SXSW — Wednesday Recap

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it’s what kept yesterday incredibly interesting (if that was even an issue). While en route to the Austin convention center I passed by Waterloo Records, where I was planning on returning to see Apex Manor (fellow schmooru Adam Vine’s band) perform later in the afternoon. Checking out the day’s lineup, I saw that Wild Flag was scheduled to play at 2pm. There would be many more opportunities to see them this week, but I just couldn’t wait any longer (Mary Timony is one of my music heros) … I would have to risk missing out on the fount of party advice that was expected from Andrew W.K. at his speaking event.

I approached the parking lot stage at the tail end of Sahara Smith’s dreamy pop set. The sound was great, but I was still a bit foggy from the night before so I meandered between record browsing inside Waterloo and the Whole Foods smoothie shop across the street when I was pulled out of my stupor by the strange psychedelia of Morning Teleportation:

Wild Flag took the stage without much fanfare, but soon into their first song it became apparent to everyone in the parking lot audience what we were baring witness to. This was a far cry from supergroups like G3 or Zwan … these four musicians came together not because of a concept, but out of musical necessity: these sounds needed to exist, and in a bad way. I caught up with them later in the day at Mellow Johnny’s bike shop, to an incredibly packed store for their KEXP live show. Either the word had gotten out, or no one was up by 2 o’clock for their earlier set.

After dinner, I had the difficult task of deciding which showcase(s) to attend. With so many great acts to see in the span of a few hours, it boiled down to an equation of urge vs proximity. My first stop was The Parish Underground to check out Now, Now Every Children and The Vandelles.

Now, Now Every Children were slighted by the sound man who couldn’t figure out how to run their vocals through the house speakers, but they pushed on in spite of it all: the trio’s sound was big enough, and the crowd helped out with vocals throughout. By the time The Vandelles took the stage, all technical issues had been worked out. And just in time, too. Their vocals cut through the reverb-laden guitar caterwauling and bombastic rhythm section to melt the hearts of everyone in attendance with a pulse.

I had but a few minutes to get over to Emo’s to catch The Black Lips and Talib Kweli. No one was being let in as the space was already over capacity. The crowd outside the venue was insane. As a handful of people filed out from the (packed!) Bad Brains show, another lot was crammed inside, myself included.

Emo’s didn’t have any of the technical issues that plagued The Parish early in the night, but I have a feeling The Black Lips, who had just taken the stage, wouldn’t have cared either way. They were more gracious than I’d ever seen them, but they still left little to be desired in terms of rock intensity by the end of their performance.

The set change took longer than usual (mopping up after The Black Lips is no easy task) so the crowd was particularly anxious, but Talib Kweli emerged and didn’t waste any time to get the party started again. Halfway into his set, he brought surprise guest Jean Grae onstage and the duo commanded the stage into the early hours…

So now it’s Thursday. It’s going to be difficult to top yesterday, of course I felt the same at the end of Tuesday night. With curiosity as my guide, I think I’m going to be just fine.

Austin, TX — 3/17/11

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