We are Serenades, SXSW 2012, SBTRKT, Letting Up Despite Great Faults, Fanfarlo, Blouse
SXSW Day 4 Recap: We are Serenades, Letting Up Despite Great Faults, Fanfarlo, Blouse, and SBTRKT,
Despite getting into a physical altercation with my alarm clock on the last day of SXSW (Final score, me: 0, alarm clock: 1), I still summoned the fortitude to see a few more bands. Thankfully, Saturday a historically light day when it comes to showcases, and in between sets we found time to engage in a few extra-curricular activities. Chiefly, that meant enjoying the perfect storm of SXSW attendees, college students on spring break, St. Patrick’s Day pub-crawlers, and locals out for a weekend, as they came together in an awkward cloud of music, booze, and terrible green clothing.
Our first stop was Cedar Street Courtyard, where Swedish duo We are Serenades was turning out some incredibly pleasing pop. As I have harbored a crush on Adam Olenius’ voice and songwriting in his main project Shout Out Louds for some time now, this wasn’t a hard sell. The project also features Markus Krunegård of Laakso, whose jangle-pop influence was also heartedly felt.
Over at Valhalla, Letting Up Despite Great Faults was kicking out the jams from recently released EP Paper Crush. The Austin-via-Los Angeles four-piece proved to a half-packed bar that they deserve a ticket to the major indies—their bittersweet electro pop sitting comfortably between The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and the majority of bands on Labrador Records’ roster. In perhaps one of the more blatant “rockstar” moments of the fest, bassist Kent Zambrana jumped off stage, opened the door of the bar, and serenaded people on the street. It was—in a word—totally charming.
The Hype Hotel (ran by The Hype Machine) lived up to its name bringing in Swedish/British band Fanfarlo. While perhaps not the most intensely hyped band on the bill (it seemed like the majority of the crowd was there to see Best Coast who was slated to perform next), the five-piece’s set of thoughtfully constructed orchestral pop was a truly engaging, even if they neglected to play many cuts from recently released album, Rooms Filled With Light. (Someone, please get them on a bill with fellow instrument swapping orchestral pop acts Of Monsters and Men and Arcade Fire.)
Before our final stop of the night, we took in a few songs over at Captured Tracks’ showcase. Blouse was on stage, performing the free form, dreamy songs of their self-titled debut. It was appropriate, given at that point exhaustion had set in and I was near convinced I was living in a waking dream. (Later I would total up my sleep for the week and find I had managed a whopping 16 hours.)
In need of a quick pick-me-up, we headed over to the Hey Cupcake trailer. Yes, I realize this is not standard fodder for a music review. But after two years, I can safely say that cupcakes at SXSW are imperative. (Try the red velvet.)
Invigorated, and falsely convinced that an oversized cupcake can make up for lost REM cycles, we headed over to our final stop of the night and festival, SBTRKT at Madison. A hot ticket—or so we thought—we left an hour and half to get into the venue, and weasel to the front.
The Madison is a very cool place. A tiny room, featuring a stage near the back, a balcony, and a series of flashing green lights. It was sinister in a David Lynchen sort of way—which was ample distraction from the overtly scenster crowd. Well, for the first few minutes anyway. Out of our element, (“We’re too twee for this,” muttered my editor Mark Redfern) we retreated to the bar area for what was perhaps the longest wait of our lives—enhanced by some of the most obnoxious hip-hop known to man.
Side note: mainstream hip-hop has shockingly few metaphors for sex and the female anatomy. Either that, or the club was catering to cat fanatics.
It was with great relief when we spotted an unmasked Aaron Jerome slinking though the lobby and into the main room. We followed, in anticipation of the sort of dance party even twee-leaning indie rock journalists could get behind.
…Only to find out when he took the stage that it was a DJ set.
Clearing our internal monologues of four letter words, we collectively agreed to call uncle, or, as some may recall, fled the club to escape a generic DJ set—the majority of which was played directly from Jerome’s iPod.
Outside, it was collectively decided to pull a Hail Mary, and attempt to catch at least one more set before the festival ended. Alas, it was an appointment we couldn’t make, as the majority of venues were in the process of wrapping it all up.
Yes, it was a disappointing way to end our trip to Texas, but it was no means a downer. Dancing (literally) through the streets of Austin in the early morning hours, flanked by festival debris, drunken college students, and exhausted co-workers, I couldn’t imagine anywhere else I’d want to be. For all its exhaustion-inducing ups and downs, SXSW is an incredible way to get out from behind the computer. Over the four days of the festival I had checked every person off my hug list. I saw longtime favorite Fiona Apple perform live, fell in love with Kindness and Purity Ring, was truly and wonderfully confused by Prince Rama. (Okay girls, you win—I’m still showing people the video I snagged of your stupid dance routine.) Perhaps most importantly, I was reminded (yet again) how lucky I am to not only have a passion, but to share it with some genuinely amazing people.
To my amazing bosses/friends Mark and Wendy Redfern, co-worker Mike Hilleary, partner-in-crime Helen Boast, and extended-Under the Radar family Raymond Flotat and Laura Ferreiro, thanks for making this another SXSW for the books. I’ll see you all in Austin next year.