“Spirit might give you a grand vision – like a spiritual carrot for you to chase,” says Santiparro. “It leads you onto a straighter path, to the people who will pass on good and useful teachings for your life.” Santiparro means “the lens that sees many things not usually seen.” Alan Scheurman earned the name during a 2010 pilgrimage with a Wixatari (Huichol) family to Wirikuta, the sacred desert where Peyote originates. Originally from Detroit, his debut album True Prayer is the result of such useful teachings he has sought from elders such as Maestro Manuel Fufino, his teacher at Brooklyn’s Golden Drum. The album featured collaborations with guests such as Will Oldham (Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy), Kyp Malone (TV On The Radio), Adam Wills (Bear In Heaven), Melati Malay (Young Magic) and Ben Bromley (NewVillager).
We spoke to Santiparro about his debut album, cosmic meetings, and and ayahuasca ikaros.
AudioFemme: The debut album features collaborations from a lot of great artists – how did they come about?
Santiparro: Well, they’re all friends of mine. I recorded the second half of the record in the house where Young Magic lives and records. Adam Wills and I have been attending spiritual ceremonies together for years. There’s already been a history of collaboration with Kyp and I. I didn’t know Will that long before we worked together. I first met him in a dream while finishing up a plant diet in Peru. Two days later I went to his show in NYC and gave him some Palo Santo. It was a really brief but deeply cosmic meeting. He asked me if I was releasing any new music, as a mutual friend had already turned him onto my previous band Ka. I said that I was considering it, and he looked me in the eye and said something like, ‘You should be recording music, and releasing it prolifically.” So, needless to say, it lit a fire under me.
AF: The album invokes a lot of personal spiritual questions – will you brief me on your spiritual awakening?
S: Well, we awaken a little bit sometimes from the amnesia of life. Spirit might give you a grand vision – like a spiritual carrot for you to chase. It leads you onto a straighter path, to the people who will pass on good and useful teachings for your life. This happens to everyone eventually, in this life or in another. So it’s nothing new. I’m just another seeker following my path, fortunate enough to have the wisdom of elders guiding the way.
AF: How did you get turned on to music? Who are your biggest influences?
S: My dad played guitar and sang while I was in the womb. That’s the same guitar I play today. Artists that really made an impact on me in my youth were Paul Simon, James Brown, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin. All those guys have high voices, like mine. The past few years I’ve listened to a lot of drone music, African guitar music, native chants, and ayahuasca ikaros.
AF: A lot of effort went into producing this album, how does it feel now that it is finally being released?
S: It feels like i’m crossing a threshold but I know it’s only the beginning.
AF: Fun fact – I live a few blocks away from the Golden Drum and have attended many events there. How did you become involved in that community?
S: Brooke Gillespie, Matt Canale, and I once rolled a ceremonial tobacco and prayed with it together. The intention was to build exactly what Golden Drum has become. We went to Maestro Manuel Rufino with the vision which he also shared. He helped make it a reality as other students of his came to help with every single thing that was needed.
AF: What do you like best about community living?
S: I no longer live in community in the way that I did at Golden Drum for five years. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. The purpose of living that way is to learn about your self, to heal, and to overcome your negative projections. A community is a hall of mirrors – a place to train yourself to handle life’s obstacles.
AF: Tell me about how Maestro Manuel Fufino impacted your life (and as a result, this album).
S: He saw in me from the beginning what I was meant to do and he challenged me through a process of initiation. He still challenges me, and will for the rest of my life. He’s a trickster and is very wise. His prayers and blessings have led me to many very profound meetings and realizations. Many of the lyrics are reflections of the teachings imparted through his vessel.
AF: You’re about to embark on a tour; does tour life suit you?
S: I have always been a man of the road.
AF: Do you ever get back to Detroit or feel any connections still to the city? Where do you consider to be “home?”
