Sunday, March 18, 2012

SXSW 2012 Dispatches: Sleigh Bells And Sunburns

Before noon on the streets surrounding West Sixth, eager St. Patrick’s Day partiers, in green and white knee socks, leprechaun hats, and green tutus paraded in and out of bars, fresh faced and full of the sort of enthusiasm for drinking that can never lead to anything bad, right? The crowd in the parking lot outside Waterloo was wearing about 50% less green and 100% less gold coin necklaces. We were waiting for Nada Surf, who, joined on guitar by Doug Gillard, played punchy new songs from their latest album, The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy. They played “Jules and Jim” and “Waiting For Something,” and the drummer was clearly having a great time, making faces and ultimately launching his drumsticks into the crowd.
A few blocks from Waterloo, in another parking lot, free margaritas were being handed out and hula hoops were passed around. And who can say no to a parking lot hula hoop party with a soundtrack provided by a band playing electronica covers of The Smiths? (Rhetorical device usage.)

Two miles away, on the other side of I-35, J. Roddy Walston was demolishing a piano, leaving the crowd worked up for Lucero. The combination of Ben Nichols’s beautifully gravelly voice, along with trumpet and piano made songs like “On My Way Downtown” and the melodic “Darken My Door” especially pop – even if Nichols claimed to have just woken up. For the record, it’s quite possible to get caught up watching a band and neglect to realize when one is getting terribly sunburned.

Lucero - On My Way Downtown by MMMusic

When the last night of South By happens to coincide with St. Patrick’s Day, it only makes sense to try to go to a place removed from the heart of Sixth Street where you have the best chance of sitting down. At ACL Live Brooklyn’s Sleigh Bells was backed by a wall of amps, sending the sound of their blaring guitars into the upper balconies and issuing pounding electronic pulses. It seemed that singer Alexis Krauss, clad in shorts, tennis shoes, and a ripped t-shirt, wanted nothing more than to get both in the crowd’s face and in the crowd. She prowled around the stage, issuing screams, reaching out for audience members, standing on the guardrails, and ultimately crowd-surfing atop the first couple of rows.

While her sojourns didn’t stop her from singing, including “Riot Rhythm,” “Infinity Guitars,” “Born To Lose,” and “Tell ‘Em,” the microphone cord constantly threatened to get hung up on something and nearly caught guitarist Derek Miller. The combination of intense lights, violent guitar, and aggressive vocals made the Sleigh Bells show feel like a full sensory assault – it seemed a bit like South By itself – engulfing and exhausting.

Now to treat this sunburn.

Born To Lose by Sleigh Bells

No comments: