SxSW Day 3: The Perils Of Party-Hopping

16 March 2013 | 11:21 am | at SxSW

Today the sun isn't just shining down on SxSW, it' s beating down. But it's worth the sunburn risk, dehydration and thin layer of dust to trek south...

SXSW mornings start with a lot of talk about coffee. More specifically, the need for a strong coffee to jump-start the day. However, a far stronger start to the day can be got from a group of 17 year-olds from Illinois. Well, not just any random group of Illinois teens but preferably this particular lot who go by the name of The Orwells. These guys deliver a scorching brand of garage punk guaranteed to shake the shit out of you, especially lead singer Orwell Mario Cuomo. He's one of those who was birthed in frontman placenta. Cuomo is loose and wild and wildly loose. Expect him to become either ridiculously famous real soon or ridiculously burnt out even sooner.

The Orwells made it hard for the bands who follow at the Scoot Inn's Thrasher party. Bleached make a good go of it. The LA-based sisters, formerly of buzz band Mika Miko, know their way around their instruments moreso than The Orwells, but their riot grrrl past has given way to a lighter party grrrl sound. But it manages to poke you in all the right pressure points.

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Today the sun isn't just shining down on SXSW, it' s beating down. And Scoot Inn seems to be slap bang in the centre of a suburban dustbowl. But it's worth the sunburn risk, dehydration and thin layer of dust to trek south for the quaint Rainey St clutch of venues.

This stretch of heritage houses hides a series of bars, one of which is Lustre Pearl, host to the day's Dickies party. And here is found Generationals. Considering one of this New Orleans' indie band's tracks has had year's of play on Australian TV, very few people know their name (one of their tracks has long featured on an Australian car insurance ad). But someone has been taking notice. Two years ago they barely filled small bars at SXSW, this time they command a full backyard of college types who seem familiar with one or two the band's songs. The band have tightened their alt.pop stylings somewhat and manage not to let the keyboards dominate the punchy guitars as they sometimes do on their recordings. Generationals are Foster The People minus the cute looks but with more than just the one catchy song.

Back at Scoot Inn, and a long queue has formed making it impossible to get back into the venue in time for Chelsea Light Moving. But from afar (peering over the fence... ahem) you would swear this is a young Sonic Youth. How the fuck does Thurston Moore look like his younger self? And as you'd expect from young/old Moore, there are intense build-ups of punkesque noise that further disturbs the suburban Austin dust.

With the Scoot Inn now busting at the seams with skaters and punks, the indoor area housing Mac DeMarco and Merchandise is impossible to penetrate. Back into town then, where Aussies are gathering on a balcony at the W for a quick Mushroom showcase that features a set by acoustic singer/songwriter Vance Joy as he celebrates his newfound international recognition.

Over at Red 7 (home to largest entry stamp ever - it covers the whole back of your hand with a deep blue R7), the combined Secretly Canadian/Jagjaguwar/Dead Oceans showcase begins with Cali calypso (Cali-ypso?) indie kids Cayucas. When it works, it's a fresh way to vamp up a fast-approaching-its-use-by-date indie pop period; when it fails, think Kokomo

The week's second attempt to see US-adored Aus band Atlas Genius is once again foiled by overly-long queues. Sharing a bill at the Warner showcase with Flaming Lips, tonight's queue actually started forming early afternoon and one Lip loon has been in that line for hours dressed as one Jesus Christ.

Returning to Red 7 means waiting in another queue to get back into a party only recently exited. A frustrating experience under normal circumstances but here in Austin SXSW-goers know it's part of the risk of party-hopping. Lines here tend to be treated as bonding time, where buzz band chatter and secret gig rumours are swapped. Of course, today that queue chatter is all about the impending JT and Prince gigs. The big questions being: is it worth signing up to MySpace for the JT ballot?; does anyone actually expect to get into the Prince gig? [The consensus is "no" on both counts at the time of publishing.]

Back inside Red 7 and Suuns are completely blowing what's left of peoples' minds (this is day three) with their intense rumblings and through-gritted-teeth vocals. At times all four members seem to be playing their own different song at the same time only to suddenly surge together as one mighty pulse of sound. Members of Besnard Lakes can be seen taking note at side of stage.

It's a tough call to make but a quick run next door to Holy Mountain is necessitated knowing that New Zealand's Ghost Wave are making their final SXSW appearance for the year. As they are yet to visit Australian shores, this is a rare opportunity. They do not disappoint. And yes it's a cheap observation to make but they really do keep NZ's Flying Nun sound alive with their lo-fi gaze attitude. Surely there's an Aus promoter out there willing to take a chance. A perfect BIGSOUND guest later this year maybe?

Once again, it was back in line outside Red 7. The wait is much longer this time as people make a last-minute scramble to get near one of this SXSW's Most Important Bands, Foxygen. Once in the venue though, the wait continues. The patio area that contains the Foxygen stage has hit capacity and punters patiently hope that some folk will exit, making room for a replacement audience member. Giving the Foxygen audience lotto a miss, the frontroom crowd blisses out with Toronto's emotional art chillers Diana (including one-time members of Destroyer and Hidden Cameras). Fellow, and not-so-secret, Canadians Besnard Lakes take it up another notch with their wall of post-gaze/post-prog intensity. It's fucking beautiful, it's fucking loud. Members of Suuns can be seen taking note at side of stage.

With the evening ending in this way, it's definitely gonna take a strong dose of The Orwells to get tomorrow started.

Andrew Mast