Saturday, March 17, 2012

SXSW 2012 Dispatches: Kimbra, Magnetic Fields, And When To Go Home

When the breeze passed through the outdoor covered stage at the W Hotel yesterday afternoon it felt pretty idyllic. Despite the fact that there hadn’t been any set times announced for Nylon Magazine’s party, it was rumored that Kimbra would be playing at 2:30. The New Zealand pixie, who guests on Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know,” quickly confirmed the rumor, taking the stage in a puffy pink and lace Disney princess-style dress. More than once during the set the dress threatened to fall off, as Kimbra shook her tambourine and danced enthusiastically. The drummer, with his awesome Kid ‘N Play-style flattop, pounded away and Kimbra smiled widely through “Cameo Lover” and “Two Way Street.” She was such an emotive and inventive singer, it was a shame it had to end.
Cameo Lover by Kimbra

Hours later, inside the W, at ACL Live, Philadelphia’s The War On Drugs unleashed their noisy guitars. While the vocals seemed muffled by choice, there’s something in the lead singer’s style that seems to want to echo Bob Dylan. Or perhaps it was the harmonica he pulled out during the closing number. Throughout the show I did not notice anyone using drugs, so I can only assume their message must be working.

It was far too comfortable in the padded seats at ACL Live to want to leave, and besides, who would want to miss The Magnetic Fields’ deadpan stage banter? With a piano, two guitars, a violin, and Stephin Merritt’s distinctive voice, the Magnetic Fields played a mix of old (“Come Back From San Francisco,” “The Book Of Love”) and brand new (“Your Girlfriend’s Face,” “Andrew In Drag”) songs, Merritt occasionally offering an insight like, “This is a song about a very famous hole in the ground,” before playing “Grand Canyon.” Like the Decembrists and Broken Social Scene, The Magnetic Fields have the great ability to tell whimsical stories through their songs, and having just released their 10th album, their stories are in no short supply.
The Magnetic Fields - Andrew in Drag by MergeRecords

Torn between setting up a permanent residence at ACL Live or venturing out, I chose to head to Easy Tiger. Here’s where I made a mistake – when I got to Easy Tiger, they were largely selling tickets for entry. The patio beneath their glorious bake shop was packed with folks who’d paid to get in, meaning they wouldn’t likely be leaving and weren’t here because they were fans of a particular band. The patio was packed with middle-aged women and flamboyant men bent on dancing now that they’d been filled with drinks and baked goods.

While Mexico’s Ximena Sarinana cranked out some great jazzy pop occasionally backed by computerized sounds, multiple women’s oversized purses locked me in place. When I finally got free, I made a break for it; the want to see Alabama Shakes eclipsed by the want to breathe freely. On the way out I passed the throng of badge-holders waiting to get in, including the comedians the Sklar brothers. Yep, I gave up my spot at a hot ticket show – you’re welcome Sklar brothers.

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