S: I go to Detroit about once a month to pass on the teachings that have been imparted to me by the elders. There’s a spiritual study group I work with there. They’re growing a lot. It’s very rewarding. I live in the catskills now. I love it there. But we are putting our things into storage for this tour, as we go to Peru right after. At the moment my home is the open road. My wife and I are using this tour to help gage where we’d like to really plant roots.
AF: And I’m curious, what is your favorite meal of all time?
The making of Young Magic’s 2012 debut Melt was as international an affair as the band itself; Isaac Emmanuel was born in Australia, Melati Malay in Indonesia, and though the two met and started making music in Brooklyn, they’ve rarely been home for a breather since. May 6th marked the release of their sophomore record, Breathing Statues, on Carpark Records, and much like the album that came before, it was written and recorded all over the world – Morocco, France, the Czech Republic, Australia and Iceland to be specific. During a recent stop in NYC, Young Magic played an album release party at Manderley Bar in The McKittrick Hotel, the iconic location of long-running immersive Macbeth re-imagining Sleep No More. The setting was a fittingly opulent and evocative space in which to showcase Young Magic’s latest material, which is a good deal darker and far more sensual than their earlier work. The move has served them well, taking the shoegaze-infused dream-pop that characterized Melt and adorning it with a tribal flourish.
Young Magic’s core duo were joined onstage for a few numbers by a harp player, though she was admittedly difficult to hear in the mix, and also by their touring drummer, who punched up Emmanuel’s drum machine and synth rhythms. Malay manipulated her own vocals from a black box attached to her mic stand and let her voice dissolve in and out of the music. Clad as she was in a nearly-sheer, pearlescent tunic, she seemed both mystical and spectral, her stoic vocal delivery cementing this impression.
The release party was populated mostly with masked attendees spilling over from the evening’s final Sleep performance, so it’s unclear what they might have been expecting after disoriented explorations through the three-story warehouse. But aspects from Sleep spilled over, like remnants in a dream – a male dancer performed some breathtaking interpretive maneuvers to a few of the most provocative tracks, beginning with “Something in the Water.” Like most of Sleep No More‘s cast, he was incredibly lean, wearing only trousers made from the same cloth Malay dressed in, each muscular striation visible under the skin, his ribs on display for the counting, in every sense a living, breathing statue. For “Cobra,” his movements seemed to channel a Trans identity, figuratively acting out motions that felt like references to gender reassignment and other transformative processes. Though there was no costume change, as the number went on the subtle cues and movements seemed to grow more feminine, his gaze challenging the audience right along with Malay’s breathy words: I’ll ask you to believe it. His thoughtful performance elevated Young Magic’s songs, highlighting all of the intricacies and possible interpretations that the band have built into the new record. It’s a record that shows growth in the more atmospheric and intimate approaches it takes.
The album is available now digitally as well as from Carpark.
Another year of South by Southwest has come and gone. It was a landmark year for us at AudioFemme, as we hosted our first ever SXSW showcases. It was certainly a learning experience, to say the least. Just as we have in years past, we met a wide array of musicians, promoters, industry folks, and music fans from around the world, an experience as enriching as ever. But networking and seeing as many bands as one can in five days aren’t the only things that go into the SXSW experience. At its heart is one weird little city redefining the festival experience. Here’s a rundown of our best moments from Austin, TX.
Most Memorable Performances:
The sun doesn’t shine in the UK the way it does in Austin, and the visible sunburn on these three lads made me feel an empathetic sting. I caught the post-punk trio at El Sapo, a newly-opened hamburguesa joint on Manor Road, hosting showcases curated by Austin local radio station Music For Listeners. The showcase included performances from Dublin-based noise pop quartet September Girls, Manchester rockers Pins, and Mississippi psych-pop outfit Dead Gaze, all of whom were arresting. But there was something especially captivating about the sparks flying during Traams’ frenzied performance, with frontman Stu channeling Alec Ounsworth’s frantic wail. The boys worked up a real sweat blasting everyone with pummeling pop.
