Thanks to social media and a few great SXSW websites that dedicate themselves to highlighting the open parties each day (showlistaustin) we decide to hit a party that we have not been to before. The party put on by Wild Honey Pie is in a perfect venue. Another outdoor 2 stage venue that means they can have bands play back to back all day long and there is lots of good beer and lots of sun and plenty of seating!
We walk into the showcase in time to catch some of Madeline Kenney's set. A 3 piece is a indie shoegaze mix. Some solid songs, a lovely voice, and a solid little band.
On the smaller stage, its QTY These guys were a 2 piece but now they seem to have morphed into a 4 piece. The native New Yorkers create some splendid songs. Think Lou Reed fronting The Strokes and I figure you get the picture. Its indie rock with a sweet sonic edge and can see why Bernard Butler has decided to help them out with some production on a new single. These are very well written songs and with a glam rock feel to them, they come across very very well. These guys could easily have been on the bigger stage.
Up on the big stage is Hoops. This American group produces guitar heavy indie rock songs. They immediately remind me of Real Estate but some of the songs have a slight 80's nostalgic feel. Its a full 5 piece band with the lead singer sitting up front on keyboard and the songs bounce along nicely. It is leaning on the pop side but there is a lot going on and sounds great outside.
Small stage now has our Canadian lad, Teen Daze. He calls his music "Glo-Fi" and I am not sure if that does describe it. He performs on his own with very little electronic backing. His songs are simple and his voice is soft, he sings elegantly and you have to pay attention to hear it all on this outside stage. He is well known for performing a full set without stopping and some of these songs seem to go on forever but he really endears himself to the crowd with his banter between these long songs and its a pleasant little set.
One of the reasons we head here today is the band that just hit the main stage and its Yoke Lore. Its a great little 2 piece band based around the multi instrumentalist that leads this indie folk band with a fantastic voice. Its almost to the Animal Collective level of indie folk. Its a basic set up and effective as these 2 guys work really well to create a full indie rock sound using samples and multiple instruments and great singing. I am pleased that what I have heard online from the band translates quite well live and this New York duo really pulls off the set.
Another buzz band is setting up on the smaller stage and its L.A Salami. These guys are led by a dynamic singer songwriter who creates images with his words and singing that makes the performance very fascinating. He really is Dylanesque and being considered as the Folk music for the New Age. This British artist is a bit of a poet and a bit of a crooner and with a very good band, it all works together rather well.
Next up is Undercover Dream Lovers More blissful chilled out indie rock coming from New York City. This 4 piece have a good groove going onstage, very steady and fits in with all of todays sweet set of bands. Its more indie/psych rock and that's fine with me.
Another buzz band is up next and we have The Big Thief. Another NYC band who do some very refined folk rock. Another 4 piece but they change things up to set them apart from the others. They throw some psych rock indie Americana in and you never really know what you are going to get next. The lead singer has one of the better voices I have heard recently and when her band gets it cranked up a bit, she matches it and the result is another solid set.
Another Indie rock band is up next with Future Generations. They change the vibe a bit by throwing a bit of mgmt. style groove into the mix and then, we get some Friendly Fire style songs..its a nice blend of groove based indie rock and it again fits with the venue.
Mobley is up next on the small stage. This solo performer is all good on his own. He switches between guitar, keyboards, percussion, all the while, singing his indie folk pop songs. He gets the audience to join him by using his drum and he sings to them, it all works. This Austin performer does really well here with his upbeat energy based show and is clearly popular around Austin.
Calliope Musical Band are one big psych pop party band. Led by a very charismatic young lady, there is a lot of flowered outfits and sing a longs going on and its all kicking off. This venue is open to the public and there are a lot of local folks and university students here and they all know these guys. its a fun show and it does not lack energy!
Born Cages a big big sounding 3 piece hits the small stage and this indie rock band really kick it off. Its a synthesizer heavy modern rock start to the set and it seems really really polished. I have never read anything about these guys before but some research discovers they are yet another NYC band and have toured quite a bit, including sometime as openers for Guns & Roses. They have a big heavy sound for a 3 piece.
Back to the main stage and we have Rainbow Kitten Surprise. Its a good blend of early Kings of Leon/Mumford sound and the 5 piece creates some pretty heavy folk influenced rock. Its a solid energetic set of songs by this 5 piece. They have been playing together and it shows, its an effortless easy sound and its pretty entertaining. Surprised we have not heard much about these guys in Toronto ..
We head back to the small stage for yet another big buzz band, The Overcoats. These two young ladies, hit the stage and immediately give each other a huge hug. These two are best friends. They clearly love performing. There is some theatrics, some samples, and some stunning vocals. These two create a wonderful electronic folk set that demands attention. They smile at each other often and that does nothing but make their set even better. Its mysterious, sweet, dark, and at times almost has a Celtic feel which I found out makes more sense when they start talking about them living in Dublin. Their voices blend together really well and its a wonderful early evening show.
Food then it's off to Stubbs. So much room, plenty of area to roam around and lots of places to hang out and chat. Before the first band hits the stage, we see Josh from Mondo Cozmo again and I asked him about some online reviews I had just read about him ending his set with a cover version of the Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony", he promises that it will make a reappearance soon and he is off to go backstage and we head into the crowd for Sundara Karma.
