SXSW used to be way more about stumbling from shack to shack, soaking up what was on. But with the menacing mechanics of hype that thrusts approximately 342 new Myspace URLs on our laps each day it’s way harder these days to make totally fresh ‘discoveries’ at SXSW. So the standard sight these days is a slightly frantic-looking attendee clutching a crumpled A4 print-out of times and stages, hurrying to catch the opening set from their most drooled-over web find. Here’s me doing exactly that:
Radar’s all about Diamond Rings right now. He’s a 24-year-old chap from Toronto. He’s friends with Radar veteran Katie Stelmanis which kind of puts his concoction of sugary anti-pop, garbage-pail glamour and Proper Indie diagnostics into some context. But it still doesn’t nail quite why he’s so utterly compelling. It seems a kind of cop-out to cite ‘presence’ without further qualification, but there’s something about standing before this guy that won’t let you take your eyes off him. Maybe it’s the lycra.
As a defining summation: airbrushed unicorn flag + lonesome pawn-shop keys + Sebadoh cover = the cornerstones of Diamond Rings.
I hustled him afterwards, whilst seemingly forgetting most of the English language. Look, it was an 11am show.
You know how when he just mentioned how he and his manager were traipsing round Austin from gig to gig by foot, you wished you could see him trudging down a dusty sidewalk into the distance in that full ‘get-up’, with his keyboard slung under his arm. Well, here you go… I only wish I had the portable equipment to overdub some kind of generic ‘exit theme’ music over the top.
Sleigh Bells are an act that seem to be making that all-important step up from budding pre-hype to burgeoning buzz-blossom on these shores. I caught them for one of their first run of live shows last November at CMJ (NYC’s answer to SXSW) and their fuzzed-out sonicboom frolics was fun and fierce. When I checked back in, not only have they seemed to amassed a rather large room full of friends, but they’d ‘beefed-up’ no-end. Before the fact that Derek used to play guitar in metalcore legends Poison The Well seemed a pretty novelty bit of trivia, now it made total sense. If the use of ‘beefy’ as an adjective makes you go ‘phwoar’ and clench your fist then you’re in luck, if it makes you think of a sweaty Pepperami that’s been left in a lunchbox for too long, then, well, perhaps less so…
I really was in two minds about the set. At points I felt myself wanting to join the horsed voiced jocks in lifting hand-horns aloft, only to be immediately reminded of the last time I’d been in such atmospheric circumstance, at Ozzfest in 2001, a place I hadn’t prepared myself for revisiting just yet.
Whereas many breaking up’n’comers made career-making slots, Gang Gang Dance’s billing had really taken a dive since last year. Boom-tsk. Sorry.
One of the interesting elements to SXSW is the fact that you witness acts very much ‘testing the water’ with their live shows. Salem, a band we’re obsessed with on record were their making their first few live performances. It was always going to be a tall-order replicating that ominous malevolence from the off. This set at the Young Turks party had moments of real promise.
The start wasn’t really one of them though
Jack’s sorry-eyed, beleaguered MC’ing on the other hand though was pretty ace.
Last year I’d spent a multiple afternoon’s at this great ranch-style shack’n’lawn called Ms Bea’s, where labels like Captured Tracks were hosting all-dayers with free barbeque and beer. This year Radar pals True Panther Sounds carried on the torch, with a bumper bill comprising most of their roster.
Magic Kids were every bit as gleeful as their name would suggest. We’ve been perving over them for a while now, expect this leering to reach glorious fruition in an upcoming edition of the magazine
I finally got to see Tanlines live too, which was lovely. Generally trendy new music not from Africa that crow-bars the ‘afro’ preface anywhere into its genre remit is enough cause for caution. But caution is in no-way the recomended mindset for approaching these spods’ lektro-carnival:
Look upon these scenes and experience anything less than an unflinching urge to shimmy round a carton of Rubicon and you’re simply a bad person