If South by Southwest sounds like an esoteric compass setting or vaguely reminiscent of an Alfred Hitchcock movie, it’s time for a redefinition.
So, it’s only February, but it’s 70 degrees out there. Spring is here or coming here. Snow is gone or getting gone. SXSW is not here, but coming (there, actually).
In short, the hibernating is ending, and people are dropping tons of music on me, which I am about to unload on you guys in the form of a mixtape. Remember when it used to be illegal to post MP3s on blogs? Now people ask me to do it. Time moves fast.
The OKS “Fake Springs Suck, So Here’s to Hoping It’s Real” Mix (click title to download full mix as a 155mb .zip)
1. “Wolves and Bells” — Storms. This icy acoustic track is a good place to start, as we move from winter to spring.
2. “I Can Be One” — Luke Rathborne. Melancholic beauty, like opening your eyes after sleeping ...
3. “Colossus” — Lightning Bolt. …and then you distort your guitar, cause ‘getting out of bed sucks.
4. “Heart Attack” — Lovett. Frantic rock ’n’ roll.
5. “Kim Kardashian” — Rocky Business. Infectious dance track from the first band to get a second MP3 on OKS. Also has a culture-skewing video that begs for a Chuck Klosterman analysis.
6. “Equestrian (Flosstradamus Remix)” — US Royalty. Caribbean-ized and dance-floor ready, you’d never guess that this used to be a pastoral folk tune.
7. “Would You Say Stop?” — Acid House Kings. No, I wouldn’t.
8. “The Kite” — The Sound of Growing Up. Judging by the sneering vocals and pop-punk approach to the piano, these kids have a ways to go.
9. “Fugefat” — The Octopus Project. The most optimistic instrumental band ever.
10. “Last Night at the Jetty” — Panda Bear. Never been a big Animal Collective fan, but this lucid, optimistic jam from the AC member screams spring.
11. “Secret Serf” — Tape Deck Mountain. Chillwave to ease back on a green, green hillside to.
photo Octopus Project
Change the oil, pack the car and cue up the playlist, because it’s time to head down to Austin for Music Christmas South by Southwest. I’ll be down there Tuesday night all the way to the end in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Here’s an audio and video approximation of how excited I am.
You can expect loads of SXSW coverage here at the OKSee blog. I’ll be spending Tuesday, Wednesday and the first half of Thursday covering the Oklahoma Film and Music Office’s The Buffalo Lounge. The fantastic people up at OF&MO have put together a lineup of 28 Oklahoma bands that I’m really excited to see. Expect photos, audio clips (of talking — music clips from my teeny recorder would sound like this), interviews, reviews, news bits, the whole nine yards. It’s gonna be a blast.
I’ll also be tweeting up a storm at twitter.com/okgazette.
From 6 p.m. Thursday onward, I’ll be kicking it all over Austin, trying to catch the best and brightest new music the smorgasbord has to offer. I have several priorities (one of Braids’ 9 shows, Typhoon, Matt and Kim, Rocky Business, Givers), but I’ll be all over the place, reporting it as I hit it. I may even drink coffee to get me through this. My stimulant of choice is Red Bull, but at 10:30 a.m. Friday when I’m trying to get to a Chris Bathgate show at 11, I may have to call in the big guns.
Here’s a whole bunch of SXSW info for those going/lusting:
• Official site
• Last.FM band aid, which will run your Last.FM account against the listings to tell you who you should see, which will make attendees drool and lusters weep
• Guardian complete band listing, with vids, streams, bios and more on each
• Bandcamp visualizer – about a fourth of the bands have music downloadable/streaming/available for purchase here
• Free iTunes playlist
Thanks to Pitchfork for alerting me to a couple of these links.
OKC rapper Jabee will be among the many Oklahoma artists heading down to Austin for SXSW this week, and he’s put out the APB that he needs some help getting there.
In an e-mail addressed to “fans, friends and supporters,” Jabee says that he’s looking to raise $700 for his SXSW trip. But he’s not soliciting donations; all he’s asking is that people go to his incredibly well-stocked Bandcamp (98 tracks over 16 albums, mixtapes and singles) and buy some tunes.
Most of the tracks are “pay what you want,” so head over to his site and help a local artist advance his career for as much as you care to spend. He leaves today, so buy some Jabee jams ASAP. I’m especially fond of the Regina Spektor X Jabee tune.
In other SXSW news, Norman’s brand-new Anty Shanty is proving itself as an exciting new venue by hosting The Heligoats on Wednesday. The Heligoats are on their way down to SXSW, and they’re making a stop here with Caroline Smith and the Goodnight Sleeps. Local artist Brian Cagle will open. It’s a pretty great start for a new metro music venue, if they continue this trend.
In an age of increasing gear and growing complexity, it's almost counter-cultural to rock it with little more than the instruments you brought in.
