SXSW 2009 Day 1 | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, April 20th, 2021  

St. Vincent at church (photo by Wendy Lynch Redfern)

St. Vincent, The Week That Was, Camera Obscura, Department of Eagles

SXSW 2009 Day 1, March 18th, 2009

Mar 28, 2009 The Week That Was Photography by Wendy Lynch Redfern Bookmark and Share

Jarvis Cocker

SXSW is a guessing game. There are many hundreds of bands playing at so many different venues, that you can have a fantastic or a lousy time depending on who you see and how well you second guess how long it will take to get into each venue. The goal is to spend most of your time seeing as many great bands as possible, and as little time possible waiting in line or sitting through sets from bands you don’t want to see just to make sure you’re in the venue in time to see the bands you do want to see. Your enemies are late set times and the varying degrees of sound quality at Austin’s many venues.

This was my fifth trip to SXSW, and each year I get more and more used to the slog and less and less wide-eyed about how many wonderful bands there are to be seen over the course of five days. The seasoned SXSW attendee can easily grow jaded, but there’s no denying the joys of being blown away by a new band after seeing them for the very first time in some dark and dingy Austin venue at one in the morning. Alas, 2009 contained less such moments for me than previous years did. For starters, the lineup didn’t feel quite as spectacular this year; there were lots of new bands I was curious to see, a few established bands I was excited to see, but the festival was short on artists I was truly passionate about. The world economic crisis is partly to blame for this, as a lot of artists from overseas skipped SXSW this year for financial reasons. SXSW has a solid reputation for being the American launching pad for new European bands, and while there was certainly no shortage of foreign accents behind the mics, a lot of the new European artists who I would’ve been excited to see this year talked about coming to Austin, but then opted out. But this is not to say that there wasn’t plenty on offer each night and there were still several Sophie’s Choice-type moments of deciding between which favorite artists playing at the same time we would see. As with every SXSW, I’ve left Austin with a list of bands that I wish I’d had a chance to see, and pangs of regret that maybe I didn’t make the best choices about who to see and when.

Our SXSW began on Wednesday afternoon, with a fantastic lecture from Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker about the importance of lyrics in pop music. It was the only time I’ve actually taken the time to watch a lecture or panel at SXSW and I doubt any will top Cocker’s, especially considering that he played a version of Pulp’s “Babies” on acoustic guitar to the rapt audience in the small conference hall. You can read all about the lecture on our website here.

The Week That Was

One British band who did make the trip over was The Week That Was, although I’m not sure if they should’ve bothered. The band, which is the project of Field Music’s Peter Brewis, only seemed to play one set at SXSW and it was at 8 P.M. on the first night of the festival. They played to a small crowd in Friends Bar, and actually seemed eager to end their set early, mainly because the band’s regular keyboard was either broken or MIA, so they had to borrow one off of Post War Years, who were playing later at the same the venue. “It’s a bit weird, but it’s better than nothing,” remarked Brewis of playing someone else’s keyboard. The Week That Was didn’t seem to have enough songs to fill their playing time; someone from the band joked that they could extend their guitar solos. Brewis eventually decided that he’d gotten comfortable enough with the keyboard that they could play one extra song. The group was able to somewhat faithfully recreate the sounds of their excellent self-titled debut live, although in a live setting it became clearer that many of the band’s songs sound similar and easily blend into one another. Still, both The Week That Was and School of Language (the project from Brewis’ brother/fellow Field Music member David Brewis) encouraged me to investigate the back catalogue of Field Music, a band I wasn’t previously impressed by. As The Week That Was was performing, I saw a man walk by outside wearing a T-shirt that read, “I love music, but the music industry sucks.”

