Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

SXSW Music – if you’re Irish, come into the parlour

If you think St Patrick’s Day was bad where you were, you’ve obviously never experienced this strange beast called St Patty’s Day. For the Yanks in Austin, being Irish basically means drinking until you puke, listening to terrible Irish music …

Fri, Mar 18, 2011, 15:27


If you think St Patrick’s Day was bad where you were, you’ve obviously never experienced this strange beast called St Patty’s Day. For the Yanks in Austin, being Irish basically means drinking until you puke, listening to terrible Irish music and wearing something green. It’s like a night at the Player’s Lounge in Fairview with better weather and tacos.

No-one escapes. The White House welcomed someone called Edna Kennedy (per someone on CNN) with a bowl of grass (again, per someone on CNN). The Prez smiled for the cameras and wondered about this strange place called Ireland. He’s not alone – I wonder about this strange called Ireland all the time.

After the jump, a rundown on what hit me right between the ears from yesterday. I also saw a lot of other acts too, but they didn’t leave a lasting impression or I forgot to ask them their name. I’ll catch them again – most bands who’re serious about what they’re doing are playing multiple gigs or else they’ve cloned themselves.

The day started with a Treme party where Dancingman504 lead off a second line shuffle with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band a-hooting and a-hollering. It wasn’t NOLA but it was good fun.

Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr take their name from two US NASCAR driving dudes, their stars and stripes stage get-up from their local Wal-Mart and their pop from the freaky drawer of the Flaming Lips’ wardrobe. Hugely infectious harmonies and kooky songs which you know would sound fabulous on the radio.

Much love too for Oberhofer’s ramshackle garage-rock, especially the scruffy anthem “Awy Frm U”. Will Wiesenfeld AKA Baths was fantastic, scrunched up electronic wallops and blunted wobbly bleeps which hit you right in the gut. His live show makes the “Cerulean” album even more of a wow.

Last year, I was raving about Givers, but no-one was listening naturally. This year, everyone is raving about Givers, proof that all good things come to those who wait. Gorgeous frantic indie tunes with a deadly buzz to them.

Went out to the hipster wilds of East Austin to hang around pouting in the sun listening to Therapies Son and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, tips from Nialler9 and Leagues respectively. The former has a gorgeous Antony-esque voice and Girls-like tunes which you know will spread their wings and head for the clouds on record. The latter went one way (tough indie, lo-fi crunchy pop) and then another (interesting funk and soul slips and slides) and you were happy to be along to have Ruban Nielson as your driver.

New Domino signing Austra was dropdeap amazing, an electropop witch leading a coven of singers and players with great aplomb. It sounded great because she’s got the songs already worked out and knows that Fever Ray had better watch their dry-ice. Dominique Young Unique is all about paaaaaarty hip-hop and she’s got the smart beats to go with the call-and-response rhymes.

There’s a lot of bands out here with “young” in their name (must be a meme) and Young Man and Young Magic were yesterday’s reps. Young Man has a stately way with indie tunes which will remind you of The Antlers in terms of intensity and intent. Oz band Young Magic were one for the twist mob, playing frisky psychysoulboogie with sunshine bleeps to keep your head nodding. “You With Air” is the tune to fall in love with first.

The Chain Gang Of 1974 is a rock’n’rave groove machine which takes its cues from LCD Soundsystem but runs in another way entirely. Fronted by Denver dude Kamtin Mohager (who earns his corn playing bass with 3OH!3), they’ve got the big vision thing down pat.

Kyla La Grange also has that vision thing as well. The bare-footed British singer has oodles and oodles of old-fashioned, timeless, big pop tunes which have plenty of melodic ballast and already sound like classics in the making. There are nods here to the old-school gallery – Blondie here, Pretenders there – which are good names to have on your shoulder. The more the set went on, the more she relaxed and the better it got.

Going to church: I’ve seen some great gigs over the years in the Central Presbyterian Church (including Grizzly Bear, Girls and Rural Alberta Advantage) and both Glasser and Tune-Yards can be added to that list. Glasser brought out the hush from the songs on “Ring” and threw some lovely arty wobbles to show where she could be going next. Tune-Yards was SAVAGE. Her new album is getting a lot of play from me and this live show takes her to another level entirely. There’s a couple of players onstage aside from Merrill Garbus (including some great sax blowing) and there’s a superb tribal intensity to all the tunes. Yep, this is going to be her year.

The despatches: R.S.A.G. repped the Irish with his one-man-and-his-screen show. From Athens, Georgia, Reptar’s highNRG indie rock party tunes were a whole load of fun, while Superhumanoids and Las Robertas were worth a mention from last night’s fuzz-pop contingent. Really enjoyed the Sonos show too – five unaccompanied singers finding previously unheralded depths and thrills in songs by Oasis, Fleet Foxes and Radiohead.

The finale: a rush of blood to the head (and a pass which I knew would get me past the angry queues outside) saw me pedalling towards the Austin Music Hall for the Wu-Tang Clan. They were late (or maybe the amazing Fishbone who I finally caught were also late?), they were shambolic, they were under-repped (Ghost brought the house down when he joined U-God, Cappadonna, Inspectah Deck and GZA for “Bring Da Ruckus”), they were old-school, they were messy and, yep, they were the Wu. Don’t know if they’re worth the 35k they were looking for an Irish show last summer, though. And at a festival where all the buzz is about Odd Future (spotted moshing to The Black Lips last night), they’re now a hip-hop heritage act (The Eagles maybe?). But they’re the Wu. And the Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nothing to fuck with.

It’s Friday. There are more bands playing out there. Time to go to work.