I was a big fan of Sundara Karma's album in 2016 and here was a good chance to hear it live. I am somewhat surprised by how many people here seem to know the songs. This English 4 piece guitar band are clearly trying to create some anthems and considering how many people are screaming out the lyrics, they may be well on their way. It is easy to see how the songs have become anthems as they are all quite catchy and easy to follow. The lead singer does well to soak up a lot of the attention but they are all quite capable and the sound is one of a band that is happy with what they are creating and they want others to be as well. Its a big rock show with some fantastic harmonies and then its done.
The other reason to his this showcase tonight was to see Mondo Cozmo again. We had planned on heading to another showcase for the entire night but, sometimes you just have to change things up based on new bands you have found, or, new bands and an old friend.
Mondo Cozmo hit this big stage with even more energy then the previous set we had seen them play. The songs sound even bigger here, the crowd is even more into it and Josh leads the band again with a huge smile, he is clearly enjoying himself. Its anthem level indie rock and on this stage, its huge. There are a lot of people paying attention to these guys and we are very very glad we made the switch to this showcase. Then...he pulls out the Verve "Bittersweet Symphony" and its as good as I had hoped. Its a song that I have always loved and these guys do it justice.
We head over to Rainey street to "Try" to get into the Twin Peaks evening party with M Ward and Neko Case. We knew it was a risk to try to fit in the Stubbs shows and as we approach the Clive Bar, a very small bar featuring one of the more awkward stage set ups, its clear we are out of luck. There must be 400 people lined up outside and there is no chance we will get in. Luckily there are plenty of options and its a short walk to see a band I missed years ago at SXSW because of Jack White (long story).
We head a few doors down to the Twix sponsored party to see Electric Guest. For those of you not aware of what 'Twix' is, its a chocolate bar, and there are buckets of them all around the venue which is great! Before Electric Guest is on, Hayley Kiyoko does a set of dance pop/hip hop and I am not sure if the crowd is here to hear her sing or to watch this sometime actress but either way, the songs are pretty catchy and its mighty glossy but it will do, ...the chocolate helps
Up next is Electric Guest. I was a huge fan of their first album, I wonderful blend of 70's and 80's influenced funk, soul, and rock..That was 5 years ago, and they finally brought out a new album in the last few months. The set was upbeat, and primarily songs from the new album but it is a similar vibe to their earlier work so it was a bit of an electro funk fest. These two guys love to perform and it shows and the combo of chocolate and craft beer have me shuffling around a bit myself! Its a fun little set and I am glad we got to see them.
Now its the time to make yet another choice. We could shuffle back to Stubbs to see White Denim and Granddaddy but we had been told about a band that was playing close by (and had done some last minute online searches about a band playing there we had never heard of)so we decide to head to a bar we had never spent any time in and we are off to a neighbouring bar, Lucille.
Lucille is a great bar, lots of room, has a great stage outside in the back and its easy to find a spot to watch the bands about to perform. The first band up was the one I had just done some research on, Devon Gilfillian is a Nashville soul artist who, according to online sources, is one of the few soul bands who were hand picked by Willie Nelson to come to Austin to perform at his Ranch at a party that occurs every year during SXSW. With that kind of backing you head to know he was good.
Sure enough, him and his band put together one of the best sets we would see. According to some friends I met in Austin, this Nashville Soul is a new trend and I like it. Its a roots folk soul style that really works well. The singer songwriter has a terrific Nashville based band and they play...they really play. Its stunning. We had to move a bit closer to watch Devon sing, play guitar and tell stories while his band created these wonderful songs. If there was any doubt that we had made the right choice coming here, its long gone now.
Next up was Gabriel Garzon-Montano. This New York City soul singer was another that intrigued me before we got here what I heard from him before I got to Austin reminded me a lot of a Prince/Stevie Wonder hybrid. Turns out I had heard his voice previously as Drake had sampled his voice on his track "Jungle". Gabriel performs alone and seated at his keyboard but is remarkably lively using his voice and his hands to keep the set rolling. Its a solid new soul set of smooth smooth songs. His voice is enough to carry him but I wonder what he would sound like with a full band and if he was not restricted by sitting behind his keyboard.
The next band is one that friends said I had to hear while in Austin. Chicano Batman will be up next, oddly enough, I can sit at Lucille and in between sets, while Chicano Batman is setting up all of their gear (and there is plenty) I can comfortably sit back and enjoy Talib Kwelli's set that is occurring next door. He is blowing that place up and is certainly keeping me entertained between sets over here!
Chicano Batman hit the stage to a huge roar from the crowd that has built up in front of the stage. Its a full on latino based dance party, with all the band dressed up in some fancy ruffled tuxedo shirts and I lose track often of exactly how many people are on stage. There is some pretty brilliant guitar work going on and some big keyboard as well and, a lot of dancing. The band really kicked everything off when they started touring with Jack White and they have done nothing but improved their live show. Its a psych Brazilian blend of sound and its pretty infectious. Somehow, its 2 am again and tomorrow is our last day and its back to the hotel for some rest.