Department of Eagles

Our next stop was the 4AD showcase at the Central Presbyterian Church, a beautiful, traditional-looking place of worship that for the last few years has also doubled as a SXSW venue. Unfortunately, by deciding to see The Week That Was at 8 P.M., instead of going directly to the Central Presbyterian Church, we ruined our chances of catching M. Ward at 9 P.M., as the church was at capacity by the time we showed up at around 8:45. We spent the next hour waiting in the badge line and feeling sorry for those in the wristband line who probably weren’t getting into the venue anytime soon (badges get in before wristbands and the poor people with neither, who were hoping to buy tickets on the night, were shit out of luck). We were admitted into the venue in time to catch Department of Eagles’ 10 P.M. set. I wasn’t as impressed by 2008’s In Ear Park as many other critics were. To me, it sounded too close to Daniel Rossen’s other band, Grizzly Bear, kind of like Grizzly Bear’s less interesting cousin. In Ear Park was certainly a pleasant record, but I would’ve preferred it if Rossen had branched off into areas less Grizzly Bear-esque. However, live, in a church with wonderful acoustics, Department of Eagles were captivating. The audience sat in pews. The Bibles may have been removed, but no one stood and there was no dancing in the aisle. Their set began and ended with Rossen playing solo, his haunting vocals echoing around the chamber as his Grizzly Bear bandmate Ed Droste watched on from the audience. During one song, Rossen sampled and looped himself, so that there was a choir of Rossens. In between the solo songs, the full Department band played, filling up the church with their graceful swells.

St. Vincent

Next up, the appropriately named St. Vincent performed the appropriately named “Jesus Saves, I Spend.” Singer Annie Clark had a 4-piece backing band, including a flautist and a violinist. They opened with “The Strangers,” the opening track to her slightly disappointing forthcoming sophomore album, Actor (which doesn’t reach the same sonic heights of her 2007 debut, Marry Me). “Tonight we’re kicking out all the new jams,” said Clark. The most unexpected thing about seeing St. Vincent for the first time, as I discovered a couple of years ago, is that Clark really shreds her electric guitar. St. Vincent’s albums are so controlled and produced, but live she really lets loose.

“It’s a pleasure to be back in Texas. I know most of you aren’t from here,” said Clark, who used to play in Texas collective The Polyphonic Spree. “I was excited coming down here. What’s up Whataburger? I haven’t seen you in awhile. What’s up old friend?” Clark joked about the Texas-based fast food chain.

Later Clark gave a familial shout-out. “I come from quite a big family, and I want to say hi to my 10-year-old brother and my 8-year-old brother, I mean sister, Rosie. Sorry, I promise you I’ll pay for the therapy,” she said to her sister, followed by audience laughter.

“Marry Me” featured more fitting biblical references, such as “Let’s do what Mary and Joseph did/Without the kid.” And after Clark killed another guitar solo, I was left wondering why Actor doesn’t rock more and whether that’ll be corrected with St. Vincent’s third album.

Camera Obscura

“Thanks for staying up well after midnight, maybe it feels like the Christmas service,” said Tracyanne Campbell, lead vocalist for Scottish indie-popsters Camera Obscura, as the headliners took the stage. The band, who recently left Merge for 4AD (and who said that this was their first time playing an official 4AD event), opened up with a selection of songs from their new record, My Maudlin Career, including “The Sweetest Thing.” Some of My Maudlin Career’s slower tracks took flight live. Having already heard My Maudlin Career, I was happy to hear the new songs, but many in the audience likely hadn’t heard the album yet, as it was a full month before its release date, and so they started to tire of the new songs and leave, much to the alarm of Campbell. “If anybody wants to run up here, don’t run out the door like some of you folks are doing, but run up here with a cough drop. Don’t run away, come back!” pleaded Campbell, who also seemed to be fighting a cold. At which point, the person sitting next to me got up and left. The band then pulled out fan favorite “Let’s Get Out of This Country.”

After someone brought Campbell a cough drop, she said, “I’ll take it after the next song. This one is called ‘French Navy,’ it’s the first single off the new record, so it’s probably the best song on there. We’ll see.” Campbell was right, “French Navy” probably IS My Maudlin Career’s highlight.

Campbell was very talkative between songs. “This is our first show in the States for quite a while; glad to see so many people.…This is our first gig in a church, in one that is working. Is that the right word?” she pondered. “Does this church work? I hope it does for some people.”

Campbell introduced Maudlin track “Forests and Sands” as such: “This was written touring the States…on Valentine’s night, I believe.”