Fiawna Forte and her band brought in exactly three pedals; one for each of the two guitarists and bassist. The stage was remarkably uncluttered, which was necessary for the band to move around. And move they did. Fiawna and her band went nuts on stage: dancing, headbanging and generally strutting their stuff. Even the drummer couldn't stay on his seat, routinely standing up and banging with fervor.
But the stage was not enough for Forte; twice she entered the audience while performing, once with guitar in hand and once with just her mic. She roamed around in the audience, trying her hardest to invigorate the listeners.
Antics aside, her music was enough to arrest the audience; her brand of no-frills rock and roll was sold by her roaring voice. Even though there was a power to her vocal cords, it never became guttural or non-feminine; her voice is just powerful. When paired with body-movin' riffs and ear-snagging melodies, it became an irresistible formula that I and the audience could not take eyes off.
Fiawna Forte has an electric stage presence, great songs and a bright future. I am blown away.
The final event at The Buffalo Lounge was a Tate Music Group/Variance showcase. After treating listeners to a swanky food spread and free drinks, the music kicked off with Michelle Buzz. Buzz's piano-based singer/songwriter tunes fit in very neatly next to staples of the genre like Fiona Apple and Michelle Branch. Her stage presence was very pleasant and inviting, as she talked comfortably to the audience between songs. She's very young (still in college), so she has a long songwriting career ahead of her if she keeps on.
Justin Cross played next, bringing some acoustic folk to the room. He caught my eye by rocking a Woody Guthrie t-shirt and a harmonica for a few tunes. His fingerpicking kept my ears tuned in. There's few things I like more than a good fingerpicked acoustic guitar, and Cross, along with his second guitarist, kept me pleased. Even when his set veered toward poppier grounds, the songs were still quite strong.
Scarlitt Redemption's pop/rock set was a contrast with hard rock act We the People, which followed. The former employed five people, the latter just two. Scarlitt had a relatively static stage presence, letting their music do the heavy lifting; the guitarist for We the People headbanged, swung his hair, and moved about. Scarlitt's set was heavy on hummable melodies, while We the People went for heavy riffs and pounding rhythms. Their disparate sounds created a diversity in the lineup that I thought wouldn't be able to be continued.
That is, until Snorlaxx took the stage. Snorlaxx is a hip-hop act from Tulsa that consists of two bassists, a drummer, a rapid-fire rapper and and another absent member. ("He's in China," the rapper said, "with his cat General Meow.") I love bass, rhythm and hip-hop, so I was stoked as soon as I heard what they were about. And as soon as I actually heard them, I was hooked. Their bassists play off each other, making complex, melodically interesting constructions for the rapper to go nuts over. And he takes their energy and feeds it back, barking, speaking and shouting his way through the raps as if his life depended on it.
The crowd swelled with every song they played; people were coming in the door even in the last song of their two-song encore (one band was unable to make their set, leaving extra time for Snorlaxx after people yelled for them to keep playing). The members could have played longer, time-wise, but they had run out of material. They performed everything they had written in their set, and they left everything they had on stage. The guys bounced around the stage like pinballs, with the rapper occasionally leaving the stage to work his words in the audience.
It was an electrifying set, and it left me wanting more. Snorlaxx is on to something, and I suggest you hear what it is they're on to before everyone else does. It was an incredibly fitting end to The Buffalo Lounge at SXSW. More please!
Next door to The Buffalo Lounge was the M for/pour Montreal party, where Polaris Prize winner Karkwa (pictured) was playing. I stepped in and caught most of their set, which sounded like a French-speaking version of Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs" if that album wasn't so sad. The stately and important feel was there, as well as the vital energy missing from the previously mentioned album. Karkwa's whirling, complex soundscapes were anchored by guitar and pounding piano and augmented by two drummers, making for a very full, enveloping sound.
After grabbing some dinner and doing a quick interview, I hustled over to Geographer's set. They only played for twenty minutes and flipped the breaker three times with their songs, but it was incredible anyway. The lead singer's lithe, gorgeous voice propelled the tunes and set the audience to swooning. He played guitar and keyboards, while the other two guys held down cello/electronics and drum duties. Their swirling, easy set rode the line between dreamy and direct, finding an easy-going space in the middle. It's a sound that washes over you, and it was well-done. I just wish the venue had better electrical work, so we wouldn't have missed any seconds of their set due to power loss.
Leaving Sixth Street for the first time for the entire festival, I kicked it on out to Antone's to watch banjoist Abigail Washburn at my girlfriend's recommendation. Although she didn't play her banjo much (what's the use of being a celebrated banjoist if you don't play the thing?), she sang well and was incredibly enthusiastic about her band, her songs, her instruments and her new album. She excitedly explained that "City of Refuge" was "less folky" than material she formerly recorded, as she co-wrote it with more indie-minded musicians. (Drat.) Nevertheless, the set was enjoyable, if not what I expected.