So it’s my second full day here at SXSW. I have been a negligent band member, failing to take any photos of our actual band endeavors. Sadly, all six of us have generally neglected to document in any form or fashion our first musical foray into Austin, Texas.
Summary: Last night, we played our Fanatic showcase at The Wave on Sixth Street. The stage proved a lot smaller than we were accustomed. Our set up reminded me of being on a public school bus, actually, with Tim and Greg in the front, me and Ryan downstage and Matt and Jeremy upstage. The location was great, right on Sixth Street with all of the foot traffic. Austin reminds me of New Orleans: Sixth Street is to Austin what Canal Street is to New Orleans, in my opinion.
We played a great show, although our quieter, intimate acoustic moments were a bit overwhelmed by the concert going on upstairs on the Wave Rooftop. Our Fanatic guys were there, cheering us on, so that was nice. I stayed afterward to watch Die! Die! Die!, a crazy, intense time with the lead singer jumping up on top of speakers and crashing into the audience. Entertaining for sure. My ears were ringing for a good 30 minutes after their set ended.
Today, we ate breakfast at the Cinnamon Bakery… I have discovered I really enjoy Seattle’s Best. It’s a welcome change from Starbucks, as much as I love my Starbucks blend.
We played a show at Sonny’s Vintage, a vintage clothing store on the north side of town. There were only about 4 people that turned out, sadly, but it’s always good to play, no matter what, I guess. I also splurged and bought a hat (one of my materialistic weaknesses) and some new sunglasses.
After the show and stop over at Pangaea’s to see Mumsey, I headed downtown with Greg and Matt to check out some shows. I finally got to eat some Tex Mex-ish food at Taco Shack, so I was a happy girl. Then I parted ways with my fellow OaKs to what I termed to be my “girly music,” a.k.a. Hotel Café, a primarily L.A. singer/songwriter show at The Parish. My main goal was to see Joshua Radin and Sara Bareilles, and also check out Rocco DeLuca and the Burden. I was kind of band-ed out by now and just wanted to hear some simple, songwriting and vocal artistry.
The Parish was by far the best venue I’ve been to yet in Austin. Spacious, but small enough to remain intimate, with an amazing sound system and good ambience. I weaseled my way to the front and saw the tail end of Greg Laswell. I can’t really say much about him, since I only saw half of a song, but I liked what I heard enough to want to try and track down some of his stuff later.
The next artist was Kate Havnevik, a European pop artist from Norway. I really wasn’t sure at first if I liked her… I am not really into the whole Euro-pop thing, and the first song seemed almost a bit Enya-ish. But her set had a lot of variety, she even pulled out a melodica at one point. I think this SXSW festival made me realize that I tend to be really critical of female singer/songwriters if they don’t exhibit this mix of classiness and down-to-earthness. I know that might be completely off since I should be judging them strictly by their music, but to me that’s part of what makes an artist an artist: you can’t bury your head in your art and expect everyone to get it. You have to engage your audience. Kate, as it turned out, was way more versatile than I originally thought. Whatever my dislike for her genre may be, she totally owned the stage. She also did some really cool Imogen Heap-ish things with her voice, and by the end of the set I decided that I liked her.
Next up was Jessie Baylin. I also had mixed feelings about her. She executed everything well and had a good soulful voice, but I don’t think she spoke to the audience once. That was my only beef with her. Overall, though she sang well and was entertaining.
Priscilla Ahn was the first artist of the evening that swept me off my feet. There were some technical problems getting her mike set up for some reason, but once she plucked that guitar and sang, I was sold. Greg made a comment that I totally agree with: she really uses her voice as an instrument…and not just a static conveyer of words and melody. She also played a harmonica/mouth organ thing, a ukulele and a kazoo…not many people can make a kazoo work. Her casual in-between-songs-banter was endearing too.
Next up was Joshua Radin, one of the reasons I came to the show in the first place. He played a few songs. I hoped he was going to play Winter or Star Mile, but the only older song he played was Closer. His new stuff sounded great, so I’m going to have to check that out too…
Blurry Joshua Radin.
Rocco DeLuca and the Burden up next. I have to admit, the first time I heard about this band was actually because of Kiefer Sutherland. I had heard that Kiefer started a label and Rocco DeLuca was his primary artist. I heard a few songs on myspace but hadn’t really gotten around to immersion yet. Tonight, it was simply Rocco on the dobro with another guy on percussion, and Rocco absolutely wailed on that thing. He has a really interesting voice… reminds me of Queen a bit, and the way he marries his voice with the dobro was freakishly good. I am now officially a Rocco DeLuca fan.
Next was an atrocity. I won’t even go there. I felt like I needed a haz mat wash down after he sang. The only song of his was decent was the last song, although I’m not sure if it was because his last song, or if because it was actually decent. It definitely was catchy, I’ll give him that. Plus he brought out all his backstage friends to sing along, which is always a good time.
After the atrocity came Meiko, this tiny girl with introspection and talent aplenty. She was pretty funny, too, asking randomly for a shot of whiskey near the end of her set. My roommate Kyara actually told me to listen to her a few years ago, but being the Sagittarius that I am, I never really got around to it, and what I did hear was a half-hearted 30 second listen on myspace before I moved on. Meiko was right up there with Priscilla and Rocco in my book. Totally engaged the audience, memorable hooks, casual on-stage presence, beautiful melodies, amazing vocal control and range.
At this point, it’s getting close to midnight and I’m still waiting for Sara Bareilles to come on stage, so we’re all getting antsy. I had inched my way to the stage, so I was less than a foot away at this point. I’d also made some friends around me, since we’d all been standing together for well nigh on 5 hours. So when Cary Brothers came onstage, I was a little annoyed. Then he won me over, especially when Cary hopped on over to the piano and cranked out a song, Coldplay style. And then they did their closing song Blue Eyes, which I realized I had really dug from the Garden State Soundtrack, and I felt bad for being so hard on him in my mind. Many of the other Hotel Café artists came back onstage and sang together on that one, too.
Cary Brothers and his band:)
Ingrid Michaelson came on stage to do a few songs. Her first number was on a ukelele. Those seem really difficult to mike. It kept feedbacking at first. Well, anyway, she was amazing as well and my impatience for the headliner was once again put to shame.
By far one of the highlights of the evening was when Ingrid invited her friends, including Kate Havnevik and Jessie Baylin to come onstage and sing a round (ya know… like Row, Row, Row Your Boat) that she had written. It was absolutely gorgeous and I wish I had a recording of it. She also definitely seemed the most vocally trained out of any other singers that night.
Allie Moss, Kate Havnevik and Jessie Baylin singing around the piano with the bass player.
FINALLY… around 12:45 a.m. Sara came out on stage. She opened up with Bottle It Up, transitioning into the Vegas song. She also did Love Song (of course), some other song that I didn’t know the name of, Many the Miles and ended with Gravity, which is the main song I was hoping she’d do. Her band was great, but it was absolutely fabulous just to hear her sing Gravity on her own. I wish she had done more songs with just her on the piano.
So, yeah… I was basically in singer/songwriter heaven tonight.
Anyway, so it’s 3:30 a.m. and I should be going to sleep now. Just wanted to pass on this SXSW experience thus far with you lovely folk.
Tomorrow is a day party with a bunch of Orlando bands at Pangaea’s. Should be fun.
I’m out, my peeps.
Ciao and cheers,