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  South By Southwest 2006 - Day 4 dayshow  



Austin, TX


Protokoll, My Were They, Pacific, SIANspheric

Reviewed by:
  Tracers and PostLibyan  
Photographs by:



Day 4 began with Tracers and i heading out to have Japanese fast food at Zen. What i want to know is: why aren't there franchises of this chain in Marietta? Great noodles and awesome sushi.

Thus fortified, we headed out to The Drink on Sixth to catch the "launch party". I have no idea what they were launching (seeing as the website is still pretty much empty as of this writing), but they called the event "The Shoegaze Hacienda", and with a name like that they couldn't have kept me away with a stick. Anyway, at this event were giving away free vodka and whiskey drinks. We stuck to the old reliable Shiner Bock, and was orders of magnitudes more sober than many of the people there. Which came in real handy when mayhem struck...

But more about the mayhem in a moment.


Postlibyan indulged me the day before with our trek to the day party of my favorite label, Peek-a-boo Records. In order to return the favor, I traipsed off unknowingly into the future chaos of The Shoegaze Hacienda. I should have realized it was going to be an odd afternoon when not only was the show running horrifically behind schedule, the bands had been rearranged so that it was something of a guess as to who was playing at any one time. Since I don't listen to this type of music day in and day out, each band was an unknown quantity. As an overall impression, I'll start by saying that in general the music was fun and each band had something to recommend it.


We walked in a little after 4 PM , and a band was winding down their set. I didn't catch their name, and barely heard their sound, so we will ignore them. Shortly thereafter, another band began to set up. The guy standing in front of the mic had a huge afro, but the crowd was standing very far away from the stage, as crowds are wont to do at large, mostly empty venues. This guy earned my respect and amusement when he looked up from his tuning and said into the microphone, "Do not be afraid of the hair! It will not eat you!" People chuckled, but they did move forward.

Protokoll: don't fear the hair!

Anyway, afro-boy was the leader of a standard 4-piece rock act called Protokoll, from Boston, Mass. They played a half hour of energetic, chimey brit-pop, with fast drumming and echoing basswork. The vocals were deep, and reminded me of Peter Murphy in Bauhaus trying to sing like David Bowie. I guess that makes the afro-ed vocalist of Protokoll a second generation Bowie imitator.... Anyway, i enjoyed their performance. They weren't a challenging rock band, but they were very fun to see and hear on a Saturday afternoon.


Musically, Protokoll didn't particularly stand out to me. They were good enough, but were mainly distinguished by the lead singer's rather large hair, his deep Brit-pop-esque vocals, and some really intense basswork.


After Protokoll wrapped things up, another standard 4-piece rock band took the stage. Both of the guitarists in this band had big, hollow-bodied guitars. They proceeded to play a half hour of Interpolish rock. That is, they are a young band who obviously listen to Interpol and are in the current wave of bands remotely descended from Gang of 4. Actually, the drummer was the most talented member of the band. He played with a bizarre clattering, scattered style that could get really heavy when necessary. Brilliant drumming!

My Were They rock The Shoegaze Hacienda!

What really ruined their set was the voice. The vocalist has a slightly whiney voice that is too high-pitched for the genre. It just sounded ... wrong. Anyway, their instrumentation was really great, it is just that the voice never fit in, in my mind. After they were done we learned that the band was called My Were They, and that they are from Chicago. Very great instrumentalists -- i would just recommend that they do something about the vocals!

My Were They in 2 guitar attack.


I know in my heart there must be some reason why many, if not most, of the bands we saw this year were playing hollow body guitars. Just a short time ago, a hollow body was a relatively uncommon thing, usually seen in bands that had a hint of rockabilly somewhere within their sound. Now it seems like every band plays them, even if their guitar sound is clean and straight up. I don't get it. Who is responsible for making these bands think this instrument is cool?


At this point in time SIANspheric, one of the bands i really really wanted to see at SXSW06, were supposed to be on. However, yet another band started to set up. ARGH! Day shows are never as organized as the actual events... Oh well. We could see from the name sprayed onto the cases they had their gear in that the band was called Pacific. They were, unsurprisingly, yet another standard 4-piece rock band. They proceeded to play some generic britpop, for at least 20 minutes or so.

Pacific's competent vocalist.

I was kind of bored, but i must admit that the vocalist was obviously the most talented singer we had seen yet that day. Anyway, i was sitting there being kind of bored with their generic Oasis-damaged tunes, when suddenly they played a song whose touchstone was not Oasis, but rather The Replacements. And then they played a song that was almost metallish, with the vocalist singing really deeply, almost goth-like. I am guessing that these last two tunes are from earlier in their career, while the britpop stuff is their new material. In which case i must say, Pacific have really lost it. They were so much better earlier in their career...


