SxSW 2013 - The Amazing and Exhausting Adventure: Part 1 - OurVinyl
SXSW 2013

SxSW 2013 – The Amazing and Exhausting Adventure: Part 1

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Disclaimer: This is by no means an all-encompassing look at the festival. There is far more going on in this one week than one person can cover, so this is just what I happen to have the extreme fortune of experiencing. No press credentials were given, but thanks to my grad program at St. Edward’s University I was able to attend the festival with a Platinum Badge, affording me opportunities the general public may not be able to experience. The photos are just what werecaptured on my iPhone, so please pardon the low quality images. Otherwise, enjoy this glimpse into South by Southwest!

The Biggest Music, Film and Interactive Media festival in the US, SxSW 2013 descended upon Austin last week with a larger presence than ever. While originally intended as an industry event for discovering unsigned bands and films without distribution, it has grown to include every tech start-up imaginable, high profile concerts and overall just morphed into what feels like one week long Spring Break party that happens to include these events. Without further ado, let’s dive into the music.

Paypal Interactive Party @ Mohawk

Octopus ProjectDespite the music portion of the festival not officially beginning until Wednesday the 14th, bands played throughout the interactive portion too, such as this free party sponsored by Paypal the first weekend of the SxSW.

Moog masters and Austin natives The Octopus Project kicked things off, playing their unique blend of electronics and indie rock. The band ripped through a set consisting of old favorites and brand new songs from their forthcoming album that kept the crowd’s heads bobbing and hips shaking. Before playing a new song they excitedly showed off a keyboard they said was given to them by the legendary David Bowie, who heard them recording their new album in London and “quite liked it.” They dedicated the song to him, and unsurprisingly it was a great one. After all, if it got Bowie’s approval, it’s got to be good.

Man Man topped the bill this evening, playing a stellar set of songs from every album. Old school fans were delighted by their opening with “Feathers” from their 2nd LP ‘Six Demon Bag’. A healthy amount of songs were performed from their last (and criminally underrated) album ‘Life Fantastic’ that took on new life in a live setting. The crowd reacted best to the bizarre sing-alongs of “Against the Peruvian Monster” and the lamenting “Van Helsing Boombox.” They too tried out new songs too, with one in particular sounding like a pseudo-rap song that lead singer Honus Honus sang while wearing an alien mask. It was a strange and wonderful highlight.

Man Man’s “Spooky Jookie”

It’s fascinating to see how this band has evolved over the past seven years. In the beginning they were this loud, chaotic, hairy band dressed in all-white tennis outfits and war paint. They were like a human embodiment of ‘Where The Wild Things Are.’ Since then they grown up a little and while the performances are no less cathartic or energetic, it seems like a controlled chaos that teeters close to the edge without ever falling off. They’ve become indie rock elder statesmen that have managed to maintain a devoted following and innovate their wild sound over time.

DO512 Party @ Scoot Inn

This was a party free to the public, only requiring an RSVP, so unsurprisingly, it was incredibly crowded and seemed like much more of a local crowd than a SxSW crowd.

Bonaparte was the first act on the bill, and were certainly a unique way to get the crowd warmed up. The “band” was basically just one guy with a guitar and some programmed beats. With jagged pink hair and black spot painted around one eye, he played music that was a mixture of the snotty sneer of The Buzzcocks and propulsive electronic beats. Some songs were catchy while some whizzed by leaving very little impression. What completely stole the show however was the interpretive dance of a female while he performed. She came out in various incarnations, including wearing a giant QR code for a head as well as wearing nothing but strategically placed electrical tape as she thrashed around pouring golden glitter on herself. Even if you didn’t dig the music, she definitely kept things interesting, making the crowd hang out to see what she’d do next.

ptm1Austin locals Marmalakes were next up and seemed like the sort of band you’d expect to play before the headliner. They were a solid rock band playing gorgeously building tracks that felt intimate and calm.  They definitely seem like a band to check out in the future, but unfortunately they were playing after the visually stimulating and frenetic performer prior to them, and in comparison just felt sleepy. Watching great musicians perform their music is far more stagnant than a semi-nude woman writing around, so the audience was less receptive.

