Light FM here reporting from hot and sticky SXSW. It's Friday March 18th and we have a day off! A few of us who just barely survived the previous night hopped into the Hyundai Santa Fe and hit the Austin streets.
Our first stop was the Filter day party. We arrived just in time for a packed house as NY's Phantogram took the stage. They were energetic and captivating as usual. Great show! But way too hot for us, so we headed to the convention center "artists lounge" and stocked up on free swag, popcorn, and of course beer. I think one of us even got a free massage! Thanks SXSW!
We were on our way again refueling on more free beer and pizza. I don't know if it was the beer talking or not, but we found ourselves at Hoboken Pies literally every single day and agreed it was pretty damn good. We never made it into any of the infamous BBQ joints because the lines were miles long. So we stuck to food trucks. And boy are we feeling it! Ouch.
Austin has been an amazing city, we are all fully enjoying it! I think our one complaint would be the public transportation. We have waited for a damn train twice now and it just never shows up. Thank god for the police officer who very illegally let seven of us pile into his Crown Vic and drop us at the fest. Wow, thanks Mr. Officer!! [How? Light FM's bassist is pretty darn cute. -ed.] Our last stop for the night was going to be camped in front of the Parish to get a good spot at the Merge Records Showcase. On the bill was Telekinesis, American Music Club, Versus, Wye Oak, and Wild Flag. We have a detailed report of the show from our tour correspondent/unofficial tour manager/Hyundai Santa Fe driver/fellow pizza consumer: Sonia Zopuyan.
Take it away Sonia...
By Sonia Zopuyan
Despite the cumbersome wristbands, puke stenched alleyways and the-mostly-obliterated-because-it’s-Friday-night-crowds, we made it to the Parish on 6th St (yikes!) for what turned out to be one of our favorite showcases at SXSW. The Merge event featured the well-seasoned American Music Club, 90's favorite Versus, Baltimore based duo Wye Oak and the combined long time lady talents that make up Wild Flag.
American Music Club is Mark Eitzel’s trio consisting of jazzy pop keyboards, rocky jazz guitar, and sultry yet masculine vocals. Eitzel exudes a sort of ultimate cool guy charisma, which almost acts as yet another instrument. He has a distinct way of captivating the audience with his expressive eyes and utterly intimate demeanor where he physically leans into the crowd and sways, thoughtfully lost in his own lyrics. They covered a particularly sincere rendition of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” which is where the band originally formed in 1983.
Coming out of this trance and into a rocky start, Versus took the stage. Although front-man Richard Baluyut seemed less than thrilled to be there at first, a bit of sarcastic banter between him and the other original band member Fontaine Toups (on bass that evening) eased the audience into a great set. This included some of the bands indie rock classics like “Double Suicide (Mercy Killing)” which once again revealed their undeniable harmonizing chemistry.
Holding their own, comparative newbies Wye Oak displayed impressive instrumental multitasking skills in addition to gratifyingly unexpected arrangements. Drummer/keyboardist/backup vocalist Andy Stack enthusiastically beat the drum while managing not to compromise his other musical responsibilities. All this while his counterpart Jenn Wasner sang mellow folky tunes over intensely heavy rock and roll guitar. #2 favorite SXSW band alert.
Which brings me to #1 favorite SXSW band alert, Wild Flag, which was the initial draw to this showcase for everyone I came with. There seems to be a genuine bubble of excitement that this particular group of super-talented ladies is making music together. This was undeniable in the crowd's overwhelming sense of anticipation and giddiness during something as mundane as equipment being set up. Sound check was utter entertainment. As the band eased into their slightly psychedelic pop rock set, Carrie Brownstein’s high kicks got higher and windmilling got fiercer evoking guitar showmanship in the vein of Pete Townshend. “Future Crimes” seemed to bring forth the band's collective enthusiasm for fun on stage and exuded pure pleasure in playing music. At this point Mary Timony (guitar/vocals) and Rebecca Cole (keyboard) were infectiously bouncy while Brownstein’s jumps were further being fueled by the commanding force of Janet Weiss’ drums. All previous notable bands aside, Wild Flag independently astounds.