All photos by Clint Miller
The three of us that embarked on this road trip a week ago have been hitting it hard everyday and after staying up until nearly dawn Thursday night, we had to catch up a little it on sleep. So unfortunately we almost completely missed Friday’s day parties. We did, though, make it to the Asthmatic Kitty showcase just in enough time to catch DM Stith. This day party was very much in the peripheral of the where the main SXSW action was, and there was only a small, comfortable crowd for this one. They played in a garage of some art center, and the vibe reminded me of WonderRoot. I have been listening to DM Stith‘s full-length, Heavy Ghost, like crazy for the last week so this was a show I was very excited about. The album seems to possess a lot of instrumentation and production tricks, so I was skeptical as to how good he could reproduce the songs live, but with a fairly minimalistic 3-piece setup, he played his stuff beautifully.
After that I walked around the area near that day party and checked out a few others nearby. I caught a little bit of The Mae Shi at some interesting venue that had an outdoor roller skating rink and while they were playing, the crowd surrounded them with a big parachute looking thing that the band played under. It was a cool scene, and I think I’m coming back to this venue for something again later today.
After that we headed to the Radio Room where our choice of showcase for the night. First up we caught Micah P. Hinson. I listened to one of his albums one the way to Texas and it was pretty cool. He seemed to have a ton of technical difficulties for this show, and while it didn’t really match up to what i heard of his studio work, I did enjoy the set. His clothing was a hodgepodge of clashing styles, and it paralleled his music. He would go from a Texas sort of country to loud noise jams at the drop of a hat.
Next up was School Of Seven Bells. They also had a bunch of technical difficulties at the beginning of their set, but they eventually overcame them and played what I thought was an even more enjoyable set than when I caught them open for M83 last year. I feel like this is the sort of band that when you initially listen to them, they don’t sound that different or special, but they seem to really grow on you and now I have arrived at the point where I am totally a fan.
After that we watched Deastro. I enjoyed his album from last year, but this band sounded too much like a Death Cab For Cutie clone for me to totally fall in love with. Fortunately, the songs in a live setting were not only stunning, but had a sound all their own. Deastro‘s main man vocalist was jumping around like crazy and really into the music, and that always translates into a more enjoyable audience experience. They closed with a guest appearance from Ebony Bones and did a hilarious cover of Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U”. Again, an artist I was on the fence about before seeing live converted me to a believer.
After that, I caught one of the bands extremely high on my list for SXSW, White Denim. They put the word “power” back into power trio and just assaulted the audience with the jams. It was total rock ‘n’ roll, but with some weird, secret ingredient that seemed to make it stand out from the rest of the folks poaching this style. They were very much what I would consider broadly to be a jamband, but unlike most bands that label conjure up, these guys actually know how to write great music, and they have enough restraint to not get boring. Nothing really new here, just really great.
Now, I know most of the big dog bloggers spent a big chunk of SXSW catching the most popular band here, Grizzly Bear. While I would have certainly enjoyed that, I wanted to spend my SXSW digging a little bit deeper than that. Everyone else on the web has covered the Griz and all the overrated Fader Fort shows, and wasted their SXSW time seeing all of the big name garbage (*cough* Metallica *cough*). So we instead decided to spend our final Friday night show with only a handful of folks for England’s Rolo Tomassi, and it proved to be the greatest SXSW discovery for me so far.
The band has about the most unique combination of styles and influences I have ever heard. It would go from pretty, to jammy, to dissident and intensely loud. They had some small, skinny, tiny little cute girl singer that had the most piercing, impassioned scream vocals. She could hang with any metal vocalist I’ve heard. Everyone in the band was going crazy, and the audience broke out into a mosh pit. As soon as i get back, you’ll hear plenty more hype from me about this band, but for now check out these vids and photos:
Ok, we’ll wrap the rest of our SXSW coverage up when we get back to the ATL. One more long day!
- Posted by Davy Minor on March 21, 2009 at 3:00 pm