Day 2 of SXSW was all about rock and roll in its many different forms and the hipster-fied stretch of clubs that is East 6th St. was the place to find it. When it comes to navigating the crowds and madness of SXSW, you can either take the approach of jumping around town, which may result in more time traveling than actually seeing bands, or you can stick to one area and hope for the best. That is what worked on Wednesday as I jumped between just a few clubs. Despite the multitude of shows to see across Austin, I found just what I wanted all within a few blocks. Here are five favorites I caught…
Stonefield at Hotel Vegas
The Findlay sisters are Stonefield, and they are one of the more buzzed about acts at SXSW this year. Their afternoon set at Hotel Vegas proved they are more than worthy of that buzz. Vocalist and drummer Amy Findlay is clearly the powerhouse of the group with a voice that seems to boom down from the mountains and brings to mind groups like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. Her sisters only enhance that power with thunderous grooves of thick, 70’s-esque rock and roll. It may be ideal to catch Stonefield late at night with some sort of fractal lightshow behind them, but even in the daylight these Australian sisters demonstrated some serious power.
Yonatan Gat at Wonderland Bar
While people streamed by on East 6th St. a small crowd gathered on the patio of Wonderland Bar for a mind-bending experience with the guitarist Yonatan Gat. It would be easy to just use a blanket term like psych rock to describe what this trio does, but that would be over-simplifying. Along with a bassist and drummer, Gat had immersed himself in the intimate crowd, who watched the band while the band watched each other. It’s hard to say how much of their set was improvised, but my guess is all of it. Gat’s guitar style veered wildly from more straight psych sounds to Middle Eastern and tribal noises, less focused on giving his audience a set of songs than on warping their collective minds with the psychedelic soundscapes him and his band play. This was definitely one of the weirder musical experiences of the day, and in that sense it was worth it.
The Waco Brothers at Shangri-La
If you had walked into Shangri-La a couple of hours before the Waco Brothers took the stage, you would have been a bit baffled on how these Chicago country rock mainstays ended up on a bill alongside lackluster rappers, some band that sounded like Dave Matthews meets bro-ska, and a trio that was a poor attempt to rip off The Cure. It almost felt insulting. But this is SXSW after all and if you know the Waco Brothers, you know they couldn’t have cared less. In Waco fashion, the band looked a little loosened up from drinking beers before the set. Jon Langford cracked jokes with the crowd and the band played a handful of songs off their new album Going Down In History. Their audience wasn’t large by any means but it was made up of loyal fans, all of whom seemed to enjoy the more-rock-less-country sound of the new songs. Of course, the band rewarded their fans with old favorites like “Too Sweet To Die”.
The Bad Lovers at Hotel Vegas
The Bad Lovers are one of those Austin bands that seem to give zero fucks about doing anything other than having a good time. They take a DIY, minimal approach to any kind of promotion, and in that sense they fit right in at Hotel Vegas. Good times seem to be their first and only priority, which is perfectly alright. Their short set at Hotel Vegas was just what the doctor ordered with its mix of stoner country, bubblegum rock, and feel-good harmonies to compliment songs about partying. And you could find a little bit of harmonica, a little bit of tambourine, and a little bit of jamming in it all. You know, good times.
Daddy Long Legs at Hotel Vegas
Fresh off their recent tour of Europe, Brooklyn-based trio Daddy Long Legs rolled into Hotel Vegas, stealing the show and leaving a charged and awestruck crowd of revelers in their wake. Brandishing their signature death blues style, which could be likened to a perilous speeding locomotive with Casey Jones at the helm, the group sounded more raucous and rowdy than ever. Front man and harp wailer Daddy Long Legs himself preached to a crowd in need of rock and roll redemption. His drummer banged his maraca on a beer soaked drum while Daddy and his harp presided over a crazed revivalist tent sermon. By the time the trio got to their best known song “Motorcycle Madness” the crowd grew into a frenzy and jumped onstage to dance and sing along with blissful abandon.
This all-girl Austin group has been steadily building a strong local following over the last year. Their set was an ideal way to kick off the day with the mellow, soothing vocals of Leslie Sisson and the dreamy instrumentation of her and her band mates. Reminiscent of the pop-influenced indie rock bands of the late 80’s, Moving Panoramas brought just enough energy to pull you out of your hangover and back into the day.
Above photos by Arthur VanRooy.
Neil Ferguson will be hitting the pavement all week at SXSW. For live updates, drunk tweets, and snarky commentary of the madness, make sure you follow him on Twitter: @musicjournzo
Stay tuned to Glide Magazine for more coverage of SXSW 2016!