But throughout her band’s after-midnight set, Campbell seemed most perturbed by the audience members leaving the church, at one point apologizing before playing the new song “James”: “We’re going to play another new song. I hope that’s all right. We need to try them out on somebody, might as well be you.” After performing Maudlin’s closer, and one of its highlights, “Honey in the Sun,” which features a fabulous trumpet crescendo, Campbell asked, “Is everybody holding up all right, considering it’s very late? Are you sure? Because I think some of the flock might have flown.” She later added, “So many people leaving and making us feel sad. I can’t even swear, because I’m in a church.” But Campbell needn’t have worried, there were still plenty in the audience and those who stuck around were treated to the first of several triumphant SXSW sets from Camera Obscura, including a rendition late in the set of “Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken,” with its organ intro sounding transcendent in the church setting.

And so concluded day one of SXSW. Other bands we could’ve seen that night instead included: The Decemberists, School of Seven Bells, Port O’Brien, Echo and the Bunnymen, Mumford and Sons, Laura Marling, Late of the Pier, Viva Voce, Peter Bjorn and John, Glasvegas, and Project Jenny, Project Jan. Did we make the right choices?

Check out a full gallery of SXSW 2009 day 1 photos here.


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April 23rd 2009

this album is amazing!

April 26th 2009

What a weird combo. ‘The Last Picture Show’ is a great film.

Frank L.
April 27th 2009

This movie so rocks.  I loved it.

April 27th 2009

It’s weird, “That Beep” sounds so much like Annie. AIH have definitely changed up their style.

April 29th 2009

A lackluster DVD so mediocre that it’s been reviewed twice on this website!

concerned fan
April 29th 2009

Can I get a comment on the music of Conor Oberst and not his comments or who he dedicated songs to.  Please.  It’s not too much to ask from a music website is it.

May 2nd 2009

I still haven’t seen this movie. I’ve really admired Aronofsky’s previous films though.

May 2nd 2009

What a terrible DVD cover. WOW. Terrifying.

May 20th 2009

I’ve never been a big fan of Silversun…meh.

May 22nd 2009

“The material isn’t always up to par the way earlier between-the-records EPs were, but it still beats the hell out of Plans.”
THANK YOU. and agreed.
May 26th 2009

great review! both shows rocked!

Nina Kurtz
May 26th 2009

This reviewer really transported me to the show! Great writer for a great performer.

Diamond Jewellery India
May 27th 2009

Hello Kyle lemmon, Really very nice information on Buraka Som Sistema. Really very nice and fantastic info on black diamond. Thanks for your nice info.

Bar stools
May 28th 2009

I just wanted to say I really liked your review of House of Mystery. It was good to know how it has developed over the years. Keep up the good work.

May 30th 2009

This is an ok ep.  I have to say that none of their recent material is even close to their earlier albums.

June 5th 2009

FYI just watched this show, sucks! Wished it didn’t but it does. Haha all wealthy people are dumb, evil, and think they can buy anthing… jeeze lets just stereo type everyone. Wealthy people just don’t deserve to live I guess according to all these shows that exploit wealth as evil.

Gonzales - linkin park songs
June 7th 2009

Rockband for real. It’s realy kicks ass) I hope the part two kicks ass as twice)))

Josh Tillman
June 11th 2009

The lyric in “James Blues” is:
“James incurred the wrath of jealous woman
And not long after that
Was spending all his weekends
Trying to relearn
How a young man yearns after a nurse”

It’s about castration.  I have little more of a sense of humor than your interpretation suggests.

June 11th 2009

“have a little more of”.  oops.

Gary Knight
June 18th 2009

Great review, Frank.

June 22nd 2009

This picture represents a huge leap forward for its director..a very nice post Chris.

June 22nd 2009

Wonders never cease, Coachella’s when this both fabulous performers start the event with a great start it is great to watch..

maria jones
June 22nd 2009

The rock band which we can say alternative is My Bloody Valentine..This is a very nice post

June 22nd 2009

She’s so hot/cute/adorable….....She is so cute…

June 22nd 2009

Wow! Marcus, This is a very nice post…Depeche Mode are fabulous..