The Baltimore synth punk outfit has long had a reputation as a hardworking and talented live band who’ve released some great albums over the last seven years. Singles is out March 25th on 4AD and the band took to SXSW for their first time ever to showcase the material, resulting in heaps of long-deserved attention. I caught their triumphant final performance of eight at Impose’s free Longbranch Inn party, and the vibes were stellar. Lead singer Samuel T. Herring was absolutely brimming with joy, repeatedly stating how good the energy in the room felt, promising to belt it out until his vocal chords gave up. The crowd loved him back, bouncing up and down to some stellar new songs, pumping fists, crowd surfing, and begging for another jam before the bar closed for the night. Future Islands obliged with a hushed version of “Little Dreamer” from 2008’s Wave Like Home.
When we previewed “Wire Frame Mattress” we knew that the UK band were not be missed, and the boys did not disappoint. Blending surf, sludge, and rockabilly elements with a healthy dose of reverb, The Wytches embodied worst-case-scenario teenage angst like we haven’t seen since watching The Craft at sleepovers.
Jon Dwyer reunited his early aughts garage rock group and it felt so good. Eschewing stages as often as possible, Dwyer & Co. preferred to set up shop in the Austin dust and totally wreck it. I saw them once at the Castle Face Records showcase (that’s Dwyer’s label, which is set to re-release Coachwhips debut Hands on the Controls this month) and again on Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge, after which Dwyer set off fireworks during Tony Molina’s set. Dwyer sings into a mic that looks more like a wad of tape, resulting in a scratchy, unintelligible, yet somehow glorious garble, the short songs every bit as good as those from Thee Oh Sees catalogue but faster, looser, and somehow more primal.
Another Baltimore act that’s been around for years, steadily releasing unnoticed but beautiful records, Wye Oak’s folk-inflected synth pop impressed many a South by audience. Andy Stack did double duty on drums and keys, using one hand to play each simultaneously. Just think about that for a minute. Try to mime those motions. It’s a good deal harder than rubbing your belly while patting your head, but Stack never missed a beat. Add to that Jenn Wasner’s honeyed voice, and space rock guitar riffs, and you’ve got a template for the galactic anthems of Shriek, the duo’s fourth studio album. It comes out April 29th on Merge.
Our inaugural SXSW showcase was a success! There’s no way we could thank everyone involved, but extra special thanks go out to eight bands who came from all over the world to play breathtaking sets for us and for our fans:
Worst Venue to Throw a Showcase: Upstairs on Trinity
It’s not actual a venue, it’s a wine bar. After reading the fine print on a very misleading contract, we learned that we’d have to rent an entire soundsystem to even have a show. We had to hire our own sound guy too. Even after pulling off both these feats (no easy task considering our out-of-town status), we weren’t allowed to set up until after 7pm, pushing our showcase back an hour. There weren’t even extension cords at the “venue” so I had to haul ass down 6th to a CVS to purchase whatever they had in stock. When psych rockers Electric Eye finally took the stage, their unravelling guitars definitely eased my frayed nerves.
Followed by Cheerleader’s uplifting pop punk, I was starting to feel a little better – until technical difficulties resurfaced. Live, learn and shrug it all off with some whiskey, that’s what I always say.
By the time we worked out our sound issues and Samsaya hit the area where a stage might have been in an actual club, I was admittedly wasted, but not enough that I failed to notice how inventive her acoustic set was, featuring musicians from all over the world, and how everyone in attendance – including the bartenders – responded to it. Leverage Models followed her lead, encouraging some seriously rowdy dancing with their artful antics, only helped by the (still) flowing libations. I didn’t get any decent pictures of the dance party because of the shitty lighting but also because, you know… libations. It all ended with me crying alongside I35, unable to get a cab, unidentified cables draped around my neck like someone’s pet python, ’til a random Austinite took pity on us and gave us a lift back to The Enterprise where I passed out in bed still wearing a leather jacket. We go to pick up our equipment the next day and the venue attempted to overcharge us for an event they had no business booking in the first place and hijacked our rented equipment as collateral while we disputed the bill. The process of getting it back took up a significant chunk of the rest of the week. All in all, it presents a gross example of the worst of SXSW profiteering. But wonderful performances from the bands who played the showcase are what saved the day, so big thanks to them!
