This year at SXSW, I'm providing daily recaps of the festival. Here's the recap from a small part of Tuesday but mainly Wednesday. Make sure to come back every day to read recaps of the rest of the days. Make sure to follow me at @RyanGardnerC on Twitter or Instagram for random thoughts and reviews during the day before I recap them. Today Iím planning to spend the afternoon alternating between the Topshelf Showcase and Equal Vision/Pure Noise showcase. Iím hopefully seeing The 1975 at the MTV Woodies tonight.
Let me start this by saying that I hope everyone is okay after the terrible, terrible incident last night. I physically cannot even believe that.
Side note: I’m running on 4 hours of sleep so this will probably not be a very good write up and I apologize for that in advance.
Tuesday was a pretty light day for me. I saw The Vantage (ex-Safety Work Orange) put on a quick set in the afternoon and that’s about it. They put on quite a fun live show, ranging from some more acoustic based tracks to some loud pop-rock songs. “Something In The Air” was a great example of how fun vocalist James Mason can make songs. His voice danced around the calm drum taps. “Changes” and “On My Way” were easily the highlights of the set. The former starts off as a brooding number before the guitar strums kick in as it builds to be the loudest, most exciting song of the set, carrying much more emotion live than on the recorded version even. If you get the chance to check out one of their sets, I highly recommend it for pop-rock fans.
On Wednesday, I started out at the Big Picture Media showcase to say hi to some friends. I caught part of a set from Lime Cordiale, a rock band from Australia. I wasn’t familiar with their music prior to it, but hey, dudes with Australian accents can make for a fun rock show.
From there, I headed to see The American Scene for my first time. Although the sound in the venue was pretty bad – you could really only hear the guitars well – I can tell they put on a great live show. The opening “Just Say It” had my ears right of the get go, as it’s probably my favorite song of theirs. Frontman Matthew Vincent sounds really great live, being able to a bit louder than on the recorded version. Seeing them live made me remember how underrated their full length is. I’m hoping to possibly catch their set again today and if you’re around, I recommend the same.
Mike Mains & The Branches took the stage next and made me realize yet again why Calm Down, Everything Is Fine is one of my top records of the year thus far. The suit-clad crew had feet tapping right along to the title track, while “Noises” was even louder. Due to the sound in the venue, it made it sound even more like a raw rock n’ roll show. Surprisingly, they even slowed down the set, playing the somber “Where Love Dies.” This showed that they weren’t afraid to take risks – most bands wouldn’t play a soft cut at SXSW – and that they can execute both loud and quiet with ease. I have all the faith in the world in this band after hearing their latest record and really hope that this year is their year.
Dear You threw some pop-punk into my day, with the small stage setup making the show feel even more like what I imagine a more “classic” scene pop-punk show would be like. “Black & White” was a fast-paced gut punch due to the dual vocals and biting bassline. As their first show in Austin, the band drew a fair crowd that was stoked to sing along. Even the more mid-tempo “If Worries Were Weights” came across well in the live setting, with the ridiculously catchy chorus really standing out.
After that, I charged up my phone and headed out to wait in line for the Brooklyn Vegan showcase, which could end up being my favorite part of this week.
I missed Placeholder due to the line, but I caught Frameworks’ set. Man…seeing this band live has affirmed that they will probably be one of my favorite hardcore acts of the year. The way they have so much emotion in their live show and songs makes me view them as what I imagine seeing a traditional hardcore band would be like. Their vocalist Luke Pate has such a commanding stage presence. Constantly wrapping the mic around his neck, he made the show feel quite authentic and truly like a hardcore show. The best thing about this band is that they aren’t afraid to just play as loud and intense as possible, without worrying about being in the perfect key or tone. I have a feeling that Loom will really catapult them to the top of the newer hardcore scene.
I had never listened to Cheap Girls before, admittedly, but they put on an enjoyable set. Just some clear and clean rock songs really. This is a band that I can imagine putting on when it’s a nice sunny day and I’m just looking for some crisp rock songs to throw on. I’ll definitely have to check out their material.
Seeing The Front Bottoms for my second time confirmed that they are easily the most fun band I’ve seen live. There’s really no other way to put it – their live show is just beyond enjoyable. The tongue-and-cheek nature of their songs and truly memorable lyrics always get a huge stir out of the crowd. Voclaist Brian Sella chugged a beer on set yet still managed to sound great and ridiculously full of energy throughout the set. Tracks like “Skeleton” and “The Beers” were wild live, while “Twin Size Mattress” was absolutely soaked with emotion as it closed out the set. I fully believe that this band’s live show could be not any more enjoyable than it is – they just know exactly what they’re doing.
I couldn’t wait to see Touche Amore again, as their performance before AFI was one of my most memorable concert experiences. This time was no different, as the band yet again tore through a huge amount of material without ever putting on the brakes. The amount of intensity Jeremy Bolm performs with is something all vocalists should take notes on. He constantly yells his lungs out, but one of my favorite parts of their show is how involved he lets the crowd be. This time no stagediving was allowed, but he still constantly puts the mic into the crowd and even jumped into the crowd to sing the end of the set. While their recordings confirm their skill and growth enough, their live show really cements it.
And then 1AM rolled around and out came Against Me!. Now, I had never seen this band live before – crazy, I know – but man. You talk about a rock and roll show and this is exactly what it should be. Laura Jane Grace absolutely dominates the stage with ridiculous intensity. I mean seriously, hearing “True Trans Soul Rebel” kick off the set alone affirms their legacy. All of the Transgender Dysphoria Blues cuts sounded even better live than recorded, having that live edge that really gives them more bite. “Unconditional Love” was a more upbeat favorite, while “Black Me Out” was just a furious good time. “I Was A Teenage Anarchist” was an all out sing along, while the closing “New Wave” fit as the perfect opening track. There’s no wonder this band has such a strong following and dedicated fanbase, their live show is pretty much unmatched as an all out rock show.
Anyways, it’s Thursday morning now and I’m exhausted. Today I’m planning to spend the afternoon alternating between the Topshelf Showcase and Equal Vision/Pure Noise showcase. I’m hopefully seeing The 1975 at the MTV Woodies tonight.
Hope is everyone from our community is safe. My heart goes out to those killed and injured. I was at the intersection probably 10-15 minutes before I went and caught Against Me! so I can't even imagine the horror scene that must have been. A friend of mine was killed last year in a hit and run at sxsw, so please be careful everyone. If you drink, catch a cab or take the bus.