We sent news editor Lauren Down over to Texas for this year’s South By Southwest festival – the annual showcase of everything new and wonderful in music, film and interactivity. Over the next few days she’ll be bringing you the highlights of the musical portion of the festival.
Dipping my toes into the SXSW pool before diving in head first, Monday night finds me at Mohawk listening to the visceral, scuzzy, surf pop anthems of Wavves. Every tier and balcony is rammed, there are a few people who look like they are moments away from diving into the crowd below in the frenzied hope they will be crowd surfed to the front. Helping my jet lag fade into obscurity the swirling mosh pit and the distinctive pop-punk leaning of opening track ‘King of the Beach’ could not be a more perfect welcome to Austin, Texas.
Before you can say “tequila shot” it’s Tuesday and the streets are swarming with Interactive Badge holders talking about Jay Z’s show the night before, but as the Interactive portion of the festival comes to end it is music’s time to shine and this evening offers the first official batch of performances.
Kicking things off early, Pitchfork are helping celebrate the interactive side of things with their showcase at Mohawk with performances from Teengirl Fantasyand Shlohmo. Merging rich atmospherics, heady beats and a gently drifting ambience Shlohmo has pulled in most of the crowd while Amsterdam’s Teengirl Fantasy snaring drums and bedroom sounds cling to the air.
Can’t stay too long though, Dustin Wong is playing at Swan Dive. A founding member of Baltimore’s Ponytail and responsible for their incredibly intricate guitar lines Wong cuts a humble, unassuming figure as he steps on stage. With only one electric guitar in hand (and about 10 different effects pedals) the virtuoso live loops just about everything he does: creating the most complex, layered, vibrant and dense sound. Every guitar note is distinguished, everything is deliberate and the results are pretty mind blowing.
Taking a very different approach are Austin’s very own Ume who we dash over to see at Bat Bar. Front woman and vocalist Lauren Larson looks pretty stressed when we arrive, but it’s ok, whatever was going wrong with the back line during their soundcheck she channelled the frustration into her incredible performance. Thrashing around stage, swinging her guitar around like a veritable rock star she gives it everything she has got; the bold bravado of her stage persona carrying the howling guitars and tight drums beats through a set that includes highlights from last year’s Phantoms LP ‘Captive’ and ‘Hurricane II’.
Photographs by Lauren Down