Best Random Austin Moment: Salute!
Embattled with the venue from Hell, I was feeling a bit depressed – in part because the show hadn’t gone as planned, we’d inconvenienced Austin friends kind enough to give us rides while juggling insane work schedules, but also because I was missing out on a lot of bands I wanted to check out while going through the whole retracted process. I smoked some weed a bartender had given me the night before, ate a veggie burrito from Chillitos, and stumbled into The Vortex, a theater/bar in a barn hosting a party that featured Italian bands and a Patrizi’s food truck. I sat in the sun and took in the sounds of Omosumo, an electronic outfit that could be the lovechild of Led Zeppelin & Daft Punk sent away to boarding school in Palermo.
Runner Up: When Red 7 played The Hold Steady on the soundsystem right before The Hold Steady played
Queerest Showcase: Y’all or Nothing, Presented by Mouthfeel & Young Creature
Listed as a showcase for “not-so-straight shooters” the bill at Cheer-Up Charlies on Saturday night was stacked beginning-to-end with impressive performers, thoughtfully culled from queer scenes in Austin and beyond. There was a palpable feeling of community and camaraderie in the air and the evening was all about fun. Gretchen Phillips’ Disco Plague opened the night on the outdoor stage, situated in a white-stone grotto that forms the venue’s patio. Her improv dance-punk got the entire crowd going. Meanwhile, performance art duo Hyenaz brought glammed up electro to the inside stage, and it only got crazier from there. Austinites Mom Jeans‘ quirky pop punk had me beaming; they dedicated songs to John Waters, weed, and Satan. Leda introduced her band Crooked Bangs with the declaration “I’m a woman, and I don’t know what that means” before proceeding to mesmerize everyone watching with bass playing so nimble I still can’t get over it. BLXPLTN’s industrial punk-meets-hip-hop vibe is every bit as brutal as Death Grips, their lead single “Stop & Frisk” lambasting the racist practice. Big Dipper rapped. Ex Hex rocked. We deeply regret missing performances by TacocaT and Christeene and Sharon Needles due to some ongoing drama that needed taking care of. But we wish we could’ve stayed forever.
Not because I’m a stalker, just because they got to play early slots on some really rad bills. They were on point every time. Hopefully this means a lot more attention for the Philly-based trio in the upcoming year.
Best SXSW Tradition: Bridge Parties!
Night one I saw Perfect Pussy throw a bass into the Colorado while Meredith Graves wore a sparkly ball gown, followed by bang-up performances by Nothing and Ex-Cult.
Night two was the aforementioned fireworks display courtesy of John Dwyer while Tony Molina played. The cops don’t seem to care and I want to be friends with everyone on that bridge forever.
Best Venue for Charging Phones: Cheer Up Charlie’s
Newly inhabiting the former Club DeVille compound as Wonderland has taken over its old East Side location, this is a haven for anyone with a near-dead battery, though Hotel Vegas was a close second. Both had multiple outlets that were conveniently accessible (rather than behind a bar that forced you to bug your bartender every time you wanted to Instagram something), often times in full view of a stage where bands were playing so you didn’t have to miss the fun.
Worst Venue for Charging Phones: Red 7
Home of Brooklyn Vegan’s day parties, not only was capacity over-policed after Tyler, the Creator incited a riot at Scoot Inn, but Red 7 has a peculiar sparseness that makes finding outlets nearly impossible. And you couldn’t just hand your phone over to the bartender without paying a $5 charging fee. A particularly hostile sign on the sound booth discouraged the uncharged masses from inquiring therein. Now, I know you don’t have to be able to snap a selfie at a show to have a good time. I was content to simply watch these lovely performances with documenting them. But ranting and raving about newly discovered bands enriches that fun and hopefully generates some buzz for the artist, which is kind of the whole point of SXSW. And communicating with friends still waiting in lines outside is pretty paramount, so cell phones at shows count as a necessary evil and everyone kind of has to get used to it.