June 22nd 2009

Some styles are more casual while others are meant for going out on ...poofing up skirts is very good

June 22nd 2009

When Bruce Springsteen finally broke through to national recognition in the fall of 1975 after a decade of trying, critics hailed him as the savior of rock

June 22nd 2009

The bonus features with Doubt on Blu-ray start off with From Stage to Screen, a series of interviews with the cast and crew about…

June 24th 2009

I’m one of the fans of The Killers. They’re cool.

June 26th 2009

I saw them play in Austin a few weeks ago. The new stuff is awesome, and they played beautifully.  My favorite track is “Slow Fade,” a single tear streamed down my face when they played it. So good.

July 3rd 2009

Thanks for such a detailed review. You’ve very keen observation for the details that should be there, indeed.

July 3rd 2009

Hi Chris, you are so right about the borders - the top one is incredible. Great thinking!!!

July 3rd 2009

Bonnaroo has always placed an emphasis on local and sustainable ways of making music. ..Nice Blog.

July 3rd 2009

I was actually hoping for a really good Doubt as a Blu-Ray comp….and it is able to prove itself….

Leslie Andrew Ridings
July 5th 2009

I totally get what you mean when you say “the sound of best friends making music together.” I think their sound is really warm and strangely intimate. I don’t know. It feels like music at a house party and the band is having beers and talking between songs—I like it; but the production is really thin, as you said.

Thanks for the review, Laura.

July 9th 2009

You have to be kidding me Lily.  This show does suck and bad.  Totally unrealistic specifically in how these characters behave.  Stupid crap.

July 10th 2009

Saw Bruce in Philly April 28th and April 29th. ALWAYS a great show! I went with a friend who had never seen him and she said it was more than a concert, it was an event—how right she was.

google cell phone
July 13th 2009

It is really a nice post, its always great reading such posts, this post is good in regards of both knowledge as well as information. i like stuff like ghostland observatory, the hush sound, the kills, indie music, black moth super rainbow, radiohead. anything that sounds weird and funky and has good sound to it. i do not like the teen boy singing the song. generations i like are indie, visual, experimental, psychedelic. along those lines. thank you in advance for the helping me on my music quest.Thanks for the post.

July 14th 2009

Nice Cracker reference!

Wound First Aid
July 16th 2009

A full album is set for release in September 2009. The confidence, wide range of obvious natural talent and exceptional promise of these songs is undeniable. The future for First Aid Kit feels star bright.

film izle
July 17th 2009

thanks for info.

Lisa Hur
July 19th 2009

The “barely” is everything in Wendy and Lucy. The sparse dialogue and lack of plot was the film’s message. Its panoramic moments said so much without saying anything at all. Wendy appears sedated much of the film but in a single moment, a bathroom meltdown, her story unravels. A story no one is sure of. In most every shot of the film we follow Wendy but learn little. We leave her without closure, but feel satisfaction without the closure nonetheless, amazed that such simple experience could be so captivating for two hours. I only wish I knew what her bandage was for and why her sister rejected her. Why else was she hurting and why was it so important for us not to know?

müzik dinle
July 19th 2009

thank you
very much
oo fantastic film

Wendy Redfern
July 20th 2009

This was SO good!!!!

July 21st 2009

Why are you so LATE on the tallest man UTR?  I’m disappointed and mad at you for it.  I hope you do a feature on him when his next album is release!

Laura Studarus
July 24th 2009

Counting down…freaking out. Come on Friday!

July 25th 2009

thanks for article.

Mike Trevor
July 31st 2009

I downloaded a few songs from this collection, I like it.
I really love it, play it on my laptop regularly.

Nina Sutherland
July 31st 2009

I love “Tracy’s Waters”  , it’s a wonderful mix of Psych folk and Dream pop

San Diego Weddings
August 5th 2009

I loved Grizzly Bear!  It was so calm and intimate in that space

August 7th 2009

So, if I understood this correctly, they are Australians making Brit pop? I’ve seen a lot of this lately. Looks like UK nostalgia never died out.

August 8th 2009

I think I’ll get this from the library if they have it… I know nothing about this band.

