SXSW 2010 | Friday In Review
With one full day at the 2010 SXSW music festival done and gone, we still had two more to go. While I studied my ass off leading up to the weekend, I still went into it with no real plan – just ideas of what I might want to do. I had the parents and sister in tow for another day, and Bacon had plans to meet us later in the day, so all I knew was that I was ready for a party. We got up decently late, and shipped off in favor of another brilliant day of music, friends, partying and whatever other hi-jinks we could get ourselves into.
Our initial plan for the day was to head to Filter Magazine’s free day party at Cedar Creek Courtyard, but upon arrival we found a packed house and a line a block and a half long. I had my group jump in line, and I headed around the block to Antone’s where I knew that jam-centric Relix Magazine was hosting their day party. Another of my favorites, Everest, was just about to hit the stage there, so I grabbed my group and brought them all there. We walked in during the LA-based groups first song, and quickly noticed that The Watson Twins were guesting with the group on backing vocals. The indie-rockers, a group that was hand-picked by Neil Young to open up his entire 2008 tour, worked their way through a strong set of new and old originals which was capped off by an incredible version of their debut album Ghost Notes‘ stand-out single, “Rebel In The Roses.” This set stood out as one of my top five of the weekend, and proved to be a great deviation from our original plan.
Knowing that Delta Spirit were about to take the stage at Cedar Street Courtyard, we decided to head around the block to try and catch the show from the outside. We made it just in time for the band to be announced, and got a pretty good spot with clear sight lines for the entire show. While they only played one different song than the set we caught the night before, it was still a nice treat to see them for a second time in 12 hours. Once again, their new material was being showcased, and it sounded just as strong as I remembered from my drunken state on Thursday night. Closing out with another rollicking version of “People C’Mon,” Delta Spirit proved that they belong towards the top of my favorite bands list. Now, all I can do is wait for the new album, and hope they make a trip to Houston very soon.
As we headed back into Antone’s, The Watson Twins were just finishing up their set to a fairly packed house. We knew that Citizen Cope was to perform an acoustic set next, so we stuck around to check it out. Some taco’s and a few beers later, Cope made his way to the stage armed only with a guitar. I’m not sure if he was just extremely stoned, or hadn’t gone to sleep in a week, but he was noticeably out of it. The songs were good, though – well, as good as his songs can get. I’ve never been the biggest fan of his work, as I think it all sounds the same, but it was cool to see him in such a stripped down format in such a small audience for his size. After about twenty minutes or so, he wrapped the set up, and was out the door as quick as he entered.
We stuck around Antone’s because next up were prog-indie-rockers Minus The Bear. I’d never seen the Seattle group before, so we got up in the mix as soon as the set started. Their songs were solid, and translated quite well in the live format. We had planned to stay for the entire show, but Bacon was just arriving, and everyone else in our group were converging on the east side of I-35 for Mess With Texas. This year’s MWT changed locations, and turned itself into a two day format. The first day was heavy on many different genres of music, while the second featured some of the heavier and more experimental acts of SXSW. We made the trek over, and landed in the two-stage outdoor venue just in time to meet up with everyone in the growing line.
We made our way to the main stage where Austin’s own Latin funk and cumbia experts Grupo Fantasma were deep into their set. I’ve seen the group on several occasions, so after a few songs I decided to head down to the Fader Fort to redeem my wristband (and help some lucky random out with my plus one). I never actually made it into the Fader Fort, as apparently I had to have a separate media badge just to bring my camera in – something that would’ve been quite handy to know beforehand. I even tried to get in later in the weekend sans camera, but it was full up, so I watched the show from outside, along the fence.
We headed back up to Mess With Texas just in time to catch the last few songs of Mariachi El Bronx, the mariachi version of LA-based hardcore group The Bronx who played earlier in the day. I was instantly intrigued by this side project, as it’s the first hardcore/mariachi crossover I’ve ever heard of. They were true to form, and featured a host of additional instrumentalists helping the quintet expand its sound, and give it a true Mexican feel to their music. I was convinced, and the crowd of a thousand seemed to be as well. Knowing the south stage was running about a half-an-hour behind, we decided to just hole up towards the front of the stage for the next act.
One of the biggest surprises on the initial Mess With Texas line-up announcement was British folk-rocker Billy Bragg. I’ve been a fan of his work for quite some time after initially being introduced to him by the Mermaid Avenue sessions, a host of Woodie Guthrie songs that were reworked and put to music by Bragg and Wilco. His set was as political as expected, and found him using the open-air format to speak his mind, sometimes for several minutes at a time, in between his passionate folk tunes. As I watched Bacon, Toast and my pops, happy as can be with the show in front of them, I found myself lucky to be in such a situation with a nice handful of my favorite people. It was definitely one of the coolest performances of the weekend, and I can now officially tick another artist off of my must-see-before-I-die list.
My next decision was a big one – stay at the north stage to see the third of my five acts I pined to see in Frightened Rabbit, or head to the south stage to await the inevitable dance party that was going to happen in the fourth of my five acts I needed to see in YACHT. I knew I had the chance to see both acts again the next day, so after stopping down at the south stage to see if YACHT were on yet (they were originally supposed to start a half-hour before FR, but the delay made it to where they would start at the same time), I headed back to see Frightened Rabbit with my sister and Toast. I was very happy with my decision, although Bacon said YACHT was one of his choice shows of the weekend. FR put on such a great performance that night, chock full of new songs, with a few older gems like “My Backwards Walk” thrown in for good measure. I’ll save their true review for my Saturday showing with the group, but just know that I’m officially obsessed with the Scotsmen known as Frightened Rabbit.
My parents and sister shipped off in search of some delicious Austin BBQ, but I had nothing on my mind but getting as close as possible for Mess With Texas’ Friday headliner, and one of my favorite bands to see live, Man Man. My last experience with the group had me standing side stage rocking it while they weirded out the afternoon ROTHBURY crowd last July. This time found them performing after dark, which is so much more appropriate for the Philadelphia freaks. Finally making it to stage about twenty minutes after scheduled, Man Man were adorned in their standard white war-paint, white tee’s and pants to match. Frontman Honus Honus was full of his normal piss and vinegar, strutting around stage with a swagger only he could have. Costume changes, feathers, confetti, water-spitting, rafter climbing and manic tunes about the oddest subject matter you could think of are what make up a Man Man show, and it’s a sight to see if you’ve never done such a thing. They made a statement that night in Austin, and it’s good to see that they have grown into such a force in the indie music world. Not many bands can bring in thousands, but they did just that on that balmy Friday evening.
Our official plans for the day were over. Toast had disappeared, and so did a bunch of our other friends, so we headed towards downtown to find them. While hanging outside the Billboard Bungalow, I heard the familiar sound of YACHT’s “The Afterlife” coming from somewhere in the distance. I turned around, and in the back area of the Bungalow, there was the band I had just missed a couple hours ago. The sound was good, yet we were quite far away. We stayed for a few songs, but eventually headed up 6th for some much needed nourishment in the form of a street vendor gyro. Bacon decided that he was gonna head out to meet up with the friends he’d be staying with that evening, and Toast and I knew we had an early morning the next day, so we decided to part ways and head home. After running into a few friends in front of the Pure Volume house (another place I never made it in), we caught a cab and drove off.
Austin was starting to take its toll on our bodies, which was clearly noticeable after day two. After sorting through my pictures, I put my head down and was instantly out. We were headed to Rachael Ray’s day party at Stubb’s in the morning, and couldn’t be more excited. What could be better that six hours of free food, booze and music? Not much…
Stay tuned for our final day of coverage.