Due to our being deep in the trenches to technological disorder, this much past due SXSW roundup comes, by modern standards, years past it’s prime. But we here at All Our Noise still believe it is well worth your time to check out delectable tidbits from a handful of great performers. This is by no means a full overview of every important thing we saw, touched, and tasted in Austin, but rather a quick crosscut through the spectrum of sound. The complex spices of SXSW, make for the perfect sweet and savory experience, but here are a few sprinkles of note:
There most certainly was metal to be had at SXSW this year, on all levels.
Beyond the amazing Landmine Marathon set, already mentioned on this site (during which the singer leapt into the crowd, and I found myself never happier to be horse kicked in the stomach), quite literally, heavy hitters were everywhere.
Florida’s super doom merchants, Dark Castle have been a rising black star as of late, due to their super-sludgy brand of atmospheric doom that slithers in and out of drone and black metal as well. Like a mortar and pestle, they slowly ground all the essence out of the crowd:
Fortunately, we here in the DC area don’t have to march all the way down to the mosquito-ridden swamps to feel a doom-like fury. Virginia’s own Salome take the very same baton, and run it through an explosive fury. Finally outside of the DMV, and surrounded by their own people, Salome loosed a hellstorm of vengeance at the Brooklyn Vegan Free Day Party:
Traditional metal was not the only entity to take a beating from at SXSW. What started out as a solo-project from Insect Warfare member Alex Hughes, Hatred Surge grew into a touring project with Iron Lung, and has finally come into it’s own as brutal powerhouse of a band. The current lineup is chaotic powerviolence, unchallenged. Hatred Surge easily made the list of “must see” bands at SXSW, and continued to up the ante at the 20 Buck Spin/Profound Lore showcase:
Stranger still, to the average bystander, would be longstanding noise/metal veterans, White Mice. Typically a trio, the group has been joined, off and on over the years, by entire plague of conspirators. Adorned in bizarre and demented mouse costumes, White Mice create the backing track to your nightmares. Bitterly caustic on record, the band fully comes into their own when released on a crowd. At that same 20 Buck Spin/Profound Lore showcase, White Mice did their best to do their worst:
Of course, SXSW is also known for bringing legends to the people. Such was the case with the free show I walked randomly into, featuring the far-more-than-epic, Louisiana black/death anti-heroes, Goatwhore. This longstanding horde for Lucifer has been converting the saved for years, and this set was certainly of religious proportions. The mass chanted, fist pumped, threw horns, and generally went feral. I kept the camera rolling until it was no longer safe to do so:
It goes without saying that at SXSW, you can once again have faith in the edict that rock’n’roll will never die. Crunched chords and scuffed Chucks abound in Austin from every direction. And while running hither and thither, you just might stumble across a completely new band that will leave a lasting impression. Such was the case with UK garage groovers Lovvers. I was shifting between spaces at another Brooklyn Vegan event, at Spiderhouse Café, when suddenly I heard what sounded like a rawhide-coated lovechild between The Buzzcocks and The Real Kids. I will admit that I don’t much about Lovvers, only that they got this jaded music critic to sit up and pay attention:
Of course, rooting for the home team is also a very worthwhile pastime, especially when it’s for ex-Cramps, ex-Gun Club, sometime Nick Cave collaborator, and DC transplant, Kid Congo Powers. He’s been making a lot of noise, in more ways than one, with his newest group, The Pink Monkey Birds. Building on the foundation that Kid comes from, they’re a dirty rockin’ band, (with fabulous outfits), who know how to put on a good show. The Pink Monkey Birds are releasing their next album as a series of 7” ‘s on In the Red Records, and that should give you a solid idea of where they’re coming from.
Gently letting go of the established idea of what rock music should sound like, you can easily float away into the sounds of deep space. Not Not Fun Records specializes in just such explorations of the astral plane. Amongst their ambient psych ilk is one of the better contemporary musicians in general, Cameron Stallones and the solitary music project that is Sun Araw. Churning out thick and abstract albums of pure bliss, Stallones proved at SXSW that he is able to impress just as well when out and amongst the people.
I don’t feel that anyone needs to mention the fact that DJ culture has become just as important as live bands, in the last few years. Each SXSW their presence grows larger and larger, and this year, one could easily split the time spent between bands and DJ’s evenly.
