If I made myself one SXSW promise this year, it was to not overdo it. For once I wanted to make it through the festival without feeling like it would take my body most of the next week to recover. For the most part that was achieved, as well as seeing some bands worth mentioning.
On Tuesday night at Empire Control Room the two dudes that comprise South Africa’s Goldfish cranked out an oddball brand of EDM-inspired music, with Dominic Peters on keyboard and electric bass, occasionally sampling bits of Rodriguez (from “Searching for Sugarman”), and David Poole playing a mini-saxophone and the flute. It was as surprising as it was danceable and the crowd was certainly dancing, as well as making cardboard cut-outs of goldfish swim through the audience.
Wednesday at Ironwood Hall the already-exploding Twin Shadow played from behind a translucent white gauze that wrapped the stage. Likely employed to showcase some dramatic lighting design elements, namely what looked like a four-poster bed frame equipped with incredibly bright neon lights, the gauze created a bit of a disconnected feeling between the audience and the stage. You can say this is no ordinary love George Lewis, in your sexiest Sade-referencing voice, but it still feels like there’s something coming between us. Specifically gauze.
At the Parish Thursday night London’s The Vaccines gave the crowd what they expected, banging versions of “Post Break-Up Sex,” “Wrecking Bar (Ra Ra Ra),” and “If You Wanna,” as well as a few tunes from their forthcoming album (due at the end of May).
Friday and Saturday saw some wetter weather in Austin, but that didn’t stop folks from trying to crowdsurf to Thee Oh Sees at the Mohawk. While John Dwyer held his guitar like a machine gun and the two drummers pounded away at their sets, slippery fans tried to climb atop the thin crowd, with little success.
A few hours later at Empire Control room Emmett Miller was much more successful, jumping on top of the crowd while continuing to play guitar toward the end of Diarrhea Planet’s set. Two years ago at South By everyone was talking about Diarrhea Planet, but admittedly I’d resisted seeing them because, well, that name.
The energy of the Nashville-based band is undeniable, with a sound driven hard by the four guitarists (the other two members play bass and drums), which under different acoustic circumstances (everything was turned up too high at Empire) can create a generous layered texture to their songs. The members took turns getting spotlight time, reaching as close as possible to the crowd.
Oh course no one stirred people up more than the UK’s Palma Violets – not strictly because of their music, per se, but more thanks to a dude in the crowd who insisted on bringing people into a dance circle near the front of the stage. It was unclear what his relationship to the band really was, but no one in the audience was safe from his potential pull. Danger in the club? You got it.