Sunday, April 13, 2008

"Rock and Roll Spring Break, or My First Time at SXSW (Day 3)


Day 3 had a lot going on, and after Day 2 mess ups, I was determined to get it right.

My trainer took my measurements upon my return and found I'd lost 4.5" off my thighs, which didn't surprise me given the 76756879 miles I probably walked Day 3 alone…

1. Delorentos
After missing them on Day 1, I finally got to catch Delorentos out of Dublin. Gotta love cute Irish boys. I only stayed for a few songs, but they sounded great, a hard powerful guitar-driven noise in the key of Brit Pop. If I had to equate them to someone, I'd say The Cribs meets Franz Ferdinand.

Stop -Delorenos (MP3)

In the "Guess Who I Saw" department, Clem Burke, the drummer for Blondie was digging the band too, directly in front of me. Made sense as I recalled his side band was playing at some point. As well, we discovered J. Mascis in the hotel lobby with us the previous morning. Frankly, I would have walked right past him if John hadn't pointed him out as the way he was dressed, he looked homeless.

2. Chatham County Line
Delorentos was playing at the Convention Center and thankfully, there was a coffee shop in between there and the next venue with Raleigh-natives, Chatham County Line. I never got to see them there—I think they started just before I moved away—but I always like to support bands from that area regardless. It was a beautiful day outside and the banjo-centric, North Carolina-Appalachian bluegrass inside was the perfect thing for an early Friday-though-it-felt-like-Sunday afternoon. Mother Maybelle Carter would have definitely approved.

Chip of a Star -Chatham County Line (MP3)

Around this time, Sean texted with his success in getting a pass from the SPIN booth for the SPIN party that day from their Convention Center booth and I should give it a shot. The party this year looked really promising with two bands I wanted to catch, The Whigs and those new indie darlings, Vampire Weekend playing back to back. I darted over as it was on the way to The Weakerthans set, but seems many others had the same idea. Poor kid manning the booth looked like a deer in headlights.

3. The Weakerthans
The Weakerthans out of Canada, were one band I was really looking forward to seeing at the Paste/ Stereogum day party at this club called Volume. (Volume had literally opened the Wednesday of SX I was told....which explained that yummy fresh paint smell. They obviously tested their air conditioning system in someplace like Canada in December too because the place was incredibly hot and steamy....like make you pass out hot.) These guys have Death Cab for Cutie all over them, between the lead singer's phrasing, the artful lyrics about heartbreak and dissolving love, and their sound...Which of course means I love them. The songs ranged from ballads to fast rockers so there's a little there for everyone. The place was mobbed and folks were singing along, so I guess I've been under a rock in terms of Weakerthans-mania.

The show was being simulcast on NPR's "World Cafe," which you can check out here.

Sun in an Empty Room -The Weakerthans (MP3)

I was told I should check back at the SPIN booth for passes again so I headed back and joined in the line of hopefuls, including another friend from our group, Dave. The guy manning the booth had apparently received an ok to go ahead and start distributing a few passes, so we were a lucky couple of kids.

While waiting in the line of uncertainty, the booth next to SPIN, a guitar manufacturer, had a few folks starting to play/sing a beautiful guitar/vocal version of the old Cowsills' song, "Happy." I remembered reading that Susan Cowsill was playing SX this year. It seems this was indeed her singing with her other Cowsill brethren, and I believe this was the first time in ages they'd done so. Beautiful harmonies for sure.

No one was certain of the start times of the Whigs or Vampire Weekend, but given the time, we knew we were cutting it close. Being the closest to Stubbs, the SPIN party location, I practically ran the four blocks to find out I'd done the right thing, The Whigs were just about the take the stage. I think the text message that went out was "Move yer asses!" :)

4. The Whigs
These guys blew me away, I don't know how else to say it. Out of Athens, GA, I'd heard of them but not *heard* them...in a word, "Wowza." It's music that beats your ass and makes you stand up and want more, seriously. If I had to classify their sound, I'd say maybe Led Zepplin meets...something really poppy and catchy (maybe these guys or, and you're gonna think I'm nuts, but I swear I hear Michael Hutchence-era INXS even). The Whigs' sound is hard but really friggin catchy. In fact, I picked up the cd "Mission Control" and drove around with it one nice afternoon doing errands...I found myself inadvertently drumming and humming the melody when I was out of the car getting my hair done, picking up my dry cleaning...really infectious songs. Drummer Julian Dorio was given Esquire magazine's 2007 Esky Award for Best Drummer), and it makes sense they utilize a serious asset and make their stuff really drum driven. Plus, watching Dorio play is entertaining because, in the words of my friend Dave, "it's a lot like watching Animal of the Muppets" really frantic, with this mass of hair that just goes everywhere. In fact, I was so impressed that after the SPIN party, they were playing that hellaciously hot Paste/Stereogum venue and I actually went back in there. Course, I didn't last long but still, that's gotta say something about The Whigs if I even attempted.

Their show from the Paste/Stereogum party was also being simulcast on NPR's "World Cafe," which you can also check out here. (Unfortunately some dumbass is chatting through some of it sorry). I didn't find this show as good as their SPIN party one so you'll just have to check them out live and see for yourself.

Production City -The Whigs (MP3)
Right Hand on My Heart -The Whigs (MP3)

5. Vampire Weekend
Vampire Weekend closed the SPIN party this year. I'd seen them on Saturday Night Live awhile back and frankly, wasn't overly impressed. They do have an odd but original sound though-sort of a ska/African pop sound and regular jangly-rock mixture that is catchy and different. There is something interesting and different there for sure. But is it worth all the friggin hype about them? That I'm not so sure. Someone should definitely tell them to work on their stage presence, in the words of the guy standing next to me, "Do you think they realize there are people out here actually listening to them?"

Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa -Vampire Weekend (MP3)

6. Von Bondies
I'd gone to see The Whigs a second time after the end of the SPIN day party but only stayed a few songs because Volume was such a sauna that no amount of Lone Star beer was gonna quench for me. So I set out for the Von Bondies show up the street at Emos. Now if you know anything about Emo's, there's like three divisions of this joint: the Annex, the main area, and some other smaller venue on the corner. Trying to find which one was hosting the VonBondies took a friggin lifetime.

Emos, I found out later, is not the best mix for acoustics. While the Von Bondies play really loud, the vocals still weren't anywhere near loud enough. As such, things came across really muddy, an eek from a big wall of sound. I was introduced to the Von Bondies via Denis Leary and his show "Rescue Me," as the VB's song "Cmon Cmon" is the show's theme song. I even have it on my mix for the gym. But seeing them in this environment was rough. The new stuff sounded promising but it was tough to tell...This show, all it sounded like was a lot of yelling. I do hope to check the new record out, as well as another Bondies' live show hopefully, at a later date.

Cmon Cmon-The Von Bondies (MP3)

Coming up...Day 3 night shows...

Day 1/Part 1
Day 1/Part 2
Day 2/Part 1
Day 2/Part 2

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