Saint Patrick’s Day at SXSW was full of Texan BBQs, the birthing of a new James Brown and spring sunlight.
Early mornings and I don’t really mix well, but when you throw in a day of live music you’ve got a winning chicken dinner. First and main stop for the day was the MTV Garage Party — and like all good garage parties there was plenty of booze, popcorn, T-shirts, chicken, bundt cake and musicians. Unfortunately for the plebs of SXSW who weren’t lucky or rich enough to afford admission to the party, the line was almost a mile long. Thanks to a magical green bag hanging around my neck I was able to sneak through in after just a half hour (that’s like 45 seconds at SXSW).
There was an epic line up of national and international bands — pretty impressive for a garage party. First cab of the rank, Foster the People. The members, southern California locals from Los Angeles, gained international attention for their song “Pumped up Kicks” and have been riding the song’s coattails ever since. Although I watched the gig with little anticipation for their other tracks I was pleasantly surprised at how much they varied from the overplayed radio hit. The overall onstage presence leaved little to be desired, but the sounds the guys were churning out impressed me. MTV Hype artist Locksley donned matching pressed whites with a black bow tie that seemed to attract the ladies. The group’s sharply-dressed gentlemen got right into it — at one point, two of the members chucked their guitars over each other and re-enacted some kind of “Dueling Banjos” amazing moment.
British act Tinie Tempah showed the audience a little more than just his latest tracks, flashing us his CK’s more than once during his set – it didn’t really hurt the audience turnout though. His vocals and attitude on stage created for one kickin’ dance party, even with just a DJ backing him. Fellow UK lads of Friendly Fires were up next and oh, did they bring it. Lead singer and front man, Ed Macfarlane (Ed Mac) performed the most amazing dance show from a white British man I have ever seen. Channelling James Brown he pranced and shimmied his way over the entire stage in 75-degree heat – that’s very hot for an Englishman. Working up a very larger sweat though was easily worth it, winning over the crowd with his charm, voice and dance abilities. Friendly Fires were the most charming and talented act of the day.
Last band of the MTV party, for me anyway, was New Zealand boys Kids of 88. I fell in love with the pop-punk tunes of this band from a song called “My House” off their album sampler in 2010 and they certainly did not disappoint. Lead singer Sam McCarthy busted out some intense twists and power stances to pump up the heat-exhausted crowd. Jumping around on stage, he keep a great live presence in the heat and even had two audience members join him on stage. It was impossible not to be won over by the band when it stayed so lively and energetic throughout all of its power pop hits.
Later in the night it was off to one of the bigger shows of the festival, The Strokes. Playing a free show for anyone in Austin is such a nice thought — but it doesn’t make for such a nice line or crowd of people. With what I’m guessing was around 10,000 people I packed the shore stage venue of SXSW to get a glimpse of the guys’ heads as the waltzed around on stage acting like they owned the show – partly because they did. Beneath the Texan skyline they played to a crowed ranging from 2 years old (seriously, I asked) to what looked like 76.
Off to Beauty Bar for the IHEARTCOMIX showcase, Dirty Ghosts played to a packed crowd in the backyard portion of the venue. Even though I had never heard of the band I was happily won over. Not as much, however, by Big Freedia of New Orleans. Never in my life have I ever seen such aerobics coming from someone’s buttocks. The main man had two lovely ladies to help him along with the booty shaking, which they managed to do on chairs, speakers, the ground and in the audience’s faces. Probably the most fun you will have at a gig in your life. If you’ve ever thought about trying Zumba, try Big Freedia first.
A last minute text from an apparently reliable source soon sent the night into chaos. Rumors that Radiohead would be playing as the TBA band in a small bar west of the city sent my new companions and I on a wild goose chase to find the boys. After waiting almost an hour our dreams were shattered when another band stepped on stage. But the night was still alive — slightly — so off it was to the last gig of the night, City and Colour at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary. The venue provided the perfect place for the harmonic flawless vocals of Dallas Green and the subtle backing support from his band. It was truly a great way to end the night and spend the night. SXSW — you’re slowly killing me, but I love you. More to come tomorrow.
Check back for more coverage of SXSW from J.A.M.!