SXSW 2013: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Spain, Ivan & Alyosha and More: Review and Photos
|Mac DeMarco at SXSW|
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds offered the main attraction of many (and that counts Alt-J, the Specials and Iggy and the Stooges) of Wednesday's showcases, but before we get to the doomsayer's triumph over all things bullshit, we need to turn to some of that, in the form of buzz band Foxygen at the Paste day party on Sixth Street. Oh hipster, my hipster, your fearful trip really should be done. The best argument for stealing music would be bands like the one led by Jonathan Rado and Sam France. Nobody should pay for this, and I'm glad I didn't, as dudes croaked and guffawed and pseudo-howled over clumsy, wasted pseudo-noise. Not even Marnie Stern, who played a few hours later, could so defile the very concept of rock music. Further competition for most-hyped misunderstanding of the week came in the form of Mac DeMarco and his unbathed shlock rock and lame methamphetamine allusions. To their credit, he and Foxygen raise some key questions: Do these buzz bands even listen to themselves? Do they actually like what they hear? Could it all really just be a joke? Perhaps they're just doing what they can to point out a deeper human truth.
The one that says you can sell a hipster anything if they don't have to pay for it.
|Easter Island at SXSW.|
But back to actual music, because no matter what the doomsayers say, that is what SXSW is about: Easter Island drew me in at that Paste party, even with its deck-shoe-gazing obsessions. Would the band, a la James Brown, fine the bass player for not cuffing his jeans? Would anyone be able to tell them apart from the umpteen other guitar-drone and psych-pop bands of the week? Probably not, but Easter Island played a lovely set all the same.
As did Dawes at the same party, even as I've come to expect much from Taylor Goldsmith's songwriting and insouciant charisma. His music, before a rapt and full Stages on Sixth, sounded elegant and tough-minded, especially given a new song with the simple romanticisms of "hoping we've got something in common." It's the small things with Dawes, the way Goldsmith makes eye contact with everyone he can, the way the band so effortlessly tracks the winding, discursive songs, the way those songs live up to their own lines of "keeping the frame wide as it can be."
Still at Paste, the Allah-Las offered a master class on the Nuggets sound, with echoes of a young Roky Erickson and the band nailing that tone, that sweet garage tone and pacing. Who cares if every song sounds virtually the same? It's exactly the sound one wants, with plenty of deceptively original hooks. A fine set, which was followed by Mojo magazine favorite Matthew E. White, a young, heavily haired dude who is doing his best with the limited bro-soul jam sound, catching my attention with the gutsy call of starting off with a round, a song form that works better when you have actual singers in the band, which Mr. White, alas, does not.
I took a break from the Paste scene for half of a predictably ferocious set from the Thermals at the Consequence of Sound shindig just up the street. Should the band ever return to St. Louis, it should in no way be missed. The punk trio couldn't hold anything back if you put it in a sweat-drenched straightjacket. It closed out loud as fuck and with high-fives to everyone in arms' reach. Killer, absolutely killer, live band.
My last two day-party sets took the form of the Shout Out Louds from Sweden (at Paste) and Ghost Wave from New Zealand (at the annual New Zealand party, of course). The former was plagued by a stupid sub-woofer mix; I could feel every follicle on my body being blown back -- and not in a good way. Still the band sounded as groovy and cool as I'd hoped. The latter, however, made no impression, though that may have been the free Zinfandel in actual wine glasses talking, or maybe it was just the fatigue of encountering yet another group that misunderstands the example of My Bloody Valentine. You're not obligated to forgive the condescension, but I'm not obligated to be bored at SXSW.
To use the word as precisely as possible: "Epic" were the lines for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, but judging from crowd at Stubbs, everyone eventually got in -- and then pushed in close to the stage, as the intro music, "New York Is Killing Me" by the late Gil Scott-Heron, faded down and Mr. Cave walked out behind the six-strong Bad Seeds. "I'm going to start with a long song," he announced. "I hope by the end it will be daaaarrrk."