SXSW Thursday: Cloud Nothings, Houndmouth, Vintage Trouble

It seems somewhat strange that getting to downtown Austin shortly before 2 feels like running late and that opportunities are being missed. Will there only be 12 hours of music instead of 14? How terrible. How slothful. While there may be no rest for the weary, sometimes the weary get to rest. On the way downtown, there is solace in the comment from Foxygen’s Sam France, who in feeling that they weren’t at their best explained that they generally aren’t awake and playing music this early.

[Foxygen Photo by @glidemag]

En route to Emo’s, there’s a quick pit stop that involves The James Douglas Show, doing a tremendous impression of Living Colour from the late ’80s. High octane vocals from the blond coiffed, heavily muscled Douglas (presumably) and hi-hop metal ease into deep and smooth funk nicely augmented with organ and keys. Their allure fades quick as the move to more standard fare.

On the Jr. stage at Emo’s, the home for the Brooklyn Vegan festivities, PAWS from Glasgow, Scotland beckon the crowd closer to the stage before unleashing a burst of Vaselines inspired rock. The rest of their set is a high-paced Nirvana-influenced set with deep bass, powerful drums and vocals at a near scream. We are finally at an age where the younger bands of today are growing up with Nirvana and grunge rock as a deep influence. PAWS is definitely in a happier place than much of the grunge rock godfathers.

Outside, METZ (apparently all caps is the new thing with band names) unleashes a 25 minute barrage of furious, bone-thumping hardcore. The Canadian trio pounds out short bursts of adrenaline pounding rock with lead singer Alex Edkins howling with a gut-roiling vamp about the joys of getting wasted and hanging out with your friends. For someone that screams the vast majority of his vocals, Edkins actually had a nice voice, seemingly yowling on key rather then just as loud as he can. Slam dance worthy, the only person to risk injury was some kid that stage dove twice into a wooden beam before tumbling from the roof in an attempt to shinny across the light rack.

Back indoors, the mood could not be more different with Widowspeak. Blending three electric guitars into a pleasing hum, lead singer Molly Hamilton warbles ethereally into a heavily reverbed mic through a pair of leisurely songs. They sound as much like Mazzy Star as they do Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Herefter. A quick check into the main stage area leads to a practical bar in returning to the side stage. Despite ample room, they have restricted access to a sadly uninformed line of people.

[Widowspeak Photo by @hearnebraska]

The Trunk Road will always have an off ramp for Dylan Baldi and Cloud Nothings. The kid from Cleveland just gets good music. On Attack On Memory, the fresh-faced teenager reinvented himself as a grunge rock descendant.  A new album is rumored for later this year and Baldi’s growth has been evident over the last two SXSWs. This year Baldi emerged with shoulder-length hair and a scraggly beard. A far cry from the 19-year-old Elvis Costello-ish kid that once bemoaned being marked with underage X’s on each hand. Opening the set with a 10-minute-plus run through Wasted Days, Cloud Nothings played tremendously polished and powerful versions of most of the tracks from Attack On Memory. Lyrically and musically, the two new songs inserted into the mix do not differ much from Attack On Memory so there will be no gigantic leap in direction as between Baldi’s first two albums.

At Rusty’s, a reunited Vietnam ambles through a short set that’s informed by blues and soul as much as surf rock and sprinkled with psychedelic touches. Looking slightly hippieish, they play a brand of rock that might get them more attention were they younger. They split a couple years back but recently regrouped to record a new album. This band knows how to play a song and its definitely good to have them back.

My Old Kentucky Blog’s always excellent Vaya Con Tacos party always extends through the dead hours between the official and unofficial parties. To close out Day One, Houndmouth from Indiana channel the rootsiest of rock with a communal style reminiscent of The Band. Harder than the twangy folk-acts that are all the rage, Houndmouth should soon be coming on the radar of Hidden Track’s readers.

[Houndmouth Photo by @hasilva]

The official events commence with Vintage Trouble at The Six Lounge, a venue that doesn’t seem thrilled to have SXSW in their building, as part of the Sony showcase. Between The Trunk Road and other HT columnists, you should be quite familiar by now with Ty Taylor and the Vintage Trouble outfit. The stage is on a rooftop balcony and I am somewhat fortunate to get in. The cozy confines make for a remarkably intimate show and there is the surrealness of seeing the performance being broadcast on the side of the building across the street. James Brown is surely smiling down from heaven on Taylor as he embodies the soul of the hardest working man in show biz like no other. There was even a legitimate encore as the loud incessant chants of “One More Song” prompted a Sony exec to respond to the band’s quizzical look with “sure, get back out there.” (Your humble narrator inadvertently stumbled like Forrest Gump into prime real estate for the show and the encore “discussion”).

The lines for Richard Thompson at Antone’s for a showcase featuring Buddy Miller/Jim Lauderdale and Emmylou Harris and at The Belmont for a loaded one featuring The Flaming Lips, The Joy Formidable and Frightened Rabbit are at ludicrous proportions. Migrating down Sixth Street, Capsula, a wild trio from Argentina, are making lots of noise at The Whiskey Room. Guitarist Martin Guevara finishes the set by generating feedback from everything he can: the mikes, the wiring, the audience and anything he can find while walking through the crowd. David Fricke was enamored with these guys a couple years back and that man rarely steers anyone wrong.

The rest of the evening included Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside, Rayland Baxter, with an introduction from Tony Clifton, Phosphorescent, Akron/Family and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. However, Jeff Greenblatt, Hidden Track’s other worthy correspondent, was also present for these events. Read what Jeff has to say about them. I am led to believe that in lieu of an unrestricted expense account, he has been tweeting and writing longhand about what he’s seen. Feel free to bombard him with as many questions and demands as you like, he will answer and act on all of them. I guarantee.

[Phosphorescent Photo by @professorkeanbean]

In short: Sallie Ford – daft yet immensely fun; Baxter – beset by the inequities of the upstairs Caitlin Ford set; Phosphorescent – wonderfully transcendent; Akron/Family – shocking in its illogicality and UMO – always fascinating to watch Ruban Nielson.

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