SxSw 2010 is finally upon us! With less than a month to go before the year’s most fun festival, we’ve joined the throngs of people who have got a lot of schedule planning to do in the next few weeks. Picking out shows to see and sifting through side party listings is half the fun, and we’re more than happy to share our picks with you! While I can’t promise complete coverage of the festival from An Interlude’s perspective, I will tell you up front what shows we’ll be checking out and where to find solid free parties (and free booze!) in our preferred genres. So far, it looks like there will be plenty of fun to be had this year for badge/wristband holders and freeloaders alike. Here are the official SxSw showcase performances that we’re most excited for. Stay tuned for a list of side parties and unofficial shows, as well as other genre picks for the fest. Cheers!
Bands to see:
Swimming with Dolphins. I’m super excited to finally see Austin Tofte emerge from his basement to share his music live. (Well, as live as predominantly electronic music can be anyway.) If you don’t know already, SWD is produced by Adam Young of Owl City. The two draw obvious and tired comparisons. They’re both electronic-based, they’re both from Minnesota, they both sound like they should be the background to a high school dream sequence, etc etc. Personally, I prefer Dolphins to Young’s Owl City for a couple poorly-backed-up reasons. It could be because I heard the Dolphins EP Ambient Blue a long time before Owl City hit the radio market with swift domination. I am definitely the kind of listener who typically gives preference to the band I heard first. All inane prejudices aside, Ambient Blue feels warmer to me, more danceable, less introverted and more focused on creating an atmosphere of electronic noise that makes you want to move. Owl City talk too much about lightning bugs and emit a feeling of quiet naive curiosity in a lot of ways, which is great in its own respect, but when it comes to electronic soundscapes, and SxSw parties, I prefer the kind that get me moving. Check out the cover of Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car on their myspace. Sweeet! They’ll be playing Saturday, March 20th at Emo’s Jr. It’s an official SxSw event so you need a wristband or badge to attend.
Listen to “Silhouettes”
Barcelona. I won’t wax on too much about Barcelona here. Wait for the full review that’s been in the works for months. The bottom line is, Barcelona make great music and put on an excellent live show. Their set at last year’s SxSw was fantastic. They really know how to get you involved and excited about their music. This year they’re playing a prime-time set at Maggie Mae’s rooftop at midnight on Thursday March 18th. Based on the venue alone, the crowd should be bigger, so give yourself a little cushion time-wise. Oh, and don’t piss off the bouncers or bartenders, Maggie Mae’s has some of the rudest ones on 6th street.
Listen to “It’s About Time”
Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. How often do you find a band that has created a completely new and original genre? In a country that is over-saturated with sameness, I’d venture to say not very often. Slim Cessna’s Auto Club has invented and perfected traditional country music gone awry. Their sound is captivating and so original it will blow your mind. Based in Denver (and credited with originating a new and unique “Denver sound”), the band shatters traditional and modern conceptions about country music. They take country to the next level. A dark level. A very dark, scary, but awesome level. Everything they do reeks of Civil War-era goth and Americana. Check out their music if you have any interest in glimpsing the dark side of America. I have a feeling this show will stand out far and above the rest of your schedule, even if you aren’t a “country” fan. Official showcase is at the Beauty Bar Backyard at 1:10 a.m., Friday March 19th.
Marina and the Diamonds — Official showcase: Midnight, Thursday March 17th at Lambert’s. Marina is a robust Welsh singer, very similar to Florence and the Machine, with a truly unique feminine take on chick music. Selling out shows all over Britain, she’s got a quirky and funny persona that shines through her music. She came in second place on the BBC Sound of 2010 list (second to Ellie Goulding! Love her too; wish she was coming this year.) Lambert’s is a great venue for this show, small and personal so you’ll really get the full effect of her music. Do yourself a favor and eat some BBQ while you’re there too. It’s OH SO GOOD.
Listen to “I Am Not a Robot”
Band of Horses. Usually I wouldn’t bother with all the hype of catching such a high profile show at southby. That being said, Band of Horses is playing their official showcase at the Central Presbyterian Church (11:30 p.m. Thursday, March 18th), which makes any effort to catch the show worth your time and energy. This is one of the best venues of the festival, because it’s off the beaten path, and just a plain strange experience. The acoustics are excellent, the visuals fantastic, and the overall experience kind of blasphemous, which is kind of awesome. Grizzly Bear and the Rural Alberta Advantage played at the church last year, and for someone who isn’t even much of a fan, it was an almost religious experience. You’ll most likely have to get there super early to get in, because space is limited. But to hear “Is there a Ghost in This House,” sitting in a pew in that church would be an unmatched by most other shows during the week, and definitely a highlight that will stick with you for years to come.
Listen to “Is There A Ghost?”:
The Temper Trap. You might already be tired of the graceful introductory build of Australian band The Temper Traps’ seemingly inescapable hit “Sweet Disposition” by now (used in 500 Days of Summer, 90210, The Deep End, and numerous commercials including one for Chrysler and Sky Sports football), but I forsee the band rising above their tired single to put on a great live show. If “Sweet Disposition” is any indication of their predisposition to writing hits (which I think it is– their recent album Conditions reeks of the kinds of songs that will be gracing the airwaves of retail stores like Old Navy or American Eagle, and gasp, maybe even striking it big even the radio!) we will be hearing them a lot more from now on, perhaps in a medium where they can be recognized for their talent. This is another show I suggest showing up reasonably early for, as the buzz is increasing by the day. Official showcase: 11 p.m. Thursday, March 18th, at Lustre Pearl.
Listen to “Sweet Disposition”
Butterfly Explosion. Lucky for us, Butterfly Explosion made the decision to jump over the pond from their native Dublin to grace the stages of SxSw this year. Their music is kinda dreamy and introspective. I’ve heard comparisons to California’s Silversun Pickups, but I hear more similarity with Explosions in the Sky or This Will Destroy You (but with the addition of vocals). Could be a nice break in between the louder, more energetic shows that will permeate the bars. The official showcase is 8:40 p.m. at Habana Calle 6, on Wednesday, March 17th. Keep your eyes out for their side party appearances also. This is the most current information from their myspace page…
Imagine Dragons. I can see these guys being a great breakout band of the festival. They have an interesting brand of fun Las Vegas-based indie pop. Feels kinda mainstream to me, but I haven’t heard about them before checking out their music on a hunch. I do typically live under a rock though, so I could be way off base in saying they’re still under the radar. Regardless, the music is upbeat and infectious. They weave in lots of the current hyped instrumental elements – like lazer sounds and heavy synth, but their sound is difficult to pinpoint down to easy comparisons. Their songs are varied; each track brings something new to the table. I would lump them into the same category as bands like Bloc Party, We Are Scientists, Tokyo Police Club, maybe Phoenix, Passion Pit. They play at Maggie Mae’s at 10:30 p.m., Thursday, March 18th.
Listen to “Selene”:
That’s all for now. I’ll keep you posted as other shows come up.
**Keep in mind that unofficial show time change all the time, so you might want to check back in with the band’s myspace, or other sources before planning your day around catching a side show.