SXSW Day 1: An “Orgy Of Fine Music"

15 March 2012 | 2:27 pm | Cambell Klose

Cambell Klose discovers that one of the hardest bits of SXSW is getting there. No seriously, can anyone give him a lift?

Stuck in the intimidatingly large metropolitan sprawl of Dallas with no foreseeable way to get to Austin for SxSW things are beginning to get desperate. Luckily I stumble across another Australian in the cultural wasteland that is Dallas who is also going to Austin the next day and agrees to give me a lift. I learn he is also driving an old American Classical 1965 Ford Mustang which makes the deal even sweeter.

Driving down the highway from Dallas to Austin we attract plenty of attention from appreciative Texans who seem to love the fact two young Australians are driving a Mustang. It comes in handy again when we manage to score a parking spot in the centre of a bustling and exceptionally busy Austin as the parking inspector takes fancy to the car.

Downtown Austin is bursting with a chaotic mix of people wandering the streets. There are people literally spilling out into the street from every direction. Magicians wooing the lively crowd with jokes and c-grade magic tricks, daredevils walk on glass while getting their five-year-old child to pass around a hat for tips and there are musicians on every corner. A friend and I even get stopped and asked to audition for a modelling company as we wander the lively streets. There are literally people doing something entertaining everywhere along the streets, and vendors are selling everything from ice-creams to jewelery and even tarot card readings. After coming from the cultural wasteland of Dallas it feels like an oasis of culture and as art as live music flood the city.

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Cheer Up Charlie.

Tuesday is the very beginning of the music part of the festival and though that means there aren't many international acts playing today there are still a plethora of local acts being showcased around town. Austin band, Dikes Of Holland, put on a powerful show on the outside stage at Cheer Up Charlie. Their trance inducing psychedelic rock has the crowd swaying while some of the more zealous fans up the front start a mini mosh.

Dikes Of Holland.

Inside the Georgia based quartet, Today The Moon, Tomorrow The Sun, put on a fantastic show in the more intimate inside stage also at Cheer Up Charlie. The small room is completely packed out with punters who can't help but dance as they launch into their energetic blend of cute indie pop and subtle electro. The charismatic lead singer bashes away at the keyboard while shuffling her feet furiously and occasionally sharing a mic with the bearded bassist. With one of their songs even beginning with a dubstep intro they definitely put a lot of variety into a 30 minute show. Recently signed by Grey Day Records in Portland they are about to embark on a world tour. Definitely should be more hype about these guys.

Today The Moon, Tomorrow The Sun.

The orgy of fine music continues as local outfit, The Sour Notes, follow. The tiny room is overflowing by now as people cram into the room to catch the end of Today The Moon's set and the beginning of The Sour Notes' one. Hectic purveyors of pure indie rock they sound like a cross between The Shins and Arctic Monkeys if that could ever be possible. Their frontman twists and gyrates himself through the highly energetic and entertaining set. The crowd absolutely love them and at the end there is a scramble as people struggle to grab a free CD before the are all gone.

The Sour Notes.

Outside, local favourite Zorch are playing on the open-air stage. Maybe they are good, but after the two beautiful and subtle shows that have just played inside their set seems lacking.

Watching two piece, Jack & Ace play at the Gypsie Bar comes as close to a religious experience one could get at a music festival. They've phenomenal soulful ballads and melodies would put even Bon Iver to shame. They are the new project of Bob Nanna (former lead singer of emo/hardcore bands Braid and Hey Mercedes) but there is no sign of Nanna's hardcore beginnings as they end with I'm Sorry That You Are The Black Death, a tongue in cheek song about the death of Nanna's cat.

After half an hour of beautifully expressive music and self deprecating humour there is not one person in the crowd who isn't awestruck by the sheer beauty of the gig they just witnessed. The night winds up with hyped Brooklyn based band, Total Slacker. Their psychedelic rock seems just a little forced and felt like feedback merely for feedback's sake. It has been a brilliant introduction to SXSW and if this is merely the warm up night then the rest of the festival has a lot to live up to.