If you hadn’t banked a few more hours of sleep beforehand, you’re screwed, as Tuesday, March 12, 2019 marked the first full day of of the music portion of South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.
There were a lot of interesting scheduled keynotes and panels for the day, but if you paid attention to the email blasts, you knew Stereogum was hosting a two-days-long showcase at Cheer Up Charlies starting at around noon. Unfortunately, I consider that early after staying up late the night before, but I believe the afternoon shows are generally more fun, as they tend to be more laid-back. So I bit the bullet and made the early afternoon trek.
Berlin garage rock duo Gurr was one of those bands I missed last time they were here, so I made a point not to repeat that mistake. Lead singer Andreya Casablanca had to take off her long dangling earrings after the first song because of how annoying they were. “No more photos, please,” she quipped.
The duo met in an American literature course, so it makes sense Casablanca and Laura Lee wrote songs like “Moby Dick” and “#1985” (the latter a nod to George Orwell). “We’re nerds,” Lee deadpanned. The duo performed songs from its upcoming EP She Says, including the eponymous single.
Part of me still can’t help but think about all the weird music I heard Tuesday. Chicago diehards Ratboys sang about her dead cat (and not in the poignant scene) and aliens. Singer-songwriter Samia sang about her having a sexual relationship with her stage persona. These were good songs, but you have to wonder what goes on in these musicians’ heads during the writing process. The funny thing is that so many songs get tossed during the writing process, yet the “cream” always rises to the top. Just makes you reflect on how untalented the rest of us are.
New Zealand indie pop band The Beths featured some of the best timed ooh’s during its quasi-bubblegum pop set. British band Thyla provided a bit more of an ethereal dream-pop sound. Having just released its debut EP What’s on Your Mind, the band performed some unreleased tracks like “Charity” and “Everything” as possible teasers for its eventual full-length debut LP.
For those wanting a change of pace, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Bedouine (Azniv Korkejian) brought it a bit down to earth with her melancholy rhythms and 70s-tinged folk sound (“Nice and Quiet”). Austin native Jess Williamson was similarly enchanting with her bluesy folk stylings (“I See the White”) and slight bossa nova vibe, although I admit I might be the only one who felt the latter.
The great thing about Cheer Up Charlies is the relative ease of cycling between the indoor and outdoor stages. I’ll admit the indoor stage can be a bit cramped, but everyone makes it work, especially the path to the restrooms. The last artist I saw at the Stereogum daytime showcase was the punk rockers Priests. The group provided a well-needed jolt of late afternoon energy, as the absurdly charismatic frontwoman Katie Alice Greer seemed to channel Pat Benatar on more than one occasion. The set predominantly featured songs from the band’s upcoming sophomore album, The Seduction of Kansas, including the great title track.
Glasgow-based indie band Lucia jammed to a packed British Music Embassy with a set that featured rock, punk, and a bit of grunge in a brisk 30 minutes. The performance highlight was “Summertime.”
At the Iron Bear, electro-pop singer-songwriter Claire George uplifted her songs to more danceable beats. Her EP, Bodies of Water, seems tame in comparison, but the uptempo rhythms were the right pace (“Where Did You Go?”).
Dance-pop duo Mirrorgloss (best friends Najah Monique Todd and Del Brown) followed with similarly great beats while also having an amazingly positive attitude. “No one will think you’re fly, if you don’t,” Brown mused.
Australian indie rock singer-songwriter Grace Turner ended my night with a special solo set at CU29. Her music was almost unrecognizable without her backing band, but she gave a unique performance with many new tracks (at least in the Spotify universe) such as “Cross Your Mind.” Turner’s music was a great bookend to the night.
- Bedouine – “Dusty Eyes”
- The Beths – “You Wouldn’t Like Me”
- Claire George – “Orbits”
- Grace Turner – “Dead or Alive”
- Lucia – “Blueheart”
- Mirrorgloss – “Something New”
- Priests – “Good Time Charlie”
- Ratboys – “Elvis Is in the Freezer”