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Friday, March 18, 2011

SXSW So Far: The Highlights and Lowlights of Two Days in Austin

Posted By on Fri, Mar 18, 2011 at 10:37 AM

click to enlarge The Dodos
  • The Dodos
Far more occurs in the maelstrom of South-By than bears retelling -- even in just two music-packed days. So in lieu of lengthiness, here's a drive-by roundup of the highlights and lowlights from our last two days in Austin. 

Highlights
Squeezing onto a tiny, cramped balcony at 1 a.m. to catch chillwave magnate Toro Y Moi, only to discover Odd Future's Tyler the Creator standing feet away, gettin' down to the smooth synth-funk from Toro's latest record. Also: Watching Tyler sing along to every word.

Seeing S.F.'s the Dodos draw the biggest crowd I saw during the whole early afternoon at Pitchfork's #Offline show, despite the unrelenting Texas sun. Also: The Dodos' groove-based rock, which is only getting better.

click to enlarge A panel! We went to a panel! Because even we can't watch bands all the time.
  • A panel! We went to a panel! Because even we can't watch bands all the time.
Hearing Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards, Jarett Dougherty of Screaming Females, Pitchfork editor Scott Plagenhoef and others agree, at a panel on Michael Azerrad's book Our Band Could Be Your Life, that artists decide on their own the terms of success they want. Bottom line: It's dumb to accuse someone of selling out when they started out wanting to get huge. And as Dougherty said, it's okay to have small ambitions as well: "My friends who all wanted to get drunk and have a good time [with their band], they succeeded."

Realizing, as Wild Flag rocked Austin Music Hall, that this band's punk-dressed, classics-indebted rock could make it even bigger than Sleater-Kinney. And hoping it does.

Lowlights

click to enlarge Cloud Nothings. You didn't miss much.
  • Cloud Nothings. You didn't miss much.
Cloud Nothings, the buzzy basement rock outfit of Clevelander Dylan Baldi, gave us Blink-182 flashbacks at a late show last night. Wavves makes us recall the San Diego pop-punk forebears somewhat fondly, but Cloud Nothing's nasal vocals and habit of rushing through every two-minute power-pop ditty felt cheap, juvenile and amateurish -- in a bad way.

Found the limit of Internet hype at a show late Wednesday by Brooklyn duo Cults, whose '50s-indebted pop-rock came off like a trite take on territory that's treated more artfully by S.F. band Girls. Even with six people onstage fleshing out its cheery songs, Cults couldn't hold our attention.

click to enlarge Cults
  • Cults
Stumbled into a tent at Pitchfork's #Offline show to find Oneohtrix Point Never's Daniel Lopatin getting down in a three-person electronic jam as part of a show with his project Games. The show peaked at the end with a slamming, quasi-hip-hop groove, and just then, as heads were starting to nod, the sound got cut off after the show ran over its allotted time.

Good on record, but a hit-or-miss live band, S.F.'s the Fresh & Onlys sounded rough and unbalanced at #Offline yesterday. Part of that was the outdoor stage's gravelly P.A. and bad mixing. But it just didn't seem like Tim Cohen and Co. brought the energy like they could have.

Personal Notes

click to enlarge Lone Star beer: What South-By runs on.
  • Lone Star beer: What South-By runs on.
Things to be outlawed at SXSW:
Dreadlocks (or whipping them around while in a crowded show); warm beer (when it's 87 degrees out): hasty drivers (saw a near-accident in downtown Austin last night); and 'roid-ragin' drunk bros out for St. Paddy's Day (who tried to bum-rush the door of a club on Sixth St. last night).

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Follow us on Twitter @SFAllShookDown, follow Ian S. Port @iPORT, and like us at Facebook.com/SFAllShookDown.

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