SXSW Superlatives: Nathan.Lankford

AlvvaysWith SXSW this year there was lots of hubbub about fewer bands and less corporate entities flooding the streets, but despite all that, I still managed to have myself a good old time.  I’ve got some thoughts and awards to hand out, and these are strictly my experience, as we tried at ATH to split up and cover as much as we possibly could.  You can read on, if you’ve got the time, to see what I had to say. 

The Hats Off Award: The Local Venues

Due to my interests, I spent a lot of time at Beerland, Hotel Vegas, Mohawk, Red 7, Holy  Mountain and Cheer Up Charlies.  For these venues, you have to give them all credit.  Huge lines, drunken folks, long shifts, and everyone I came across handled SXSW with great care and enthusiasm.  It says a lot, and SXSW should pay attention, that the places most known for keeping our live music running, ran things pretty well, all things considered…for me they ran it without a hitch.  It definitely made my experience easier.

Best Party: The Onion & AV Club Manic Monday

First, you had a line-up that included Courtney Barnett, Metz, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Hamilton Leithauser and Real Estate.  That alone would warrant some good attention, but because I’m a fat kid, and because a long week needs sustenance, the TGI Fridays sponsorship went a long way towards keeping me going.  I can’t tell you how many sliders and buffalo wings I ate, but it was enough to rule my Lone Star consumption pretty much just added calories.  Music and food and the Red 7 Staff? Winning.

Hoped for More Award: Leon Bridges and Alvvays

So, these are two bands that I wanted more from, for some reason or another.  I loved the Alvvays LP from last year, and Leon’s tunes have definitely caught my attention, but here’s why I expected more.  For Leon Bridges, his sound was great, truly.  But, the band around him is a little bit young (3-4 months playing together), and they were a bit timid.  For that sound, I expected some flare, and it just wasn’t there…yet.  As for Alvvays, the liver performance wasn’t bad, but there’s a crispness on the record that didn’t come across…too much reverb perhaps. But, perhaps it was all about preserving the voice, as the band was one of the hardest working of the week.

Local Bands I Loved: The Dead Space, Ramesh, and Grape St. 

Admittedly, I caught far fewer local bands than traveling acts, but I cover all the locals year long, so I opted for a wee break. The Dead Space have quickly become one of my favorites, musically and live, so catching them at Beerland was a solid break, as I was sort of caught between bands that were meh and eh…they delivered.  On Saturday, I ran across town to catch Ramesh at the Blackheart.  Yes, I put out his album, but man, I was floored by his performance that night.  Having a new drummer and bass player solidified a strong group…and the sound…so good. Then I scampered back to Hotel Vegas just in time to catch Grape St play one rambunctious short set.  The crowd was frenzied, the band was energetic, leaving for the perfect end to a Saturday night for me.

Living Up to My Hype: Ultimate Painting and Elvis Depressedly

I was pretty fortunate to catch these two acts playing back to back at Brooklyn Vegan’s Showcase during the day on Thursday.  Ultimate Painting would win another superlative award for being the band most consistent to their album…their sound was crisp and tight, blending the balance between psychedelia and pop music.  Elvis Depressedly had Mat Cothran stalking the stage, orchestrating his band like few others I saw. There’s something raw happening with this band, and I can’t do any more than I have to get that across.

Sorry, I Don’t Get It: Girlpool and Speedy Ortiz

This award goes to the bands that have gotten a huge buzz in the last year, but that I just don’t get it.  One I blame on the band, and the other I just plain don’t get. Girlpool has some decent enough tunes, and some I would probably really like.  But, that being said…no drummer? You’re playing guitar pop with no drummer?!?! Didn’t do it for me…couldn’t even watch it after awhile. As for Speedy Ortiz…this I just don’t get.  There was nothing remarkable about the songs or the performance.  There’s tons of bands in Austin, for one, doing the exact same thing, only doing it with more panache and balls.  No one will convince me to listen to this band again.

My Personal Discovery: Winter

This LA group was one that I discovered early on at Hotel Vegas.  They had a vibe akin to early Rilo Kiley, albeit with a slightly more dreamy sound.  On top of that, they truly looked like they were having a blast playing together, which always means a lot to me.

Best Performers: Metz, Lust for Youth and the Shivas

I saw these bands several times, and I had to.  Metz delivered one of the most forceful performances of the entire SXSW week, for me anyways.  I actually caught them three times, and each time, they never seemed to slow down.  Their new record has high expectations at the ATH camp.  Lust for Youth we caught late in the week, and their dark electro pop really won us over, though we already were fans of the recorded material.  Brian and I enjoyed it so much that we traveled from venue to venue following them around that afternoon. The Shivas were phenomenal too. Three kids making jams like few others, blending in the sounds of psychedelia and a little bit of countryfied charm.

Ok. I Get it Already: Thee Oh Sees

Man. I love the records. I love the live performances.  But how many times can one band play in a week.  Think theese guys played at least 3 dozen times.  All were well attended, and deservedly so…but I’ve had my fill. Can skip seeing these guys for at least another 3 years.

Dear Lord. Never. Again: Gang of Four

Yes, it’s only 25% of the original band…but never again will I even bother with this monstrosity. Worst thing I witnessed all SXSW.  They even had a chance to save it with everyone’s favorite “Damaged Goods,” but offered it at 1/2 speed, killing any chance that any one would ever have a positive thing to say about the band again.  Talk about soiling a good name.

Sorry if that was long winded, but here are some photos of B Gray of the bands mentioned above.  If you were there, hope you had a blast…and if you weren’t, sorry boutcha.

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