Sondre Lerche and crowd at Under the Radar SXSW Party

JanSport Presents the Under the Radar SXSW Party 2010 Recap

Vivian Girls, Sondre Lerche, The Veils, Plants and Animals, Avi Buffalo, Everything Everything, and The Invisible

Mar 25, 2010 Photography by Wendy Lynch Redfern
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Under the Radar's 2010 SXSW day party went down on Saturday, March 20, from 12 - 6 p.m., at Klub Krucial, and was sponsored by JanSport. It was the fifth year that Under the Radar has hosted a SXSW party and the magazine's sixth SXSW party over all (one year we hosted two). The cold and rainy weather didn't deter enthusiastic music fans and music industry professionals from venturing out on the last day of SXSW.

Things kicked off around noon with a set from London, England's The Invisible. The Mercury Prize-nominated trio was my SXSW highlight, both because of their set at our party and a great set I also saw the first night of SXSW. Every year at SXSW you're hoping to find at least one band that just blows you away and gives you chills. Last year it was Mumford & Sons, who coincidentally had the same opening slot at 2009's party. In 2008, The Dodos delivered the goods. In a live setting, The Invisible were able to open up their already great songs, expanding on them and finding a danceable Kraut-rock groove on such tracks as "London Girl" and "Jacob & the Angel." "This is our last show at SXSW, so we're kind of sad and happy at the same time," said singer/guitarist Dave Okumu. How The Invisible are still unsigned in America is a complete mystery to me, but hopefully some label folks saw one of the band's SXSW sets and were as impressed as the audience at Under the Radar's party was. With their big sound and confident playing (for a trio the band makes some incredibly complex music), I could easily see The Invisible playing much bigger venues and appearing on at least the second (if not the main) stage at summer festivals. They just need to get a few career breaks, because musically they are already there.

Manchester, England's Everything Everything were up next. The quartet and The Invisible are friends and mutual admirers (Everything Everything's manager told me that their favorite band was The Invisible). They opened with "Tin," a somewhat somber, but beautiful number that showcased the band's intricate harmonies. Everything Everything followed with their more upbeat, but no less original, singles "Suffragette Suffragette," "MY KZ YR BF," and "Photoshop Handsome." Even though reference points can be found for both The Invisible and Everything Everything, both artists are unique enough to defy easy classification, which is rare in this post-modern musical landscape. It was also Everything Everything's final SXSW show and the band stuck around until the end of the party, perhaps lured by a day of free drinks.

Long Beach, California's Avi Buffalo then took the stage. The quartet's average age hovers around 19-years-old and some of the members have only just graduated from high school. It must be overwhelming to be so young and already signed to such a legendary label as Sub Pop (signing before even embarking on their first ever full nationwide tour) and playing your first SXSW, but the band are impossibly nice and grateful for every opportunity given to them. When seeing Avi Buffalo live what is immediately apparent is that singer/guitarist Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg is a great technical guitarist, playing his instrument as if he was a Chicago bluesman three times his age. The band ended their set with their two best songs. With the charming "What's In It For?," perhaps Avi Buffalo's "New Slang" if those Shins comparisons stick, Zahner-Isenberg gave it his all, belting out the chorus with an endearing strain. The band also pulled off seven-minute epic "Remember Last Time," appropriately rocking out its climax and ending their set on a high.

"How's everyone feeling today, totally fresh and clean?" asked Plants and Animals' singer Warren Spicer as the Montréal-based band took the stage. The prog-enhanced indie rock trio mainly performed songs from their forthcoming sophomore album, La La Land, including "Tom Cruz" and "The Mama Papa." "This next song is a celebration of being a teenager," Spicer said before "Jeans Jeans Jeans." It would've been nice if Plants and Animals had played more songs from 2008's attention-grabbing debut album, Parc Avenue, but the band's set was cut a little short due to us being slightly behind schedule and the band needing to rush off to play another show right after ours. No matter, as Spicer gave a much-appreciated shout out to Under the Radar and all the support the magazine has given his band.

