My annual SXSW music re-cap is quite late in production — which has also given me time to ruminate and remember the best of shows.
This year was much more satisfactory than last and didn’t over-twee it. Instead, a little more diversity and a lot more fun.
Top 10 for 2011!
1. Quiet Company, The Marq & Lipstick 24
In my anal retentia prior to SXSW, I listened to 600 bands and made a short list of about 100 that I would listen to over and over again in preparation for the festival. In my notes on these guys I had written “Epic choruses, a must-see.” Dead on in my assessment, the first time I saw these guys this year, I lamented the fact that I was at a show alone and having to dance and sing-along with a field of strangers. Far and away, my favorite band this year. You can’t go wrong with a horn section, guys who dress in tie and jacket to play, and hooky choruses.
We loved them so much we bought the t-shirt and followed them on Twitter. Not to mention, got an immediate shoutout from them on Twitter & answers to a question. Love!
2. Geographer, Betsy’s/Yelp Day Party
San Francisco based bands I haven’t yet seen dominate my top 10 this year – leading the fray is Geographer. Despite a broken leg in the group, they managed to pull off a tight and energetic set that made me want to go see them every possible chance. They are the closest thing to an actual rock & roll band we saw – straightforward and honest.
SXSW has slowly been expanding their classical offerings. This year had a full evening of modern classical curated by Gabriel Prokofiev (who DJed). These two groups, Uccello, a quintet and the Calder Quartet, were amazing. Modern strings played with verve in a non-traditional venue. We were whooping and hollering as we watched these groups play. The Calder Quarter played some modern compositions that they had especially commissioned, making the evening even more entertaining.
4. Sugar & Gold, Toulouse/SF Embassy Day Party
This San Francisco based band had me mentally grooving and the tight quarters revealed a smile on every face in the courtyard. Eating watermelon and playing keyboards mid-day seemed perfectly natural. Can’t wait to seem them play out and about in town.
5. Yearbook Committee, Esther’s Follies
We raced to this show, only thinking we’d stay for a song or two before hitting another act. I ended up staying for all but one song of their set. They look like they met on a yearbook committee, with the sort of adorable nerdiness you recognize in all those who cut & paste images of everyone else in school. These multi-instrumentalists were interesting – breaking out a cookie sheet to make noise at one point, overlaying it all with sweet vocals. My favorite is their song Watermelon. You’ll be humming it for days.
6. The Limousines, Buffalo Billiards
This group, another SF-based band I’ve yet to see on my home turf, had a great connection with the audience. People were super engaged and delighted to rock out with this quartet. I admit to being obsessed with the lead singers wrist tattoo – super cool!
7. Lord Huron, The Stage on Sixth Street/Paste Day Party
A friend called this sound “retro civil war hipness” and they would be right. However, Lord Huron seems to do this better than most of the bands from this genre and put on an unexpectedly good set at the Paste Day Party.
8. Anamanaguchi, Mohawk (inside)
One of my favorite venues in Austin couldn’t disappoint this year – a kaleidoscope of music and videos entertained me during the set. This isn’t deep, meaningful music, but it IS fun chip bit music. Great for the work day – doesn’t distract, and you can play along in your head.
9. Capsula, Nuvolo
This was the Spanish Iggy Pop + band. Full of histronics that included walking over to the bar and drinking someone else’s beer, this band proved to be the perfect antidote to the sweeter stylings we had been hearing. Energetic and punk en espanol.
10. The Bangles, Cedar Street Courtyard
I wasn’t going to include them in my top 10, but who am I kidding – the 16 year old inside of me was DELIGHTED to see a band I sang along to driving in my dove gray Monte Carlo in the late 80s/early 90s. They sound pretty much exactly the same and played every song you hoped they would. It was funny, I even predicted they would open with Hazy Shade of Winter and I was right. Also, the most packed show of this year’s festival for me.
Also, there is no way not to give huge shoutouts to my two favorite bands from last year, Jeremy Messersmith and The Spring Standards. We saw both twice again this year – both are on tour at the moment, too. Go see them!
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
- Sharon Van Etten, Hilton Lobby
- The Vaccines, AOL Pop-up show at First Baptist
- Or, The Whale, Cheers
- Judgement Day, Sixth Street
- Jeremy Messersmith, The Stage on Sixth Street
- Toro Y Moi, Red 7 Patio
- Lord Huron, The Stage on Sixth Street
- Kopecky Family Band, The Stage on Sixth Street
- Ezra Furman & The Harpoons, The Stage on Sixth Street
- Sondre Lerche, The Stage on Sixth Street
- Eisley, The Stage on Sixth Street
- Ivan & Alyosha, The Parish
- Yearbook Committee, Esther’s Follies
- Ted Leo, Swan Dive
- Yeti Lane, 512 Balcony
- Tahiti 80, 512 Balcony
- Spring Standards, Esther’s Follies
Thursday, March 17, 2011
- Sugar & Gold, Toulouse/SF Embassy Party
- The Head & The Heart, ACC Day Stag
- The David Wax Museum, The Stage on Sixth Street
- The Submarines, The Stage on Sixth Street
- Capsula, Nuvolo
- California Wives, Buffalo Billiards
- The Limousines, Buffalo Billiards
- I Was Totally Destroying It, Easy Tiger
- Quiet Company, The Marq
- The Bangles, Cedar Street Courtyard
- The Sounds, Cedar Street Courtyard
Friday, March 18, 2011
- Maps & Atlases, Cedar Street Courtyard
- The Forms?, Red Eyed Fly
- Geographer, Betsy’s
- Jeremy Messersmith, Betsy’s
- Black Atlantic, Brush Square Park
- Uccello, The Velveeta Room
- Gabriel Prokofiev, The Velveeta Room
- The Calder Quartet, The Velveeta Room
- Chain Gang of 1974, ND
- Sondre Lerche, Central Presbyterian
Saturday, March 19, 2011
- Quiet Company, Lipstick 24
- Mother, Paradise
- Ha Ha Tonka, The Liberty
- The Spring Standards, Base Invasion Parking Lot
- Kitten, Brushy Square
- Anamanaguchi, Mohawk (inside)
- Pujol, Mohawk Patio
- Elephant Stone, Spill
- Intimate Stranger, Maggie Mae’s
- JEFF the Brotherhood, Mohawk Patio
- Ume, Skinny’s