyable shows I saw, and the perfect way to end the festival.  
 -Elena Souris


Arneson River Stage


Dark Planes

Dark Planes is a great punk band to watch. They are all veterans of the rock-n-roll world and know how to guide their music to an audience. It truly is a strange mix of internal stage performance that somehow reaches the audience; however, upon getting to the stage, I noticed a fourth member in the band, one that I had not recognized as playing with Dark Planes. It was Nick Federico, who I know has played in the band Last Nighters. This new addition could not have been a better one. The second guitar allows more freedom and independence of lines for each instrument while maintaining fullness of sound throughout the performance. Dark Planes no longer has to worry about filling the sound or a loss of sound as some takes a solo, and this allows for such a dynamic show, even more so than they already had. They’re energy on stage was fantastic, even with the separation across the river on the Arneson theatre, and the sound was a great new refresher.
 -Joseph Erik Montano

Crown


Crown is a fantastic local band that vomits energy and showmanship. Tasting vaguely of surf, blues, and psychedelic rock, they played with an almost overwhelming bass and a melody best described as haunting. The bass may have been a side effect of the stage and sound but it did not lessen their vibe at all. Each song was characterized by Carlos Zubillaga waxing poetic over quieted instruments and then loud helter-skelter, hair everywhere rock.  While the venue was slightly awkward, the band was comfortable interacting with the audience and even congratulated a newly-wed couple as their riverboat slowly meandered through their set. A talented group of guys, Crown knows how to put on an entertaining show and should be on your list of up and coming San Antonio bands.
 -Matt Peebles

Carlton Zeus

I wasn’t completely sure what to expect from Carlton Zeus, having never really heard his music before. I listened to one song online before Maverick, but honestly, he sounded very different live. The sound levels seemed a bit off, with the drums and beats much louder than Carlton Zeus himself. However, his rapping reached impressive speeds and though the songs were somewhat repetitive, the entire show felt like one big party. I’ve never seen an audience with such a wide age range that were all equally excited to be there and sing along. The show included tossing shirts across the river to the audience with incredible aim and taking pictures with the crowd. I’d imagine that it’d be difficult as a musician to really get an audience excited at a venue with mostly seats, but at Carlton Zeus, the crowd was dancing anyway. Even the riverboat drivers passing by joined in, making it a memorable and fun show.
 -Elena Souris

FEA

FEA was a band I stumbled across and would never have discovered without Maverick and I’m glad I did. They stood out to me from the other bands I saw with their unique style. Their sound is more aggressive than a lot of the other artists, especially from the vocals, but with the prominent drums and guitar, they all get equal focus and work well together. Their songs are fast, intense, and also cover a wider range of topics than any other band I saw. The lyrics, especially to songs like “Blame Yourself” were interesting and grabbed my attention. Especially live, FEA was a great experience.
-Elena Souris

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Is SXSW For Me?

When I was planning my coverage of SXSW I decided that my overarching theme would be “SXSW: How Cheaply  can I make this happen?” So armed with $80 and a free place to stay I hoped on a $6 mega bus ride to Austin, excited for whatever the music gods had in store for me.  As per my carefully planned out schedule  (that also included multiple alternatives and a penciled in plan to throw it all away after a couple of hours) I headed out on Wednesday. 

I first stopped at the “Spotify House” where I had, well exactly the sort of experience one is supposed to have at SX. I got there early and was greeted by free booze, chips, and sunglasses.  The venue had multiple stage areas, allowing for an intimate concert experience. The Spotify logo wasn’t on every surface, and I really did like the set up.
Hozier 

I had come to see Dum Dum Girls, and by my bosses recommendation Hozier who has one of the most powerful voices I’ve heard in a long time. He apologized for his throat being sore but he still sounded brilliant- a perfect mix of earnesty and confidence that came without being overbearing.  Quickly after that Mutual Benefit of Brooklyn performed on a different, smaller stage. They've got a chill but startling vibe. Its sounds like something you would get if you mixed together Washed Out and early Animal Collective. Although I had never heard them they are definitely a band I will return to from now on.

Finally the act I had been waiting for came on.  Dum Dum Girls have  really mastered that balance between generating a solid stage act without taking themselves too seriously.  Of course they sounded great, moving through a 30 min. set of both recent and older tracks. Then I had the magical SXSW moment I had been promised. For their  last song lead singer Dee Dee invited up an unannounced guest none other than Deborah Harry of Blondie. Phones came out, cameras flashed, but there was surprisingly little freaking out. Dum Dum Girls had a great time though; all of them actually smiled, a rarer occurrence than seeing Deborah Harry herself.
Dum Dum Girls with Deborah Harry. Photo From Austin 360. 

Now by all measures this should have been the time of my life. But it wasn’t. The nature of SXSW demanded that the day shows sped by with 30 min sets and I never felt like I had time to invest myself in a set. I wandered around the rest of  the afternoon but I felt overwhelmed in a new way. Yeah, of course I felt jaded by the intense marketing presence and commercialization so often criticized in the media, but there was something else bothering me.  I constantly felt a pressure to move on to the next thing and a worry that I might miss something, when really there was more than enough going on in front of me. The whole experience made me feel greedy almost. I had a fantastic experience, for free. Why was I out chasing more? For me atmosphere of Austin that day seemed to center around telling rather than doing. It felt like people wanted to collect experiences to post about, to blog about, gather pictures to share, or dare I say it gain bragging rights, rather than just slow down and appreciate the moment.

I realize not everyone’s SXSW experience is like this, and I realize not all SXSW shows generate that sort of atmosphere (Our Music For Listeners showcases at El Sappo are a great example of a easy going atmosphere with fantastic music).  But when I was called back to San Antonio for personal reasons I took the first ride I could get. I may be young, and Austin may be hip, but it’s  overwhelming. I was perfectly happy to go  home to S.A., a city where I actually belong.

-Michelle Padley is the Promotions Assistant for Indie Overnight. You can here her on air Monday nights at 10 p.m.