Best-Kept Secret: Chain-Drive
This little-gay-bar-that-could is hunkered on a quiet street off the main drag of Rainey District. Met Christeene and Gretchen Phillips and Big Dipper on Tuesday, but the venue hosted out-of-control, unique line-ups every night.
Most Inflated Price: $6.99 Non-Bank ATM fee at 7th & Red River.
As in, $2 more than non-badgeholder admission to a show steps away at Beerland, where I caught Connections before heading to Hotel Vegas for Forest Swords.
Number of Chase ATMS in the immediate downtown area: 2
That were able to dispense cash: 0
Best Food: Gonzo
Every year I have to stop by Gonzo’s food truck at the East Side Fillin’ Station for a “Pig Roast” – sweet pulled pork topped with provolone, tangy carrot slaw, and spicy brown mustard on Texas toast. As I ate my annual sammie I literally found myself thinking about how ingenious Texans were for inventing really thick white bread grilled with butter on it. Austin’s first-ever In-N-Out location was a close second, because a Double Double Animal Style really is a life-changer.
Best Metal Band We Stayed With But Didn’t See Live: Christian Mistress of Portland
They were all very nice but their hair made us jealous.
Best Movie We Saw While Charging Phones/Re-Charging Selves At Jackalope: Daughters of Darkness
Best Austinites: It’s a tie!
Jenn from Guitar Center rented us four monitors, two speakers with stands, six fifty foot cables, a sixteen channel mixer, two DI boxes, and two mics with stands within a days notice, and didn’t change us extra when a snafu with the shittiest venue in Austin forced us to keep it longer than we’d planned. In general she was super understanding, knowledgable, professional, and friendly.
Chris English of Haunted ATX gave us a lift whenever we needed it in a hearse tricked out into a six-seat limo. We flagged him down out of a cab line a mile long trying to get from the downtown Hilton to the South Lama for Ground Control’s famed Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge punk party. The TV in the back was playing Dune. The next night, after another bridge party was announced, we texted him for another ride and he showed within fifteen minutes, giving us the same deal. Then he came in with an assist in The Great Equipment Rescue of SX2014 when none of our friends were able to help us schlep our equipment from venue to where we were staying, and he gave us a mini-tour of an Austin cemetery because that’s what he normally uses the limo for – haunted tours of Austin.
Best Non-Austinite: Giselle from Vancouver
…who came to our Tuesday showcase. Bowled over by our line-up, she proclaimed it was one of the best at SXSW and couldn’t understand why anyone would “wait so long to see Jay-Z ” when they could have been partying with us. Giselle is a little older, probably in her 40’s or maybe early 50’s. Having recently entered my thirties, I’ve often wondered if I was too old to be so invested in such a youth-centric industry. Giselle gives zero fucks about that. She isn’t even in the industry; she told me she “just likes to go to shows”. She makes trips to Austin each year (as well as to New York for CMJ), travels for other events and festivals and attends shows at home, where she uses her iPhone to snap pics of up-and-coming bands she started finding “when the internet came around and made it easier to discover bands”. It might be that Giselle is actually myself from the future, sent to the showcase to give me the hope and reassurance I need to keep going. If that’s so, I’m here to tell you that based on her outfit, normcore will be bigger than ever in fifteen years.
Best Almost-Brushes With Celebrity:
I was invited to go to Willie Nelson’s ranch and was hoping to hang with the country legend, but thanks to the showcase debacle didn’t make the limo. Annie almost interviewed Debbie Harry of Blondie but the Queen of New Wave rescheduled and switched to over-the phone.
Number of Wrist-bands Accrued: Only one.
