Words & Images by: Kayceman
SXSW :: 03.21.09 :: Saturday :: Austin, TX
For the final day of this monster music marathon, our #3 slot is awarded to Ra Ra Riot. With band leader/vocalist Wesley Miles set up center stage and flanked by two lovely ladies, Alexandra Lawn cello/vocals/keys and Rebecca Zeller violin, the rest of the band (guitar, keys, drums, bass) filled in around Miles and the gals - both musically and position wise. With all the strings, swaying bodies and bouncing rhythms it reminded of Arcade Fire but with less theatrical pomp, but still some of that dramatic flair. Band members swapped instruments freely and there was never any question how passionate they are about their trade. It was difficult to tear one's eyes away from the stop-you-in-your-tracks beauty of Lawn and her cello. She would dip and swing with her instrument, pulling off delicate runs down the body while singing lyrics into the sky, eyes closed, completely under the spell of her band's music. Quite simply, she was a vision to behold. But, just as beautiful as Lawn was the sound of Ra Ra Riot. When the violin and cello linked up with the bass and drums the sweeping strings created a plush foundation for vocals, keys and guitar flourishes to dance across the top. Following the tragic death of original drummer John Pike in 2007, it's rather amazing how far they've come since that time, and one smiles at the fact that Ra Ra Riot play such uplifting, life-affirming music.
| Ra Ra Riot :: SXSW :: 03.21.09|
Sometimes what you really need is a slice of soft grass and some shade. Thing is, you can't get that at SXSW. If you've never been, this is not a festival like any other you've probably attended. There's no central local, no big stage and huge field for the headliner. No, this is a concrete jungle full of dirty bars, cement floors and, if you're lucky, the soft wood and beautiful acoustics of a place like The Parish (which also gets you out of the sun). But still, after walking at least five miles a day (probably more like 10) for five days, sweating in the Texas sun and dragging your broken legs from bar to bar, the soft paradise found at The French Legation Museum is an oasis. Just outside the madness of Sixth Street, the lush grass, plethora of trees, mellow crowd, Ice Cream Man, little nooks and crannies to do whatever it is you might like doing and a constant flow of quality music make this our #2 call of the day. Sure, this was JamBase's party (along with Press Here, Domino Publishing and Entertainment Weekly), but it's not just my loyalty that made this place such a respite. And beyond the ability to recharge one's battery, with bands like Chief, who really got rocking towards the end of their set, and the Talking Heads-esque, '80s rock influenced Wild Beast, it was a party. Unfortunately, I left before Dirty Projectors (who I really wanted to see) in an attempt to see Erykah Badu at the Auditorium Lake Stage. The Lake Stage is free and open to the public, and without getting too far down this path, I'll tell you it was a shit show. Badu was supposed to take the stage at 7, and come 8 they were still riding the hype machine: "Put your hands together if you wanna hear Badu!" As we were leaving we could hear Badu take the stage, but she didn't have her band and it appeared to be a DJ deal with her singing. Let's just say I won't be going to the Lake Stage again... but regardless of who throws next year's party at the French Legation, I'll be there.
| French Legation Museum :: SXSW :: 03.21.09|
I'm pretty sure the word "efterklang" means "remembrance" and "reverberation" in Danish. And even if it doesn't, it fits Copenhagen's Efterklang damn well. With seven people on stage (a very small stage inside Emo's Jr.) there was a lot going on, and at times it was difficult to determine who was doing what (especially with the huge electronic rig at the back of the stage with infinite wires running out of it). While bouncing with the rest of the crowd I was able to view violin, flute, trumpet, keyboards, bass, several guitars, percussion and that electronic setup that created lots of wonderfully weird textures. On top of that, there were gorgeous three and four-part harmonies that would swell from delicate nuance to powerful bombast. Forced to compare them to other artists, I'd toss out names like Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire and maybe even Sigur Ros minus the vocals. But that's exactly where Efterklang rise above the fold: the vocals. Working atop an orchestral canopy, the vocal structures were exquisite, with choruses dropping out for backup harmonies to fill the void. And bandleader/lead vocalist Casper Clausen was captivating. Efterklang utilized a great deal of soft-loud dynamics, building sections up patiently, letting them grow meaner and fatter with big drums and rattling bass before exploding into a crescendo of manic thrashing with everyone beating on their gear as hard they could in complete unison. In that sense it was very primal, but with the intelligent structure, use of violins, flutes and a delicate sense of melody, it was also very advanced musically. This set was wickedly cathartic and re-energized my slowing body. Efterklang is awesome. Go see them. For more on this fabulous band, check out JamBase's review of their most recent album, Parades, here.
| Efterklang :: SXSW :: 03.21.09|
Special Slot: Craziest Shit Ever
Israel's Monotonix could have easily been our #1 slot, but they were so fucking wild they deserve their own category: "Craziest Shit Ever." This was easily one of the wildest shows I've ever seen. It was the last gig on the last night of SXSW, and they burned the fucking Mohawk to the ground. Stage diving off speakers, throwing bass drums and drum cases into the crowd (no balloons or beach balls in this crowd), climbing the scaffolding and playing off the stage in the center of a mosh-pit, there is nothing like Monotonix. Fueled with a punk ethos, slamming drums and big fuzzy guitars like Black Sabbath at their peak, this was a spectacle that will not soon be forgotten. I'll let Sarah Hagerman tell you more about Monotonix, and you can read about their debut EP here.
Kayceman's Top 3 Overall for SXSW 2009
1. Jane's Addiction/Playboy Late Night Party
2. BLK JKS day show at The Parish
3. Tie: Monotonix and Alberta Cross
Continue reading for Sarah Hagerman's SXSW Day 4 highlights...