SXSW | 03.17.10 | Austin, TX - Day 1

Words by: Kayceman | Images by: Scott Dudelson & Kayceman

SXSW :: 03.17.10 :: Wednesday :: Austin, TX

With almost 2,000 bands performing on 80 stages throughout downtown Austin, the South by Southwest Music Conference is a music marathon fueled by Lone Star Beer and tacos. Now in its 24th year, SXSW might not be about signing new bands as it once was (the internet has really changed the game in how we discover music), but it still offers the opportunity to see a shitload of bands, some of whom will be stars before long, in a short period of time. The dynamics of SXSW may have changed as the festival has grown, but one thing hasn't changed: This long weekend in Texas can still break bands.

Kayceman's Top 3

Lissie at Galaxy Room :: SXSW :: 03.17.10 by Kayceman
#3 - Lissie

First set on the first day and Lissie was awesome. Reminiscent of a more rocking Neko Case or younger, more psychedelic Bonnie Raitt, Lissie filled the room with her powerful voice and flowing golden locks. More than singing songs it often felt like Lissie was opening windows into her life. One gets the impression these are confessionals, and when she hit the big notes it sent shivers down my spine. Lissie on electric guitar was backed by a strong lead guitarist who took some searing solos and a bass player who sat on a stool and also played high-hat and kick drum (no drummer in this band), the power this three-piece cooked up was impressive. She closed her set with a soul-rock, gospel tent revival rave-up called "Little Lovin'" off her wonderful debut EP Why You Runnin', which won over every pair of ears in the room.

#2 - Sleepy Sun

If you can make the hipsters dance you are doing something really special. San Francisco's psychedelic warriors Sleepy Sun are looking more and more like a "special" band, and their set at the IODA party uncorked some seriously good times. A close cousin to bands like Brightblack Morning Light and The Black Angels, the female counter-point vocals helped ease the heaviness of the music to create a welcoming haze. Like really good drugs where you feel opened up by the experience, like your learning something unspoken, this set was deep. The unquestionable highlight occurred when they brought out the Austin Children's Choir and finished the set with a cover of The Guess Who's "No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature" that stripped the crowd of their cool and ushered in an honest to goodness dance party.

Sharon Jones at Stubb's :: SXSW
03.17.10 by Scott Dudelson
#1 - Sharon Jones & Spoon at Stubb's

Number one slot on the first day: Stubb's. Between another wicked set from Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Austin's own Spoon, and a set by the biggest buzz band of the fest, Broken Bells, this bill was tough to beat. Only unfortunate thing was that Broken Bells (featuring Danger Mouse and The Shins' James Mercer) wasn't very good. They weren't bad, and the songs are really great, but you could tell the live show was just an extension of the album's success. There were a few high points, like opener "The High Road," but overall the live show was a sloppy second to one of the best albums of this young year.

Sharon Jones on the other hand killed it. Her band is ridiculously tight and Jones is simply one of the best bandleaders around. Every single time I see this act I'm impressed, and at Stubb's it was no different. Playing to the largest crowd of the night, she had the audience in the palm of her hand with songs like "100 Days, 100 Nights," new one "She Ain't A Child No More," and a very cool reworking of "This Land Is Your Land." For anyone who says the golden days of soul music are gone, I say listen to Sharon Jones. Stax, Motown and Muscle Shoals got nothin' on Ms. Jones and her Dap-Kings.

Strange enough to keep it interesting but built on brilliant songs with inventive hooks, Spoon is a true leader in the modern rock world. Bathing in psychedelic splashes of sound at times, it felt like we were in an echo chamber, and the guest percussionist was a nice touch, too. Songs like "Written In Reverse," "Don't Make Me a Target" and "My Mathematical Mind" captivated the crowd with relentless rhythms and perfect precision, while "I Turn My Camera On" made a case for what disco could have been. This is a band of efficiency. No wasted notes or gratuitous solos (there wasn't a traditional solo all night), everything serves the song. Spoon continues to dish out the goods, and seeing them on their home turf on a big night like this was reason to celebrate.

I'd love to tell you more, but there is quite literally a party with my name on it that has already started. I need to get there. Let that be a glimpse into SXSW: There's always too much to do...

Continue reading for Sarah Hagerman's SXSW Day 1 highlights...


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