Not lost in the crowd, DC has a long history in turntablists, and is still running strong with the pack. Amongst the more notable DC DJ’s (read, “Internationally recognized”), is the out of control duo of Dave Nada and Matt Nordstrom, better known as Nadastrom. In a relatively short amount of time they have become a juggernaut powerhouse, constantly putting out new material as well as mastering the decks in ever-impressive ways. This year they played a countless number of sets, including a both memorable and infamous after-party at the Mad Decent/iheartcomix Carniville.
Not the only heavweight contenders of the DC fam, another duo, who specialize in delving far down into the limitless waters of deep house, have lately gained quite a lot of attention. Starks and Nacey have been long standing Dj’s in the DMV (part of the Nouveau Riche gang for starters), but with the recent release of their second EP, “Time Run Out,” on T&A Records, they show a slight of hand trick, revealing that they’ve had the brass ring all along. They got the crowd going in Austin at A Bmore Love Thing, showing off some of their new tracks, and their old skills.
One of the more memorable DJ events from this year was the 45 Live series where longtime DJ’s were challenged to leave their Serato boxes behind and spin oldschool sets using only 45’s. Among the elite of the group was none other than the godfather himself, Peanut Butter Wolf. Wolf easily flowed through the space with an intricate set of hip-hop, funk, soul and more, in ways you would never guess were analogue.
Of course, hip-hop and DJ’s go hand in hand, and at in the very same space that 45 Live was taking place, urban music website, The Couch Sessions were hosting their own showcase. We’ve already mentioned the fist pumping set from Sweden’s superstar, Adam Tensta. But DC was also represented in the equation. Jet setting up and comer, Tabi Bonney, threw out yet another flawless set to hometown friends, and new found fans alike.
Turning up the heat (except for a very cold Saturday), iheartcomix and Mad Decent teamed up again this year to host an enormous event called Carniville. Powerhouse after powerhouse took to the stage at the real life carnival they created. Every artist was capable of throwing the crowd into action but there were a few standouts (besides the overly obvious and amazing Major Lazer).
Most recently flowing through the success of his mixtape, Thunder Zone Volume One, Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Juiceboxxx continues to rule everything around him with his own unique brand of hip-hop. Probably the only person at SXSW who could get away with being accompanied by an ipod, Juiceboxxx ran the crowd like an expert, swirling everyone into a frenzy with a set that included climbing onto a security guard’s shoulders and standing on a chair in the middle of the audience like a beat-based Christ.
Taking things up to the next level, purveyors of what could easily be called “ADHDance music,” the duo of Ninjasonik are capable of creating chaos like no other hip-hop/dance group can. Never ones to disappoint, Ninjasonik rallied the crowd at Carniville into a full-blown pit for the majority of their set. Flying back and forth across the stage, spitting out lines about drugs, art-school girls, not giving a fuck, and, of course, being sonic fucking ninjas, Reverend McFly and Telli “Bathroomsexxx” Gramz, (backed as always by DJ Teenwolf), threw down the gauntlet for one of the most memorable sets at Carniville, and I’ve got a scar on my right hand to prove it.
Saving the best for last, there was one stand out performance that captivated an audience like no other at this year’s SXSW. Country music has always been difficult for the alternative community to craft in a sincere and effective way, yet one individual has been doing it with unparalleled, grim honesty for years. Slim Cessna and his Auto Club have been singing fatal hymns in the underground since 1993.
The group is fairly well summed up by their Last.fm bio: “The Auto Club is sometimes labeled ‘country gothic’ due to the juxtaposition of apocalyptic religious imagery with stories of alcohol, violence, and relationships gone awry,” and their set at this year’s SXSW certainly reached twisted religious proportions. Joined by another member of the “gothic country” community, Jay Munly, Slim Cessna and his auto club brought the audience to their knees in a backwards revival with their penetratingly visceral stage presence. Finishing off with a deeply religious track infused by a hypnotically homoerotic presentation, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club burned their set permanently into time and space.
Another exhaustive year of music flung in all directions at once, SXSW 2010 was the best yet, and I’m sure it will only be usurped by SXSW 2011.