Greetings from Austin, the location of the biggest and unequivocally greatest new music festival in the world, the place where bands make it or break it, if they survive five days of free frozen margaritas, pork fat and 30 degree heat. Well, I say new music: there’s a hell of a lot of well established legends playing this week. Green Day, Nick Cave, Prince, Justin Timberlake (OK, legend might be pushing it) and, allegedly Daft Punk. Here are some of Wednesday’s highlights.
Most Magnificent Guitar Riff
Benevolent earworms are rare. Most of the time you want them the hell out. But the riff of ‘Anxiety’s Door’ by Merchandise is an exception. It’s a coiled frond that tenses and releases, forming the spine of the Tampa band’s most accomplished track to date. Much is said of frontman Carson Cox: his magnetic stage presence, the velveteen voice, his screen icon looks but, tonight, David Vassalotti’s guitar skills took on more of a key role. He seemed more confident, steering his instrument into even more explosive territory.
Karen O’s banana-yellow trouser suit wins hands down. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs return with songs from new album ‘Mosquito’ and old favourites. ‘Zero’, ‘Heads Will Roll’ and ‘Maps’ are highlights as O launches herself around stage like a demented lizard, screeching under a peroxide bob. Total 100% badass.
If Nick Cave isn’t the greatest frontman alive right now, he’s certainly the finest story teller. Incantations old and new – from 1994’s ‘Red Right Hand’ to ‘2013’s ‘Push The Sky Away – filled an outdoor BBQ venue, displaying Cave And The Bad Seeds’ craft at telling tales, whether of Robert Johnson or Miley Cyrus (‘Higgs Bosun Blues’). The real goosebump moment? When the band accelerate the riff in ‘Jubilee Street’ until it reaches an almighty crescendo. The End.
Warren Ellis, Bad Seed, buying wasabi seaweed crackers and Perrier for breakfast.
It’s hard to pick one. Matt Helders watched Yeah Yeah Yeahs (with his girlfriend, who you might recognise from the ‘Suck It And See’ video). Fidlar loved Iggy Pop. Palma Violets were at Merchandise, obscuring this writer’s view. Peace and Haim had a bit of love-in on the first night. The best spot was Lulu at Alt-J. Until we got a better look.
The SXSW rumour mill is really cranking up. It’s been ‘confirmed’ that Prince will play a venue on Saturday evening to close the festival. Massive news. But that’s not all. Apparently The Rolling Stones will support him. Oh, and David Bowie’s bringing you breakfast in bed in the morning.
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Doug from Peace was so overwhelmed by the smell of some chemical toilets before a show that he chundered on his arm and had to play topless on stage (under a leather jacket). Still, if any British indie band can pull off Iggy Pop steez, it’s those Brummie lads.
Most Amazing Bass Face
Este from Haim’s face when she plays bass is a marvel. Watch this space for a Tumblr.
Eugene, the landlord in Flight Of The Conchords.
Most Delicious Free Snack
Chicken waffles with maple syrup and rice crispy squares with smarties.
Chilli Jesson of Palma Violets fame lost his passport just before getting on a plane to Austin. It was apparently touch and go, but he managed to sort it out and make it just in time. Phew.
You can read a massive round-up of NME at SXSW in the March 30 issue of the magazine. Check back on NME.com for news, daily blogs and galleries related to the festival