I suspect I liked Pacific a wee bit more than Postlibyan. Their earlier songs were a bit generic, but the vocalist had a pleasant enough voice and nothing about their music was distracting or out of place. Then, as they began to flip between genres, I was at least intrigued enough to wonder how representative their set was of their sound. But then they came back, which began to the more….interesting portion of the show.


At this point something very strange happened. The band joked about how they had been friends with the Promoter of the show for a while now, but before they were friends they were fans. And they cajoled him to come on stage and do two of his songs. They seemed to be having a blast, and the Promoter, some slightly older, very drunk British guy, tried very hard to impress with his singing.

Unknown britpopper of

The thing is this: no one in the crowd knew who the heck he was, or what band he had been in! Seriously -- i went around asking people if they recognized those last few songs, and no one did. (If you can identify this person from the above photo, please email us!) This means that either the Promoter was in some pretty obscure act, or that Pacific butchered the songs. I am guessing option one here, because Pacific were very competent.

So: mayhem had begun to ensue, but things were about to get worse. Setting up after Pacific was SIANspheric, a Canadian shoegaze band i have reviewed on this site before. SIANspheric share band members with Toshack Highway, which is the new project of Adam Franklin from Swervedriver. From the way that they were setting things up on stage, it seemed as if SIANspheric were going to play for a while, then the guitarists would leave and the rhythm section would carry on with Mr. Franklin.


We stepped away from the safety our booth and moved to the front of the stage, in preparation for the set by this band whom PostLibyan very much wanted to see. I was just confused though: it was unclear to me (the casual listener) which band was setting up --SIANspheric or Toshack Highway? In fact, throughout this next chain of events, I actually believed it was Toshack Highway on stage…


So SIANspheric set up. Except that they were very drunk. No, i mean, really drunk. The drummer started sound checking by hitting the cymbals with his hands. The bassist, (apparently the sober and sane member of the band) asked why, and the drummer said he was too drunk to find his drumsticks, so the bassist ran out to their van and got the guy his sticks.

SIANspheric: drunk drummer, finally with sticks.

SIANspheric set up as your standard 4-piece rock act (big surprise) with a lot of pedals. No, a lot. And then they started to play, and they were friggin' amazing. They created a wall of droning sound, guitar sounds cascading through their air almost palpably, with strong drumming and a lightly thudding bass line. This was exactly what i had hoped they would be like.

SIANspheric in the act of creating a wall of sound!


When the band I later discovered was SIANspheric began to play, I got it. This music was indeed worth waiting for. The loud drone surrounded us, infecting my consciousness from all directions. I stood quietly down front, focused on the soaring and swelling sound, watching each musician become more and more intense.


And then, 10 minutes in, the drummer screwed something up and the lead singer/guitarist THREW his guitar at the drum kit, yelled, "Fuck this, show's over!" at the crowd and then "You're fired!" at the drummer. The drummer, obviously drunk and mad, threw the guitar back at the singer, and then hurled his drumsticks at him as well. Only his aim sucked and the sticks went into the crowd. One landed right near me, so i got a souvenir of my 10 minute SIANspheric performance.

SIANspheric: shortly before he hurled the guitar...

Anyway, seeing the band break down like that, i now understand why in almost 15 years they have only managed to record 3 albums, and why every member of the band has "left" at one point in time or another... It just stinks because they were making such great music, and ego and/or drunkenness destroyed it. Oh well.

Adam Franklin goes to fetch his guitar, while one of the people looks really confused.


Well that was weird. I understand that the drummer in SIANspheric was really intoxicated and likely this was just the latest in a long line of issues. But, from where I was standing the music sounded really good, even with the drummer's mistake. When I saw the instrument fly, I thought, "Why?" And I remained confused on this issue still.


By this point in time it was rapidly approaching dinner time, and seeing as we had been standing around seeing rock bands all afternoon, the Minions were in desperate need of food. So went to Mekong River on 6th Street to have Pho. And it was good Pho. Not as spicy as the stuff i get on Buford Highway in Atlanta, but also not as full of unrecognizable pieces of cow innards either. It was very satisfying, and just the thing we needed in order to not be too drunk to see Superchunk, an event which was still 4.5 beer-drinking hours away!

Related Links:

Read the entire South by Southwest 2006 review:
    Day 1: Dayshow
    Day 1: Night showcases
    Day 2
    Day 3: Dayshow
    Day 3: Night showcases
    Day 4: Dayshow
    Day 4: Night showcases
Added bonus material:
    Photo gallery: Signs around Austin
    Photo gallery: hollow-bodied guitars at SXSW06
    Photo gallery: Pedal fetishism
In addition, some of these acts have been reviewed before. Links within the review point you to the appropriate places.


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