SXSW | 03.18.10 | Austin, TX - Day 2

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

SXSW :: 03.18.10 :: Thursday :: Austin, TX

Kayceman's Top 3

#3 - Broken Social Scene

Band of Horses at Stubb's
03.18.10 by Dudelson
If we let them, Broken Social Scene will heal us. One of the most innovative and influential indie rock bands of our time, they've pulled off the very difficult trick of being super-indie-hipster chic but so totally void of pretense or posturing that the music always feels real, genuine and from a deep place. When they tell us to fight for joy or they crank out triumphant, celebratory music and tell us it's how our lives should sound, it works. This is the power of music. Melody, notes and words combined and organized in ways that illicit profound emotion, thoughts and even actions - these are the waters that BSS swim in. Though Feist performing at Stubb's on Thursday night was just a rumor (there's lots of rumors at SXSW - did you hear Jay-Z and Mötley Crüe are gonna do surprise sets?) it didn't matter. Brendan Canning, Kevin Drew, Apostle of Hustle, Jason Collett and the other dozen or so musicians (I believe the stage maxed out at 14 people) put on a life-affirming set of loose jams and soaring harmonies. New track "World Sick" from the forthcoming Forgiveness Rock Record (due May 4 on Arts & Crafts) featured one of the most infectious bass lines at SXSW and old standouts "Fire Eye'd Boy" and "7/4 (Shoreline)" wrapped us tight in a sheet of distorted guitars and warm horns.

#2 - Band of Horses

Another group with a new album coming soon (Infinite Arms out May 17 on Columbia), Band of Horses also toil in emotion's murky waters. Ben Bridwell and his Horses aren't afraid to get their hands dirty digging through dark soil, but like Broken Social Scene, there's resolution and joy in the end. Starting their set at Stubb's with "Is There A Ghost" and "Great Salt Lake," it didn't take long for the giant guitars and powerful vocals to capture the sprawling crowd's attention. And when the girl next to me grabbed her boyfriend's arm and said, "I'm sooo excited. I love this band," it was clear this music speaks to people. Like art in general, it's a difficult thing to quantify or explain. Why does a certain selection of notes or set of words make us feel what it does? What is it about certain songs that allow them to touch us so deeply? Hard to say, but when you feel it, there's no mistaking it. Band of Horses staples "The Funeral," "No One's Gonna Love You" and "Marry Song" were coupled with a Yo La Tengo cover and two new songs. The first new track was a mid-tempo burner pulled tight with emotion and the second was a foot-stomping country rock number with a heavy dose of organ; both show great promise for the upcoming album. More than even the sweet material Bridwell is coming up with, what makes Band of Horses so great right now is that they are a real band and they're finding their power. The lineup went through a number of changes before arriving at this unit and every time I've seen this band over the past year or two they've gotten better and better.

#1 - Kayceman's Treehouse Party

Paz Lenchantin - Entrance Band
03.18.10 by Kayceman
Kayceman's Treehouse Party was really fun. Perched up on a deck framed against the Austin skyline and packed with some of my favorite bands, it was an honor to have my name associated with such talent. Showing up to my own party just a little late due to a work commitments, I, unfortunately, missed Any Day Parade and The Fresh & Onlys, but when The Moondoggies started all worries washed away. Like an 18-wheeler headed down a steep slope, The Moondoggies' three-part harmonies, tent revival energy, and gospel-baked roots rock was impossible to deny. If you dig The Band and The Byrds and don't know this Seattle group then you have to check out their stunning 2008 debut Don't Be a Stranger (JamBase review).

Following The Moondoggies was perhaps my favorite set of the day: The Entrance Band. Guitarist/vocalist/leader Guy Blakeslee is a psychedelic guitar shredder. Shirt off and standing on speakers, he played lefty with a right-handed guitar strung upside down a la Hendrix, and this is one follower Jimi would surely approve of. As difficult as it was to steal any of Blakeslee's thunder, bassist Paz Lenchantin (A Perfect Circle) stole the show. Sexier than all hell in her high heels and tight jeans, she was rolling on the stage, playing over her head and rubbing against the speakers. But none of it would have mattered if she weren't such an over-the-top monster bassist. Blakeslee and Paz are a remarkable team, and with drummer Derek James they dig deep into the psych-rock woods - feeling, living every note and squeezing the juice from every moment of their glorious journey.

Entrance Band was a hard act to follow, but Red Cortez fears no stage. Built around gifted frontman Harley Prechtel-Cortez, there's an early U2 vibe that hints at what's possible for this band, and based on the new material we heard in Austin and with a new album produced by the legendary Ethan Johns coming soon, one gets the impression this band is just starting to hit their stride.

Big Light :: Kayceman's Treehouse
03.18.10 by Kayceman
The Mother Hips did what they do and burned the Treehouse down. One of the most consistently great live acts around, they don't disappoint. Playing to the largest crowd of the day, burly rockers like "Grizzly Bear" and "Third Floor Story," and the dirty hard funk-rock of "Magazine" were razor sharp but never too tight. Frontman Tim Bluhm and guitarist Greg Loiacono are a true dynamic duo, and this band is enjoying a true renaissance period right now that finds them better than at any point in their 20 year career.

It's clear Everest are on the rise. Touring with Neil Young has taught them how to flex their muscles, and when they lean into crunching guitar jams it hits hard. But they also show a delicate, acoustic side and bandleader Russell Pollard is shaping up to be a remarkable songwriter. The tracks from their upcoming sophomore album, On Approach (due April 20 on Vapor Records), indicate a band that's nowhere near their ceiling. It should be fun to watch them climb the mountain.

Hosting San Francisco local boys and JamBase darling Big Light was a real treat. Playing to a deck full of industry folks there to see them, BL did the job with four hard hitting power-pop nuggets of rock & roll. There were several conversations overheard about how this band is "really getting their shit together," and the interplay between drummer Bradly Bifulco and guitar stud Jeremy Korpas during "Heavy" was just awesome.

Closing down the festivities was Knoxville, TN's Royal Bangs. Pumping out woozy keyboards and inventive guitar lines, they were a jolt of energy that reinvigorated anyone who might have gotten a bit too much sun up at the Treehouse. Hitting pleasure zones like !!!, they've described their music as "easy shred computer jam," and even though they've trimmed from a five-piece to a trio there appears to be little if anything lost in transition.

Continue reading for Sarah Hagerman's SXSW Day 2 highlights...

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