Twin Shadow and Chris Bear of Grizzly Bear
SXSW 2011, Cults, Glasser, tUnE-yArDs, Twin Shadow, James Blake
SXSW Recap Day 2: Cults, Glasser, Tune-Yards, Twin Shadow, and James Blake, March 17th, 2011
Mar 18, 2011
Photography by Wendy Lynch Redfern Web Exclusive
After a long—and incredibly enjoyable—day at our first of two Under the Radar SXSW parties, the magazine trouped en mass over to Central Presbyterian Church to check out Pitchfork’s impressively stacked lineup.
While certainly winning the award for charming (and for most brunettes on stage), Cults’ light-as-a-feather xylophone-driven tunes were simply just that—lightweight. In the end, aside from the fact the audience seemed to enjoy dancing along to “Go Outside” it was difficult to remember much about the set.
Glasser did not suffer from any issues with gravitas. A powerful singer with a Kate Bush edge, Glasser (nee Cameron Mesirow) commanded the stage from moment one, choosing to open with a gutsy a cappella song. While opting to perform with a two member band and a series of backing tracks did the singer no favors, her commanding stage presence assured she was never lacking for attention, oversized flower skirt swirling to a series of jarring (and occasionally very silly) dance moves.
The show marked my first official exposure to tUnE-yArDs. Clearly a love-it-or-hate-it artist, I found myself in the hate camp. It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate her wiliness to step out on an artistic ledge. (I did.) It’s not that I dismissed her humor (especially after Glasser, who clearly takes herself very, very seriously). It’s not even that I found myself questioning why the audience unfailingly followed her every command to sit or stand. (I did question it, but that’s certainly not a deal-breaker.) It’s just that my tolerance for yodeling over extensively built layers is, apparently, non-existent. There’s cute, and then there’s Tune-Yards, who takes cultural appropriation to a near Care Bears level of kitsch.
The unequivocal highlight of the evening’s performances was Twin Shadow. Leadman/sole member George Lewis Jr. took the stage clad in a Bolshevik-style hat and wry smile. “You’re polite,” he told the ultra-respectful audience. “Don’t be so polite. Make some noise!” Despite a supposed ban on dancing in the church (which someone clearly forget to tell Cults) audience and performer alike opted to get their collective grooves on.
When not performing slick retro-electro tunes—all which translated beautifully to the live setting, Lewis managed to slip in a few stories from his own life. “I stole a big bag of money from the church,” said Lewis of his Presbyterian upbringing, recounting how his mother caught him and made him apologize to the congregation. “This place reminds me of that time.”
To close the set, Lewis invited Terrible Records owner—and Grizzly Bear member Chris Bear to the stage to perform debut-album title track. “Forget.” Despite Lewis’ fear the move was cheesy, the joint effort was incredibly well received.
Also well received was one-man hype machine, James Blake. Perfect for the late hour (he took the stage at 1am—where in the real world most concerts would have long since been over), his soulful tunes resonated in the church, sounding even better than the record due to a lack of vocoder. (Why Blake spends 85% of his time hiding his trained voice behind audio-trickery is anyone’s guess). However, late hours are unrelenting and the Under the Radar crew opted to pack it in for the night in hopes of getting a few hours sleep before another busy day. Oh the SXSW grind!
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