A friend said to me, “That’s kinda sad and kinda really amazing.” But between putting on our own showcases and going to everyone else’s, I didn’t have time to wait around in lines for wristbands, then wait for lines to get into a venue, then wait for lines to get to the patio of the venue where bands were actually performing. And in what little time I did have, I chose to attend smaller events that lacked the corporate sponsorship necessitating said lines and said wristbands. So someone else was the one to Instagram Lady Gaga getting puked on; meanwhile I got to see shows unobstructed by big-box advertising that felt way, way more personal and memorable. For instance: I closed out SXSW at The Owl, a DIY space on the East Side with Eagulls, Tyvek, and Parquet Courts headlining.
Number of Messages on Thursday morning asking if I was safe:
Lots & lots; truly felt loved. Our hearts go out to those that didn’t get a message back.
An Alphabetical List of Bands I Saw:
Amanda X, BLXPLTN, Big Dipper, Big Ups, Bo Ningen, The Casket Girls, Cheerleader, Coachwhips, Connections, Crooked Bangs, Dead Gaze, Eagulls, Electric Eye, Empires, Ex-Cult, Ex Hex, Far-Out Fangtooth, Fenster, Forest Swords, Future Islands, Gretchen’s Disco Plague, Guerilla Toss, Habibi, HighasaKite, The Hold Steady, Hundred Waters, Hyenaz, Jess Williamson, Juan Wauters, Kishi Bashi, Leverage Models, Mom Jeans, Nothing, Parquet Courts, Perfect Pussy, Pins, Potty Mouth, Residuels, Samsaya, September Girls, SOLDOUT, STRNGR, Tony Molina, Traams, Tyvek, Vadaat Charigim, Warm Soda, Weeknight, Wild Moccasins, Wildcat Apollo, Wye Oak, The Wytches, Young Magic[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]
If I had gone to the Purity Ring show back in January ’13 at Webster Hall like I was supposed to (I had to work), then I would have seen the Brooklyn based experimental electronic duo, Young Magic, open up. Unfortunately I missed out on what was apparently a great show.
Although Young Magic is based in New York, their roots extend halfway around the world. Young Magic is comprised of Indonesian vocalist, Melati Malay and Australian producer, Isaac Emmanuel. Malay and Emmanuel joined forces back in 2010, and have been releasing music since 2011. In February, 2012, Young Magic released their first full length album, Melt. It’s been two years, so what have these guys been doing?
They’ve been doing a whole lot of touring, apparently. In 2012 and 2013, Young Magic traveled throughout North America, Europe, and Australia, picking up a great deal of new sounds along the way. The songwriting that occurred during their two year stint touring the world culminated in their sophomore album, Breathing Statues, out 5/6 on Carpark Records.
“Fall In,” the first single off of Breathing Statues, showcases Malay and Emmanuel’s experimentation with new sounds. With the inclusion of a sitar any track can sound trippy, but in “Fall In,” the duo subtly showcases the instrument with embellishments, flourishes and accents, managing to bring it out just enough to set the mood, but not too much that it overwhelms the track.
“Fall In” couples psychedelia with the ethereal vocals of Melati Malay, who’s breathy, relaxed and effortless styling melts with the keyboard section, rendering the two parts almost indistinguishable. As if that weren’t enough to produce a spacey vibe, Emmanuel’s repetitive and upbeat bass line pushes the song forward in a cyclical manner, allowing the listener to depart from reality, if only for a moment.
Surprisingly, there actually aren’t too many bells and whistles in this track. Occasional effects were added to layer, spread out and expand Malay’s vocals, but even that was minimal. Subtlety is key on “Fall In,” and both Emmanuel and Malay manage this masterfully.
With eclectic sounds, mesmerizing vocals, and impeccable production, Young Magic are definitely not just another run-of-the-mill hip Brooklyn electronic group, but are carving out a unique space for themselves in the electronic music scene.
Look out for upcoming spring and summer tour dates, and in the meantime check out “Fall In” below.
