SXSW 2011 Post-Mortem: Bacon’s Top Sets
We maaaaaaade it! Another SXSW has come and gone, and yeah, I’ll be hyperbolic – BEST SXSW EVER. This year was a clusterf*ck of awesomeness: uber-crowded streets, sloppy days and wandering nights, uh… RIOTS, Houston ownage both onstage and off, and my first time doing all 4 days since college. Eggs has already covered a couple of of my favorite performances, so be sure to read his review for another take on some of the shows. Read on for my favorite sets of SXSW 2011.
5. Okkervil River @ Lustre Pearl, Saturday
I wasn’t as lucky as Eggs to catch Okkervil three times during the fest, so their performance at the Dickies showcase on Saturday had to satisfy my craving for these SXSW stalwarts. It certainly did. The band, like the rest of us, was running on euphoric fumes. The punch-drunk nature of the performance was embraced by Okkervil frontman Will Sheff – see video above. The songs from the upcoming release, “I Am Very Far,” stood tall alongside a selection that included “For Real” and “John Allyn Smith Sails.” Can’t wait to see them open for Arcade Fire in Dallas next month.
4. Ponderosa @ The Belmont, Thursday
These boys from Athens don’t mess around. Recently signed by New West, they’ve perfected 3-part harmonies, straight-ahead rock and roll, and something that simply can’t be learned: Southern swagger. At times, lead guitarist Kris Sampson was channeling his inner Jack White – with jaw-dropping solos blasting through his Silvertone amp. The instantly catchy “Old Gin Road” was a highlight of their set, followed closely by “I Don’t Mind” and my new Whiskey Wednesday theme song: “Stayed Out Too Long.” Check out a video of “Old Gin Road” above (not from SXSW), and pat George on the back the next time you see him.
3. Shilpa Ray and her Happy Hookers @ Barbarella, Friday
Shilpa Ray has fascinated me ever since reading this Grinderman road diary where Nick Cave handpicked her to open for them during a stretch of their tour last November. After seeing her perform, it’s fair to say that the fascination has burgeoned to a full-on obsession – she DESTROYS live. Shilpa plays the harmonium, an instrument typically reserved for traditional Indian music, with an end-of-the-world urgency that’s somehow surpassed by her bellowing, beautiful vocals. The Hookers match her energy note-for-note, and at times her guitarist, Andrew Bailey, surpasses it. She began her set with a howl that could have been a part of Primal Scream Therapy before rocking through songs that included “Heaven in Stereo,” “Erotolepsy,” and “The Chelsea Clinic Physical” – which she introduced as follows: “This is a song about STDs. You will get an STD while you’re at SXSW because I guarantee it. Call me up if you need some help.” Check out a video of that song above, buy her newest album, Teenage and Torture, and come see her at Fitz on 4/20.
2. Trampled by Turtles @ The Stage on 6th, Wednesday
My biggest regret of this year’s SXSW was not attempting to see Trampled by Turtles every single time they played. I only caught one of their sets, at the Paste party on Wednesday, and it left me temporarily satiated but wanting so much more from them. Thank gods they’re playing Old Settler’s in less than a month. TbT (yeah, they’re badass enough to merit an acronym) are at the absolute top of the indiegrass heap right now – combining heartfelt lyricism with LEGIT bluegrass chops. Their lyrics hit me, and probably most of us, exactly where we’re at right now… I mean c’mon: “All of us lonely, and it ain’t a sin, to want something better, than the shape you’re in.” Last Wednesday, we got a whole lot off of their most recent release, Palomino, including “New Orleans,” “Wait So Long,” Victory,” and “Sounds Like a Movie,” as well as older songs like “Darkness and the Light” – a bit of video above. I’m pretty sure I saw smoke coming off of Ryan Young’s fiddle during it.
1. Dawes @ Lustre Pearl, Saturday
I’ve been in love with all things Dawes since that fateful Cactus instore back in October of 2010, which brought both me and Migas to tears without any previous knowledge of their music. I’ve rewatched the above video from last Saturday’s show more times than is probably healthy, and damned if it doesn’t have near the same effect. Screaming along to this tune arm-in-arm with some of the people that matter most to me was a beautifully cathartic moment. Our time will come soon, my friends. Keep spreading the gospel of Dawes. See Eggs’ review for more on this show – all I can add is that “If I Wanted Someone” is the best of the new songs and that their new album is going to be GD incredible.