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Grandaddy, Jason Lytle, Loney dear, Mumford & Sons, Viva Voce, Camera Obscura, Chairlift, Frances

Under the Radar’s SXSW Party 2009, March 20th, 2009

Mar 23, 2009 Grandaddy
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Under the Radar’s 2009 SXSW day party on March 20th at the Flamingo Cantina, which was presented by JanSport and had a to-capacity crowd with a line down the block for most of the event, started in fine fashion with a rousing set from Mumford and Sons. The British quartet was late to SXSW when keyboardist Ben Lovett wasn’t allowed to get on his connecting flight because the airline couldn’t guarantee that his peanut allergy wouldn’t be compromised by peanut fumes circulating the cabin, but all four members were in Austin in time for our party. “Thank-you for coming out, it feels early doesn’t it?” remarked frontman Marcus Mumford, as the band’s set kicked off the party at noon. All four members stood in a line at the front of the stage, with Mumford both singing and playing a kick drum. The band’s spirited set included songs from their recent EPs and forthcoming debut album, including “White Blank Page,” and their chill inducing four-part harmonies were reminiscent of Fleet Foxes, who were one of the highlights of last year’s SXSW. In fact, after his band’s set Mumford told Under the Radar that it was at our 2008 SXSW party where he first saw Fleet Foxes play. The acclaimed Seattle group blew Mumford away then and in part inspired his own band’s music. Mumford and Sons concluded their set with the barnstormer “Dust Bowl Dance,” for which Mumford got behind a full drum kit for the first time, leading the song to its epic crescendo with Mumford pounding life into the drums as if they were at death’s door and he was a medic. Mumford and Sons’ 20-minute performance proved to be the single best set that we witnessed at SXSW this year.

Brooklyn-based orchestral-poppers Frances were next to grace the stage. While the band’s beautifully-arranged debut album, All the While, is a challenging one to pull off live (it’d be tough to fit the high school marching band that played on “Decoy” on the Flamingo Cantina’s stage), but Frances were game to give it a try. Portland’s Viva Voce are now a four-piece, where-as previously they only consisted of husband/wife duo Kevin and Anita Robinson. In the past it was a treat to see Kevin both drum and sing at the same time, but even without that novelty the band were on fine form previewing songs from their forthcoming full-length Rose City, as well as playing old favorites.

Sweden’s Loney Dear weren’t able to bring their full band over to Austin and so Emil Svanängen and his two-piece backing band had to rely on a fussy MP3 player for some of their electronic backing tracks. “Ah, it stops every time I drop it,” observed Svanängen after the MP3 player halted yet again mid-song. Despite being the only band to bring their own sound guy to the party, Brooklyn’s Chairlift faced technical difficulties and sound problems. Drummer Patrick Wimberly remarked, “The sound’s crazy, but you guys look beautiful.” “It’s the electricity from the flamingos,” joked bassist Aaron Pfenning about the feedback he was experiencing at the Flamingo Cantina. After the band played “Planet Health,” Wimberly admitted, “That’s the first time we’ve ever played that song live.” Singer Caroline Polachek’s vocals seemed tentative, the band’s live sound was more minimal and understated than on their debut album, Does You Inspire You, and because they started late the band didn’t have a chance to play hit song “Bruises.”

Former Grandaddy frontman Jason Lytle hung up a crazy sheet that featured a painting of an exotic naked woman laying next to a black tiger (or some other sort of wild cat). “If you’re looking for an inspiration at the end of the afternoon slump, that’s why I put this thing up, anything’s possible,” said Lytle about his inspired sheet. Lytle performed with a full backing band that included former Grandaddy drummer Aaron Burtch. Lytle and his band sounded like a more relaxed and organic Grandaddy. It was expected that they would play songs from Lytle’s new debut solo album Yours Truly, the Commuter, but it was a pleasant surprise when they also pulled out a couple of Grandaddy classics.

“Do we look really grumpy?” asked Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell as the headliners took the stage. Grumpy or not, they sounded as great as ever. The Scottish indie-popsters’ set list balanced songs from 2005’s acclaimed third album, Let’s Get Out of This Country, and their forthcoming fourth record, My Maudlin Career. Highlights included “French Navy” and firm favorite “Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken.” The band’s triumphant set concluded with Let’s Get Out of This Country’s finale “Razzle Dazzle Rose,” which ended in a cacophony of trumpet and was a welcome closer, as the group didn’t play it at their Central Presbyterian Church show two nights earlier.

All in all the party was a huge success and Under the Radar would like to thank all our sponsors (JanSport, Image Comics, Big Hassle Media, and Cravedog), as well as all the bands and their representatives, all the staff at the Flamingo Cantina, and everyone who came out to the party (or who tried to come out, but couldn’t get in).

Check out more photos from Under the Radar‘s 2009 SXSW party.


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