Friday marked the almost-home stretch for South by Southwest attendees and Austin residents, as the music festival wound down for 2018.
But it wasn’t just festivalgoers feeling the burn, artists were in the same kitchen. Indie pop darling Caroline Rose and her band had just one last show to get through before finishing their first SXSW tour of duty.
“We’re running on fumes,” Rose panted. “Thanks for putting up with us. We’re going [to try to] hold on for about 20 more minutes before collapsing.”
And held on they did, especially on rousing numbers like “Soul No. 5.” I was quite far from the stage in the packed Antone’s Nightclub, so I didn’t see whether Rose or any one in her band actually collapsed after the finale.
Downtown was remarkably more crowded with the early weekend getting underway, and a few bands were more than happy to oblige with energetic sounds.
Bay Area-based punk quartet awakebutstillinbed got the day started with a emotive lunchtime punk rock set at the indoor stage in Cheer Up Charlie’s. Nashville native Sophie Allison took to the venue’s outdoor stage to chill the audience a bit with her solo project Soccer Mommy and its angst-fueled indie pop tunes (“Your Dog”).
Brooklyn-based garage rock trio BOYTOY brought a different sound that I heard all week (but that was my choice). You don’t hear such a distinct mashup of garage rock, punk, and surf rock all in one package very often. Lead singer Glenn Van Dyke told a fun anecdote about the band somehow finding its way into Mexico without any passports—a trip commemorated on “Juarez” (currently unreleased as far as I could find).
Friday also marked the last date for Fader Fort, the mini-festival hosted by The FADER magazine, which made its way to East Austin this year. Fortunately, early entrants received free drink tokens for the price of relaxing under a sweltering sun; I think the rumors of a special performance by either Drake or Jay-Z motivated a lot of people to endure the sun burns – Spoiler Alert: The special guest was Raekwon from Wu-Tang Clan.
I had a fixed schedule, so I couldn’t stay, but I lingered long enough to catch a second performance by indie band Now, Now. It was striking just how much more engaged the band was on a big stage than previously in a backyard tent at Blackheart and how the sight of a huge crowd in front fed them. The guitarists even broke out a brief Macarena dance number (and yes, I admit I’m old enough to have lived through that dance’s thankfully brief worldwide popularity).
Friday was the warmest day of the uncharacteristically cool week so far. And when the temperature rises, you can always be sure the Convention Center’s Radio Day Stage can chill and entertain. Los Angeles-based indie rock band Lo Moon featured on the RD stage with its smooth bedroom rock.
“We’re still working it out,” lead singer Matt Lowell said, apologizing for the lack of polish as the band performed live for the first time since releasing its self-titled debut album.
I personally didn’t mind hiccups such as song mix-ups or whatnot because they make the SXSW experience much more immediate, especially considering many of the Convention Center performances were livestreamed.
For those who like Apple iPhone commercials, The Shacks would be both a familiar sound – their cover of The Kinks‘ “This Strange Effect” – and familiar sight – lead singer Shannon Wise – and RD attendees received a rounding extended play of the band’s retro lo-fi pop stylings. Not to be outdone, London-based electronica trio Benin City (named after the Nigerian capital city) rocked the Convention Center’s downstairs Flatstock Stage with songs about the love of women, worst clubbing experiences, and public transportation.
I returned to St. David’s Episcopal Church for a doubleheader of indie pop and indie folk female singer-songwriters. Australian vocalist Amy Shark started it off unapologetically with a beer – I heard no complaints – and some heartfelt songs, including one of her earliest, “I Think I Sound like God,” about an extremely rough period in her life.
Shark attempted to liven up the packed church with some of uptempo beats, but she was unfortunately stifled by the venue.
“Are you ready to have a big dance,” Shark playfully warned, “in your seats?”
Audience members laughed and obliged as much as they could (for what I think was “Blood Brothers”) while crammed into the pews. Fortunately, London-based vocalist Lucy Rose followed, and the audience no longer feared any sudden forced body moving except crying, laughing, and clapping. Rose chatted quite a bit, so much so it ate into a set mostly dedicated to performing songs off her recent LP, Something’s Changing. But the chatting gave the crowd a better sense of Rose’s personality and what contributes to her music, including a humorous story about a man she stayed with in Paraguay.
At the Palm Door on Sabine, Hungarian chillwave duo Belau provided a pleasant evening respite from the predominately folk and downtempo pop I’d heard for most of Friday (although not spiritually all that different). The highlight was the understated, yet infectious “Somebody Told Me So” that is one of the better and relaxing beach/poolside songs I’ve ever heard.
- Amy Shark – “Adore”
- Awakebutstillinbed – “Life”
- Belau – “Redefine”
- Benin City – “Faithless”
- BOYTOY – “Mary Anne”
- Caroline Rose – “More of the Same”
- Lo Moon – “Real Love”
- Lucy Rose – “Moirai”
- Now, Now – “Yours”
- The Shacks – “Left It with the Moon”
- Soccer Mommy – “Cool”