August 11th 2009

Wow…you totally missed the boat on the Jane’s review…Claiming you were there to see the one song that was a commercial smash led me to discount your review immediately, but I read on to see if you redeemed yourself.  Nope.  Fans of the band would absolutely disagree with your take, as the band’s true genius was displayed over and over during the set, Perry’s prancing aside.  He’s a consummate front-man, great voice, showmanship, and control of the spotlight. 
And, yes, ugly girls DO have to be sluttier than the good-looking ones.  Stick to reviewing bands you have a clue about.

August 12th 2009

You are, of course, referring to Alexander Mccall Smith’s series. There are so many witty observations in these books regarding male-female differences and the impact that these have on relationships.
Mma Ramotswe believes that women are best suited for detective work because women notice details, are observant, listen, and have more insight into human psychology than men.

share your discoveries
August 14th 2009

Gives Thanks, Very fascinating read, you should be dramatic of your web logs. I’ve been genuinely delighting developing up your situations from meter to time. Looking forward to understand your future positions
Many wonderful selective information, thanks for partaking.  Testament definitely be back more often….

August 16th 2009

i thought it was a good movie

August 18th 2009

This game looks just as terrible as the movie!

Kyle Lemmon
August 21st 2009

At first I thought Hester and Parks were just biting ‘Ghost Rider,” but I’ll have to check it out sometime.

August 21st 2009

They are COOL

August 24th 2009

wow!  that was a lame review.  I think they are great.  Apparently thousands of others do too.  They love them in Europe as well.  U.S. is always the last to recognize real talent.

August 25th 2009

The looks very pretty :)

Thank you for the post and photo.

August 27th 2009

Agreed. This was a dope show. One of the better I’ve been to in ‘09. Check out their performance of “Jump In the Pool” from the show.

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Justin Voigtschild
August 28th 2009

This high of a review score makes me question how you call yourself a journalist. I read the initial issue and it was utter trash with no redeeming value whatsoever. This title could have done for Greek mythology what Fables did for children’s stories and fictional characters. Instead the writer decided to go for the disgusting, unimaginative stories. I agree that Peter Milligan can be hit and miss in what he writes but this 1st issue made me want to throw up and regret spending $1.00 to give it a try. I have read Vertigo comics for about 10 years and this comic is truly the worst executed idea with no redeeming value I have ever had the misfortune to read.

August 31st 2009

I would’ve loved to see Henry Rollins.  He cracks me up!

September 2nd 2009

Thank you for your review. If this show was a decade earlier, I would’ve been there! Also, I empathize on your anger, when people leave before the show is “over” [the encore]. A band like MEW deserves an encore!
“Comforting Sounds” is awesome to hear live. My husband and I were privileged to see/hear them in D.C. a few years ago.

September 2nd 2009

I love this show!  Can’t wait untill next summer to pick up the New Shows.

Funny Quotes About Life
September 5th 2009

Whats Fray for the uninitiated? A buffy spin off comic from a few years back, which I understand never got its story finished. So Joss has decedied to combine it with a buffy story to finish it.
So we have a back history a number of fans may be unaware of and time travel etc thrown in? sounds like an awful idea but it works excellently.
The art is by Korl Moline who i believe did the original Fray comic, he is fairly similar in style to Georges Jeanty who usually does the book so its all pretty familiar.
The story is complicated and takes a little while to see where it is going but the end result and character writing are excellent. Not a good starting point for new readers but a great read none the less.

September 5th 2009

I became interested in this topic and tried to find additional information. Much of it I downloaded from

September 6th 2009

As I visited the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair it was interesting for me to read The Road to Woodstock ( and to compare its contents with what I saw. Great!

address public records
September 7th 2009

The overarching plot, revolving around the secrets buried underneath a clandestine basement, fares much better. Head writer, Matthew Sturges, is learning at a fast pace as the series[..]

Vadim Uvazhny
September 8th 2009

Did anybody watch this film? Share your impressions, please.

Heathrow Airport Parking
September 8th 2009

Have you ever considered adding more videos to your blog posts to keep the readers more entertained? I mean I just read through the entire article of yours and it was quite good but since I’m more of a visual learner,I found that to be more helpful well let me know how it turns out! I love what you guys are always up too. Such clever work and reporting! Keep up the great works guys I’ve added you guys to my blogroll. This is a great article thanks for sharing this informative information.. I will visit your blog regularly for some latest post.