Tucked between the bustle of E 6th and some seemingly deserted train tracks was the South by Southwest nexus of Fader Fort and a converted warehouse identified only by its address at 1100 E. 5th, which would host an array of bands under the daring header “Mess With Texas”. I was especially grateful for the stellar lineup sponsored by a slew of vendors, since I’d somehow tragically forgotten to RSVP for Fader Fort. The Mess With Texas showcases were set to span three days and featured impressive rosters in both their day parties and their nighttime extravaganzas, with the venue shutting down midday. There was an outdoor space buffeting the huge warehouse floor which was equipped with massive, pounding amps. I don’t know if it’s just the necessity of drowning out all the bands other than the one you’re actually seeing, but I want to take a moment to note how extremely loud every single showcase I saw was. I mean, I could feel my hair follicles vibrating at some of these shows.
I felt guilty for missing Tycho’s set the night before so I planted myself beneath the awning of the outdoor stage, determined not to miss these boys this time. I was slightly disappointed, however, that due to the stage configuration the songs would not be accompanied by Scott Hansen’s gorgeous projections, which I’d been looking forward to seeing firsthand. Even without the visuals, Tycho bathed the crowd in a lush soundscape. Just as we settled into the dense, intoxicating layers, the speakers blew and silence fell. Apparently this had happened to Tycho earlier in the week, which only proves my assertion that no eardrum in Austin was safe from the incredible volume SXSW venues unleashed. It didn’t take long for the band to get it together and the encouraging crowd didn’t seem to mind the temporary snafu, falling right back into the sway. Despite the blazing sun beating on our shoulders, watching Tycho felt like being cleansed. Atmospheric, breezy guitar tones moved across my skin, anchored in Zac Brown’s elastic bass chords and the sensual beats provided by drummer Rory O’Connor. I let my vision blur out of focus, tilted my head back to the sky, and let the serene sounds saturate my senses.
Once Tycho’s set ended, I moved inside to escape the sun and (more importantly) to catch a few songs from indie darlings Girls. The incredible stage set-up included four band members as well as a coterie of boisterous back-up singers who did double-duty hyping up the audience. Flowers adorned the mic stands, reminiscent of so many altars and therefore drawing parallels between the players on stage and religious deities. I’d never seen Girls play live, and quite honestly never understood all the hype behind what I considered to be pretty run-of-the-mill garage rock. I know everyone is constantly losing their shit over the latest Girls releases, but for some reason none of the material ever really resonated with me. I can’t say that a venue this cavernous and filled with questionably shirtless bros was the ideal introduction, but in terms of their playing I can at least begin to see what all the fuss is about. There’s a compelling, vulnerable nature to the way Christopher Owens sings; this is true even at moments where the guitars burst explosively and the theatrics reach their greatest heights. “Vomit”, the band’s signature single, was a perfect example of this phenomenon, as it erupted with particular ferocity and brought the adoring crowd to its knees.
At some point (the point at which I tried to buy an overpriced Heinekin) I realized I’d left my ID in the pocket of last night’s outfit. Worried I would be denied entrance to any other showcases I tried to attend, I actually braved the crazy traffic to drive across town and retrieve it, hoping I’d make it back to the warehouse in time to see Cults. I arrived about halfway through their set but was absolutely tickled with what I saw. I’ve followed Cults since they began anonymously posting demos on bandcamp in the spring of 2010, but had somehow missed every single performance the Brooklyn-based band had played. The set lived up to all my expectations. It was sweltering inside the warehouse, the midday heat having turned it into an oven. So it was hard to imagine how Brian Oblivion and Madeline Follin, both sporting hairdos that would made Cousin It look positively bald, held up under such intense temperatures. But they seemed unfazed, running through favorites such as “Oh My God” “You Know What I Mean” and “Go Outside” with smiling faces and cutesy bopping. Madeline’s vocals sounded sublime and the band perfectly replicated the 60’s girl group vibe that made their 2011 self-titled debut such a standout.
