SXSW Day 2: “One Small Sweaty City”

16 March 2012 | 2:29 pm | Cambell Klose

Cambell Klose squeezes his way through the jammed streets of Austin to check out DZ Deathrays, Twerps and the much-buzzed Emma Louise.

Today is significantly busier than yesterday and many of the main streets are shut off to traffic and are swamped with people. Even with both footpaths and the wide American streets bequeathed entirely to SXSW festival goers, the streets are still jammed as people make their way from venue to venue. In many cases the street becomes an impromptu stage as tribal drumming circles replete with a large dancing circle make their way slowly around town. The police are extremely helpful and there seems to be very little trouble considering how many people are mashed together in one small, sweaty city. The only problem with the extra people seems to be that the City Of Austin has forgotten to put on extra buses, leaving many people stranded at the end of the night.

However, I have no trouble getting into town this morning and Perth band, The Voltaire Twins, are the first act for the day. Playing so early in the day at 1pm makes it hard to draw a crowd, but they still manage to entice a small but enthusiastic few off the street. It definitely grows as the set continues. Led by an energetic and rather cute lead singer they belt out a delightfully sweet blend of indie and electro. Their music is delightfully dreamy and abstract and their keyboardist's brightly coloured sweater is definitely the fashion equivalent of their music. As soon as they finish at the Brew Bar, the band have to rapidly pack up and trudge over to the convention centre where they have another gig an hour later. The one definite thing about SXSW is that you are going to end up walking almost incessantly throughout the day, from venue to venue. This definitely proved to be the case as I scurried over to Mohawk for a Laneway Festival-sponsored event.

The Voltaire Twins

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

Kindness have been creating a lot of buzz already at SXSW and there is excellent reason for that. Their dreamy disco funk is a world apart from every other sound at the festival, and when there are so many bands playing it is important to be able to stand out. And that they do with style. Their set is captivating from beginning to end. There are two girls who do back-up vocals and spend the gig swaying like they are in a gospel choir. The drummer has a striking resemblance to former Arsenal football player Kolo Toure and lead singer Bainbridge is mesmerising as he moondances across the stage as though his legs are made of rubber. They end with a fantastic rendition of Teardrops, complete with a cowbell used for percussion purposes. Kindness were predicted to be a breakout band even before the festival begun, and today's performance definitely has strengthened their case. Australian duo from Brisbane, DZ Deathrays are next on the Mohawk inside stage. This is their second time at SXSW and they seem to have acquired a strong following of both locals and a fair few Aussie's who have come to see them. The bandroom is completely full and by the time they start there is a genuine air of anticipation. The set itself is completely hectic and dominated by driving riffs and powerful drums. The screaming vocals can at times be barely heard over the instruments as Shane Parsons and Simon Ridley thrash their way through the 30-minute set. The crowd absolutely love them and the raucous applause as they finish is tribute to a brilliant live show.


Back on the outside stage the sun is shining and people are crowding over the balcony, nursing a beer and watching Chairlift warm up. Finally after some technical glitches they are ready and return to the stage costumed up in the brightest colours imaginable. Their nostalgia inducing, synthy pop just feels so right on a beautifully sunny afternoon. Singer Caroline Polachek is almost hypnotic as she glides and twirls around the stage, her colourful cape and shawl billowing out behind her like the plume of a peacock. Having just returned from a three week tour in Australia the band indicate they are looking to come out again later this year.

Escaping back inside to avoid the sun's harsh rays on my fragile white skin The Twerps are about to begin their set. After hearing so many American accents for so long it is weird walking into a room and hearing so many Australians talking. Word had got around that The Twerps were playing and it seems almost every Australian at SXSW is here to watch them (there is also a large number of locals). Their set is tight but you can see they are tired and jet-lagged after apparently 24 hours in transit from Melbourne. They pick up throughout the set and by the end are in full flight. The crowd are exceptionally appreciative and there is a scramble for CDs after the gig. The day sort of descends into anarchy and disarray here for a while as I embark on a 6km round trip to the Hotel San Jose to watch Poor Moon, a Fleet Foxes' side project, and catch folk band Blitzen Trapper only to discover that for some reason the schedule has been changed and they have already played. Failing that Santigold was going to be the second option, however the line to go see her is about 400 metres long and not moving. Fortunately the Molotov Bar offers some respite with Mansions On The Moon who sound like the Klaxons.

Emma Louise is playing at the Stage On 6th tonight as part of the French Kiss record label showcase. There could not possibly be a less fitting venue for this showcase than the Stage On 6th. The walls are decked out with images of buff cowboys and country singers, sporting giant broad brimmed hats and benevolent smiles whilst busty blonds are wrapped seductively in the American flag. Tacky animal heads and other Wild West paraphernalia also feature prominently. The first band to be showcased, Workout from Brooklyn, are entertaining and do their best to rouse the lethargic crowd. The guitarist is wearing a poncho while the drummer is dressed up as a sailor. However neither come anywhere near as entertaining as the lead singer who had eyes like Rasputin and shakes his body as though possessed. They sound like a New York version of Modest Mouse. The next band, We Are Trees, are not worth the hype and have nothing to distinguish them from so many others. Fortunately along come LA band Races. They have only just been signed to the label and deserve to be huge. They sound completely unique and have a beautiful ethereal quality to their music that immediately transports you to the deepest reaches of a pristine redwood forest. There is almost a riot as everyone surges to the front to pick up free merchandise as they finish their set.

Emma Lousie

Finally it is time for Emma Louise and her band to come on. Despite some technical problems with the sound early on they regroup and produce one of the best gigs of the day. Opening with Temporary Friend, Louise has the complete attention of the crowd from the second she starts to sing. Her voice is beautiful and enchanting, grabbing the attention of even people out on the street who press their faces through the window to see who is playing. Some Americans standing next to me turn around and say she is the best person they've seen all day and ask if she is going to be touring around the rest of the States. She has accumulated by far the biggest crowd of the night and, ending with Jungle, many of the Australian contingent up front cheer in appreciation and even have a sneaky dance.

Completely exhausted I stumble out the door and into the next bus home, knowing that I will be doing it all again tomorrow.