The Veils, who are based in England, knocked out many of their dramatic (some might say melodramatic, which is compliment) favorites during their set. The band's second and third albums (Nux Vomica and Sun Gangs) were both well-represented by such soaring numbers as "Not Yet," "Calliope!," "Advice For Young Mothers to Be," "Larkspur," and "Jesus For the Jugular." Singer/guitarist Finn Andrews was all passion and sang with a beautifully pained look on his face, as if he was perpetually about the cry. But the band was also incredibly nice after their set, leaving all that drama on the stage.

Under the Radar's Robert Gleim got up on stage after The Veils to give away a pair of tickets to Bonnaroo. Several audience members were brought up on stage to tell a joke and audience applause would determine who told the best joke, with that person winning the tickets. Unfortunately, all of the jokes were dire. The eventual winner was an elementary school teacher who told an inappropriate joke about pedophilia and apologized for it.

"I'm Sondre Lerche and this is what I do," said the Norwegian singer/songwriter as he took the stage. Lerche played solo on an electric guitar, with no backing band, and opened with "Good Luck," the first track from last year's Heartbeat Radio. He turned "Good Luck's" complex string arrangements into intricate guitar parts. As a technical guitarist he rivaled, and perhaps bested, Avi Buffalo's Zahner-Isenberg. As a performer he ruled the day with charisma to spare. A solo set seems destined to bore, but that's never the case with Lerche, and this was despite the fact that the Scandinavian was fighting a hangover ("I woke up and felt that my face was green," he said). After "Heartbeat Radio" Lerche said, "If you just walked in, I'm Sondre Lerche. It's a strange name, but someone's got to have it." At one point he took requests, with the audience consensus being "Two Way Monologue." The crowd began to spontaneously sing Lerche's backing vocals, to which he said, "It's been my lifelong dream to come to the wonderful Under the Radar party...and to get you guys to sing." Under the Radarfulfiller of dreams!

Gleim returned to the stage for our PRS Guitar giveaway, in which we were giving away an actual professional electric guitar, courtesy of PRS Guitars. This time three audience members who could play guitar were brought on stage to show us what they got. Whoever played it best, as voted by audience applause, won the guitar. Unlike the joke-tellers, all three guitarists were good. One guy played an Elliott Smith lick, but it was the lone female who wonshe could really shred and was super excited to win, jumping up and down enthusiastically.

Finally it was time for headliners Vivian Girls to take the stage. The lo-fi all-female Brooklyn trio raced through their short and spiky songs. At one point a drunk guy jumped up on stage and started dancing before he was kicked out of the venue by security. "I loved that guy, where'd he go?" joked bassist Katy Goodman (aka Kickball Katy), before dedicating the next song to him. Unbelievably, the drunk guy got back into the venue and up on the stage again. This time the band gave him a tambourine to play and, as the crowd at the front of the stage got rowdy, he stage-dived. "Where have you been all my life," Goodman joked sarcastically. "We have 13 minutes left. That means 13 more one-minute songs," joked singer/guitarist Cassie Ramone. Vivian Girls did cram a lot of songs into their 40-minute set.

And with that, six hours after it began, the party was sadly all over. Seven amazing artists and seven great sets. As well as giving away a PRS Guitar and Bonnaroo tickets, throughout the day attendees also picked up free Under the Radar magazines, complimentary Feeble Attempts graphic novels by Jeffrey Brown thanks to Top Shelf Comics, party posters as printed by Dorado Press, as well as giveaways from our main sponsor, JanSport. Many thanks to all the sponsors/partners (including 230 Publicity, who helped promote the event), all the musicians who played, and all the folks who work with the bands (managers, booking agents, publicists, etc.) who helped us book the artists. Because of all of them we had another successful SXSW party. If you find yourself in Austin for SXSW 2011 then be sure to stop by our party next year. If it's anything like this year's party, you'll have a blast.

Click here for a full gallery of photos from the party.

Artist Websites:

www.myspace.com/viviangirlsnyc
www.sondrelerche.com
www.theveils.com
www.plantsandanimals.ca
www.avibuffalomusic.com
www.myspace.com/everythingeverythinguk
www.myspace.com/theinvisiblethree



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