There was plenty on the menu in terms of shows that evening; Of Montreal and Deerhoof made one of a handful of what were probably noteworthy and fun appearances. I would have loved to see Das Racist, Dirty Beaches, or Zola Jesus, for a second (or third) time, and I was dying to catch Cleveland noise pop outfit Cloud Nothings. While all provided great options for ways to spend my second night in Austin, I could think of nothing but this: at the Belmont that evening, Jesus and Mary Chain were slated to perform around midnight. In my obsession with getting into this packed, badge/wristband/ticket only show, I committed one of the cardinal sins of SXSW. No band, no matter how rare or epic the appearance, no matter how important to you in terms of influence or admiration, should cause you to wait around in a huge line with no hope of entry into the venue, thus forgoing the chance to see any one of a number of other of bands; even if your secondary choices don’t compare to the actual experience of seeing the prolific band in question, almost anything is better than standing around waiting for nothing to happen and missing out on a host of other opportunities. I did put in a brief appearance at 512 for Young Magic’s rooftop set, which was thrillingly luxurious. A sumptuous rendition of “Night In The Ocean” featured reverb drenched male and female vocals twining around its incantatory chorus. But I couldn’t get my mind off the possibility of seeing Jesus & Mary Chain.
After a few frantic texts, the idea of watching the show from the parking garage across the street was bandied about and that’s eventually where we found ourselves. In all honesty, I was content with the set-up, as we had a perfect view of the stage and again, thanks to the punishing volume at which all venues set their amps, could hear Titus Andronicus’s set perfectly. If I didn’t hold that band in such disdain I would have been nearly ecstatic, but I do totally think they’re overblown and pretentious and I was tired and still a little bummed, knowing that this was all a fool’s paradise.
Jesus & Mary Chain ripped through their first few numbers in a sonic blast that would have reached us even if our little perch had been blocks away rather than across the street. Unfortunately, we saw all of about three songs before a group of crusty idiots totally blew our cover and got us promptly kicked out by a surly security guard.
Defeated and dejected, we trudged back to the Mess With Texas warehouse, where turntable.fm was hosting a slew of DJs in an elaborate promotion for the site, which allows users to DJ for their friends and random strangers alike in private chatrooms loosely based around a genre or theme. When turntable.fm first launched I spent an amusing evening in one of these chat rooms with my roommates and some of their coworkers, as well as some friends of ours back in Ohio. It seemed a novel way to share new tunes with old buddies, though my interest in doing so had since tapered off. I wasn’t a high school sophomore anymore, you know? I spend enough time in front of a computer as it is without haunting chat rooms, waiting for my chance to blow minds with some new Clams Casino track. I decided to start a blog instead.
I’m not sure if many of the other attendees had had similar experiences with turntable.fm but if they had not, they were certainly introduced to its interface that evening. Diplo stood center stage but was flanked by dancers shuffling around in over-sized Japanime-style animal heads meant to mimic the avatars available to users on turntable.fm. There was also a table full of paper avatar masks right at the door, presumably for guests to wear as a means of creeping each other the fuck out. Huge screens showed a cute little animated version of Diplo spinning. It was kitschy and sort of fun, but also kind of over-the-top. At SXSW you’re constantly being marketed to, and sometimes its nice to have things like the music to focus on to forget that. Turntable.fm was not going to let you be distracted by a silly-old real-life DJ like Diplo. Actually, I’m pretty sure the man has some kind of investment in the whole project, but still.
Diplo spun classics like MIA and Ginuwine and spent a lot of time getting an already rowdy crowd pumped up into a delirious craze. I saw some truly raunchy dance moves and if I’d been a little drunker probably would have joined in, but I was still feeling like an idiot over the whole Jesus & Mary Chain debacle. I vowed that Friday would be a day of redemption; I’d see so many bands my eyeballs would fall out of my skull. I’d shake my tail feather furiously to Star Slinger and Neon Indian’s Hype Hotel DJ sets. I’d reserve my energy tonight and tomorrow collapse from exhaustion if that was what it came down to. Who was I kidding? I’m getting older and was already a bit exhausted; I could feel a sore throat coming on. No matter! I shouted bravely to myself. These shows will go on, and I’m gonna try to see damn near all of them.
Each week Audiofemme gives away a set of tickets to our featured shows in NYC! Scroll down to enter for the following shindigs.