SXSW 2013, Heyerdahl, Autre Ne Veut, Willy Moon, Majical Cloudz, HAIM, Vampire Weekend, Austra
SXSW Day Five: Heyerdahl, Autre Ne Veut, Willy Moon, Majical Cloudz, HAIM, Vampire Weekend, Austra, March 16th, 2013
Ahh, Saturday at SXSW. Time to relax, catch up with old friends, sit in the sun, and ignore th—wait. You mean that showcase is giving away free food? Okay, so maybe averaging four hours of sleep a night doesn’t make for the best decisions. I discovered around two in the afternoon that only food I had eaten so far was sponsor-approved chips, burritos, and vodka. (Most of which I had thrown away after realizing getting it for free doesn’t make it taste any better.) Although the last day of SXSW usually has a sparse schedule, I managed to catch some heavy hitters, including Heyerdahl, Autre Ne Veut, Willy Moon, Majical Cloudz, HAIM, Vampire Weekend, and Austra.
At an hour a bit to early for life to exist (Reality check: it was shortly before noon) Heyerdahl took the stage at Cedar Street Courtyard. The Olso-based four-piece confidently crashed through a set of twisted electro pop that fails to fall into any easily recognizable category. Then again, any band with a video like this clearly has more on its mind than satisfying listener expectations.
At Brooklyn’s day party, Autre Ne Veut (a.k.a. Arthur Ashin) performed cuts from his sensual sophomore full-length, Anxiety. Normally I balk at bands doing glorified karaoke (the only other live element to his setup was backing singer, Cristi Jo Zambri), but Ashin is an animated performer. He spent the majority of the set hunched over, eyes closed, falsetto dialed up to emote. Was it a bit over the top? Yes. Was it a put-on? Maybe. Do I care? Hell no! It was a set worth getting sunburn for.
Later that night at The Belmont (after some good ol’ fashion hang time with friends), Willy Moon sang cuts from his debut EP My Girl like a man possessed. Somewhere between a drunk Harry Connick Jr. and a shined up Patrick Wolf, he danced across every inch of the stage, sporting a GQ worthy suit. His all-girl backing band was tight, and Moon is fearless performer, giving it his all despite it being his tenth showcase of the week. However, when the theatrics are stripped back, his music fails to match the excitement of his live show.
Majical Cloudz has been getting a fair deal of press for his drugged up, ambient pop soundcapes. But in the final hours of SXSW, his set at The Mohawk was about the last thing I needed. (Even though I probably would have been into his tunes had I been listening to them at home.) “Hello, SXSW killed us,” said frontman and only member Devon Welsh. “We are ghosts.” Me too, Devon. Me too.
In the late evening hours, HAIM proved they rock. The sister trio (and unrelated drummer) performed to one of the biggest crowds of their career at Stubbs—and managed to win it over almost instantly. Even Charli XCX was spotted dancing along to the Los Angeles band’s R&B-via-Fleetwood Mac anthems. Ending on a high note, the band completed their set with a four-person drum-off, causing the girl behind me to scream, “They are the most badass bitches here!” Indeed.
Vampire Weekend closed out the night at Stubbs. Perhaps the most known commodity of the evening, the oxford comma eschewing quartet played exactly the set we were hoping for: upbeat, and easy to dance along with. In addition to well-tested material from their previous two albums (consider me on my death bed if I ever turn my nose up at “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”) they also played two new cuts, with the verbal preamble, “Be kind.” Their new song “Diane Young” hinted that the band may be moving in a less afro-pop, more Springsteen direction on their forthcoming album, Modern Vampires of the City.
And because it was the final night of SXSW, why not go to one more set when you’re pushed the breaking point? (No really, what did I have to lose? I had traded my sanity several hours earlier for my third slice of Death Metal Pizza.) Which is why I meekly followed the cool kids into industrial/goth club Elysium to catch a set from Austra. I’ve never been a huge fan of the band (recorded, frontwoman Katie Stelmanis’ voice goes straight from quirky to grating). But live her unique vocals don’t seem so recklessly audacious. Despite starting nearly 45 minutes late (half a drum kit was missing), the band squeezed in several cuts, including several new songs from forthcoming album Olympia. The venue agreed to let them go a bit past last call—but by that point we were toast, and all agreed to call it a night. Well…right after we grabbed some after-hours cupcakes. (What is SXSW without a few regrets?)
If there’s one thing my time in Austin has been known to cause, it’s reckless fits of nostalgia. Looking back at an incredibly busy week (most which seems like a surreal blur at this point), the best parts were all the people I met along the way. To favorite bands old and new (Including—but not limited to—IO Echo, Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley, Telekinesis, Youth Lagoon, Ex Cops, and HAIM), thank you for inspiring the madness. To all my friends from across America and Europe that I was able to snatch quick second with, it was a pleasure. To my bosses/friends Mark and Wendy Redfern (and their daughter Rose), thanks for all the encouragement, marching orders, and cuddles. (Note: cuddles were issued by only one of the Redferns.)
See you all at SXSW 2014?