Bradley Albert Burkley
September 9th 2009

I’m in the middle of reading this book and was stoked to see it reviewed in one of my favorite mags. The review is pretty strait up, as is the book. Interesting for those who know about Steve Kilbey or not. For those who have been in or are in music groups, with it’s drama and challlenges, No Certainty Attached of particular interest.

September 10th 2009

“smashing success” = 6/10?

John Everhart
September 11th 2009

It’s a fine record, but not quite worthy of a 7 or 8, which are reserved for top twenty of the year candidates, which this honestly isn’t for me. But if you’re a fan of Polvo, you’ll like it, and even if you aren’t, it’s an excellent invitation to explore their great back catalog. And “smashing success” is removed from its context of “As far as unheralded reunions go,” as many are downright insipid, and this one is anything but that.

Fire science
September 14th 2009

Who designed Stephanie’s Jacket in science of sleep and where can I get a similar coat?
Science of Sleep is a movie and her military jacket is cute

September 18th 2009

I concur my friend.

September 20th 2009

The hype machine sold Sweet Tooth #1. It was pretty good, but I’m hoping we’ll see a little more happening in issue #2.

Then again, I ought have a little more faith in Lemire, he’s pretty damned good.

September 21st 2009

Will there be a second season of the No 1 Ladies Detective agency?
find public record

September 26th 2009

Can’t wait until this year’s concert. Fantastic stuff. Sooo hot though. Bringing plenty of water this year

DVD Rentals by email
September 29th 2009

Ok this is by far the best series ive seen so far its got great story line, Animation, and good art work…. But one problem is the disc has trouble reading on a Xbox. I putted in the disc once and it worked 2nd time it got defective. Great series to watch a must see

Mark Redfern
October 3rd 2009

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie. It’s got a great soundtrack too: Jens Lekman, Tilly & the Wall, The Go! Team, Radiohead, and others.

sobakawa pillow
October 4th 2009

wow, San Francisco’s Girls must have been very bad. It has been a while since I have read such a damning review of any band

sobakawa pillow
October 4th 2009

Jenny Lewis is a babe. I also like the killers. I think they are class

October 6th 2009

The track wasn’t used and in fact went unheard for two-plus decades, but Gordon and Mingus occasionally unpacked it live. In any case, one can only hope that when Mingus finally flipped the calendar past the greatest year in jazz, dude hit the mattress for a well-deserved nap.

October 10th 2009

Great reviews. Loney Dear has been my favorite band because their music touched my soul and makes me feel good. Live they are incredible. I saw them in Fortaleza, Brazil, and I’ll remember that day for a long time.

October 13th 2009

I like bands what make good musics. And banana splitses.

October 14th 2009

Did UTR ever do a review of the Rhino San Francisco nuggets box set?

October 21st 2009

As a fan of the series who buys it month-to-month, I guess I’m biased in that I enjoyed it. I would be interested to see if non-Fables readers enjoyed it.

It’s great to see my favourite magazine cover my favourite comic. I check for a mention of it in every printed-issue of Under The Radar, and so far have only seen it in there this month!

October 21st 2009

Wow! Sounds like a fun show. Now if only we could get him to come out west…

October 22nd 2009

mellow but good/interesting mellow, not boring mellow.  also check out whitest boy alive (same singer)

tuxedo trousers
October 23rd 2009

Where can I buy waterproof trousers not over trousers?
tuxedo trousers

October 23rd 2009

who the hell says “blogosphere” anymore?

October 25th 2009

its a Grower not a Show - er!

October 26th 2009

I wish this had been posted earlier. They had a show where I live tonight, and I could have gone ... oh well.

October 26th 2009

This is a fantastic review.  I’m one of those people that consumes all things Pearl Jam (50+ live shows).  You nailed Backspacer perfectly.  I want to tell you how great it is but it isn’t - it is a step in the right direction though.  Nice job.

indoor wall fountains
October 27th 2009

The overarching plot, revolving around the secrets buried underneath a clandestine basement, fares much better. Head writer,

camping tourist
October 27th 2009

What is the best tourist attraction in the Philippines?
camping tourist