Monday, March 23, 2009

SXSW 2009 - Saturday: Making waves and lifting chairs

During SXSW Austin becomes a hipster mecca, or at the very least a faux hipster mecca – a place where it’s okay to wear short-shorts and cowboy boots or leopard print lycra leggings and denim skirts.  As I stood outside Emo’s, two chicks in vintage dresses and oversized sunglasses chatted about how funny that hipster Olympics video was – and I wondered if they only liked it ironically.  While the music is always at the forefront of the festival, the fashion is certainly worth noting – and with that, the honor of “most ironic t-shirt” must go to the girl wearing a blue tee stating “F*** The Metric System.”  Really?  That’s what you’re worked up about?  All this time I’ve been wondering what hipsters were so ticked off about, now I know.

Trying to get an earlier start on the day, I swung by Cedar Street at 1:30 to see Chairlift at the Filter party.  While the band had obviously created quite a buzz at CMJ, and scored big with “Bruises” thanks to a ubiquitous iPod commercial, their super-short set felt a little lacking. Seeing as most bands are indoor creatures of the night and it was very early and very out-of-doors, I’m willing to cut them a little slack.  Clad in a blue silk nightshirt and spiderweb tights, the Sofia Coppola-looking Caroline Polchek rolled out genuinely beautiful vocals while massaging her keyboard on “Planet Health.”  Playing “Bruises” and one other track, the Brooklyn band left the crowd feeling all too mellow.

In need of a good jolt, I dashed off to the Canvas thinking I was going to see Oakland act Wallpaper.  My schedule had gotten a little confused, and I walked in on Big Stereo DJs throwing down beats to a ragged crowd of about 20.  The place was nearly empty – but that just meant there was more space to dance.  A row of photographers, clearly thinking they would be shooting in a large crowd, decided to take the opportunity to rock out.  With two songs left in the set, the photographers jumped on stage, dancing around, equipment and all.  Eventually, the rhythm is going to get you.

By 2:15 I was at the Fader Fort getting ready for San Diego dude Wavves (Nathan Williams).  Wearing retro Ray-Bans (that he would eventually knock off with his crazy rotary head-spinning), Williams looked the part of a surfer Buddy Holly gone electric.  While the fest was abuzz with news of Rachael Ray and Kanye West, I slid into the Red Eyed Fly to watch LA act Princeton pound out snap-happy tunes like “Calypso Gold.”  Looking like they could be Tokyo Police Club’s younger brothers, the boys played delightful rock with Vampire Weekend-style appeal. 

At 3:30 there was already a line outside Latitude 30 for the British Music party.  Wave Machines warmed things up with their falsetto-tinged upbeat rock, the band members hiding their faces behind odd masks of human faces.  Waiting for the Whip, a seven foot tall dude from Manchester asked if I liked to dance.  I didn’t ask if that was a rhetorical question (mainly because I couldn’t understand his quick and thick English accent), but I was more than happy to move to the Whip’s awesome electro rock.

SXSW 2009 Saturday - Pt. 1

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