Finally, headliners Portugal. The Man took the stage after what seemed like an eternity. This was one of their first public performances since completing the recording of their upcoming album (produced by Danger Mouse btw), so you could tell there were still some band nervousness. They decided to play it safe for the most part, giving the audience a set that was very similar to the one performed for the majority of their tour for ‘In The Mountain In The Cloud’. This means there was a heavy emphasis on that album as well as fan-favorite ‘Satanic Satanist’. Don’t let this fool you as to the caliber of the performance though. The band were in fine form, giving a passionate performance that lent itself to hard-hitting jams between each song where the band exchanged glances that indicated they were locked in and having a great time stretching the songs out beyond their studio versions.

Portugal. The Man’s “Evil Friends”

Particular highlights included “All Your Light,” “Guns and Dogs,” and “Chicago.” Delightful covers have also become a staple at their shows, as they performed their searing rendition of The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” and morphing the ending of “People Say” into Oasis’ classic “Don’t Look Back In Anger.” As if those great covers weren’t enough, the concert ended in a rousing rendition of “Hey Jude’s” coda that left everyone sway and singing together. The band also debuted two brand new songs from their upcoming album, including the titular track “Evil Friends.” The songs were a fun new jolt in their set and if these live versions are any indication, then the next album should be stellar.

House of Vans Official Showcase @ Mohawk

As an official showcase this was a badge holders-only event for the beginning of the evening, but that didn’t stop people from turning up in droves, hoping to get in to see the incredible lineup Vans was offering this year.

To kick things off explosively, Japandroids took the stage as the last light of the afternoon faded away. The amount of sound these two guys make is incredible considering how few of them there are. Their set consisted mostly of songs from their breakout album ‘Celebration Rock’ and despite touring this record for what seems like over a year, they still managed to put on a spirited performance full of fist-pumping. Part of this had to do with the singer’s excitement at opening for The Stooges. He gushed multiple times how it was a childhood dream come true to play with the legendary proto-punk band and it showed in the enthusiasm and raw energy he put into every song. He joked there was only Japandroids fan in the audience and while this was probably untrue, there were definitely many more after this short but powerful set.

Iggy & The Stooges’ “Burn”

stoogesAnyone who read my Austin City Limits Festival review from last year knows how deep my love for Iggy and The Stooges goes. The fact that this band is still around performing is a feat in itself, so any opportunity to catch them can’t go unattended. While their set last year consisted of nothing but classic tracks from their incredible first three albums (‘The Stooges,’ ‘Fun House,’ and ‘Raw Power’), this performance included the live debut of songs from their forthcoming LP of brand new songs. None are quite as good as the songs they originally created together so long ago, but the majority of them were fun and energetic tracks that were far superior to anything on the oft-maligned ‘The Weirdness.’

Of course songs like “Raw Power” and “Search and Destroy” held the same vibrant potency they always do, but it was nice to hear new material as well as a bluesy tribute to dearly departed original Stooges member Ron Asheton. The song was called “The Departed” and was a loving tribute to this fallen comrade that saw the band include guest musicians on steel guitar and other instruments. It was based on the riff to “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” but slowed down to a mournful pace. Not only was it a fitting send-up but it was also a nice breather in an otherwise intense setlist. Their regular set ended with “No Fun,” even handing the mic to the crowd to shout “No Fun!!” but the band came back for an encore with the song “Fun House.” If you’ve ever seen a punk band with such incredible and raw use of the saxophone, please let me know, because these two polar opposite sounds mix together surprisingly well.

Yahoo! and Ghost Girls Party @ Brazos Hall

The mighty Tenacious D played this party, which made it a can’t-miss type of event. There were delays getting The D to the stage, including a complete power outage in the venue. Thanks to these delays, they took the stage incredibly late, but still came out full-force with hilarity and energy. Their set opened with “Rize of the Fenix,” their song detailing their comeback, followed by two new songs, “Low Hangin’ Fruit” and “Senorita” before launching into classics like “Kielbasa” and “History.” Of course between every song was funny stage banter including telling the audience how sexy they were. Unfortunately this was all I was able to see since the delayed had caused a conflict with a film screening. But if the rest of their set was as good as these first few songs, it was another classic performance from this ribald and side-splitting duo.

Tenacious D’s “Rize of the Fenix”

But wait, there’s more! This is only part one of my SxSW chronicles. Look for the conclusion to my adventures (including the mighty Prince) very soon.

Written By Jarad Matula

OurVinyl | Senior Writer