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  South By Southwest 2008 - Day 3  



Austin, TX


Magic Bullets, Yacht, Meneguar, Parts and Labor, Joan of Arc, Spring Tigers, Antietam , Say Hi, Cloud Cult, Kurt Vice, My Dad is Dead

Reviewed by:
  Tracers and PostLibyan  
Photographs by:



Friday came, and with it came the heat. From the time I ventured from the hotel in the morning through the last band of the evening, it was really really warm in Austin . I think at one point in the afternoon, I checked the weather and it was 95 degrees and sunny. Admittedly, I'm from Atlanta , so I get the warmth thing, albeit not in March.

All of this is just to point out that in many ways Friday was our slow day, as we tried to take it easy so as not to overtax ourselves on this Day 3 of SxSW. Still, I was happy that Thursday had been a relatively early night, since PostLibyan was quite insistent that we get up and about, as he really wanted to go over to the NoisePop show at The Red-Eyed Fly to see the first band, a San Francisco act called Magic Bullets.


About a year ago, i got a promo CD from these guys. I liked it pretty well, although i have yet to get around to reviewing it. I was really curious to see how they would come across live, so i dragged Tracers out early to see them.


Suitably fortified with coffee, we made an early start and wandered over to The Red-Eyed Fly around 11:30 AM. We went around to the usual outside side entrance, only to find that it was marked for band load in only. So we went around to the front of the building, queued up in the sun (thankfully, I had lathered up in sunscreen previously), and waited for the venue to open. I'm always surprised by how even these early day shows draw a crowd, especially when the first bands are relatively unknown. Of course, most days shows offer free food and/or drinks, and I suspect many of the folks who surrounded us were is search of either.

With a couple of minutes to spare, the doors opened and we filed into the front room of The Red-Eyed Fly, which I have never visited. After a managed to acquire a Bloody Mary (courtesy of one of the sponsors, Tito's Handmade Vodka), I turned around to see the six piece Magic Bullets taking the stage. Well, taking the stage may be a bit of misnomer. Rather, there was a tiny little stage placed in one corner, and somehow they had managed to stuff the 6 musicians on to it. This included two guitarists, a bassist, drums, and keyboards, as well as the lead singer, a gentleman who looked to be about 10 gazillion feet tall with the wing span of a pterodactyl. I think his head almost brushed the roof of the room when he stood on the stage.

Magic Bullets crowded on the stage.

As I mentioned previously, PostLibyan really wanted to see Magic Bullets. Some months back we acquired their first CD as promo, and upon listening to it, PostLibyan though the were rather reminiscent of the late Atlanta band American Dream. I, on the other hand, hadn't heard the promo, so I was a bit surprised when Magic Bullets began to play and they sounded very…well….sunny and bouncy. Nope, nothing like American Dream at all, to my ears. Rather, they played an almost dream pop type music, filled with chorused guitars, Motown-y bass, and a vocalist who recalled some late 80s Britpop band who I can't place right now. And they were really tight and good, with the native reverb of the front room enhancing the pedally effects of their sound. The most charming aspect of this band was the vocalist's stage performance, as he bounced around, dancing back and forth in the small space, generally having a grand old time. His cheery happiness (along with the bouncing of the bassist, the most energetic bassist this side of Pistolero) just enhanced the experience, so much so that by the end of their set, we had already decided to catch their Saturday evening showcase just to make sure this wasn't a fluke.


Well, you see, that's not exactly how they sounded on the album. No, really, there is a hint of American Dream in the production on the disc. Live though, they far exceeded expectations. I liked well enough going in, but after having seen this set, i left a fan. Truly a wonderful band.


Afterwards, we wandered off for a lunch of the best Mediterranean food I think I've ever had, and then returned to the hotel to cool off and prepare for our midafternoon show trek. So, after a couple of hours, I lathered on more sunscreen, grabbed some water, and we wandered off to our next destination: Ms. Bea's. This expedition took us across the interstate and over several blocks to the backyard patio of a very small bar. We were running early, and I believe the shows were running a bit late, so we caught the last couple of songs by Yacht, a gentleman who combined dance beats with spoken/rapping vocals that reminded me of nothing more than Judi Chicago.

Yacht, rapping and sweating.

So, whilst I contemplated this conundrum, I peered around the patio and was vaguely amused by the series of fans someone had rigged up to keep the sound system cool in the blistering heat.

Improvised cooling for the sound system at Ms. Bea's.

After a quick break down, Brooklyn 's Meneguar took their place under the awning at the far side of the patio and began to play. At the beginning, this four piece came across as straight up semi-punk, with some discordant notes and shouted vocals. I wasn't too impressed, but then about halfway through their set, a remarkable transformation took place. The discordant notes started to smooth out, and the vocals actually began to show some harmonies over their newly found melodicism. This was much nicer and more pleasant to listen to, and I have to admit that by the end of their set, I was much more kindly disposed towards Meneguar than I had been at first.


Yeah, this band really changed as they played. I don't know of the sound was off at first, or if they had to get warmed up, or if the music they make has actually changed over time, with noisiness being replaced by melodicism. Or vice versa. Who knows? At first i was moderately amused, but the stuff they played towards the end of their set was downright entertaining. I honestly don't know what to make of this turn of events.

Meneguar in slowly improving action.


After another fast breakdown, we turned our attention to another section of the patio. Parts and Labor were setting up, and this was the band we had wandered so far to see. We first discovered Parts and Labor at a long ago SxSW, but I hadn't seen them since, so I was definitely looking forward to this set. As they finished their setup, I could tell that Parts and Labor has expanded from a three piece to a four piece, with the addition of a dedicated guitarist so that Dan Friel can focus on his keys instead of sharing split duty.

Dan Friel on electronics.

And once they started to play, it was quite heavenly. Parts and Labor sounded like I remembered, alternating fierce drumming with angular keys and bass, over which Friel and bassist BJ Warshaw exchanged vocals. They weren't as sheerly hard or noisy as I remembered, but instead they had found a way to make their sound combine in a hooky way that recalled Atlanta 's Rizzudo. Around me, the crowd definitely got into the set, nodding sharply along with the band and looking quite happy when Warshaw plunged into the crowd, throwing his bass around in approved ironic "rock star" style.

BJ Warshaw rocking out.

Eventually, they came to close, just in time, as it sounded to me like the rigged sound system was starting to overheat and I could hear a bit of an unexpected crackle in the amplification.


I went out on a weeknight to see Parts and Labor open for Adult. a few years back. I really enjoy their music. They play infinitely catchy, bass driven tunes with odd keyboard explosions and a sort of shouty vocal style. The new guitarist fleshes out their sound nicely, adding some guitar distortion to the places where previously there were only keyboardy bits.

The new guitarist in Parts and Labor.

Her nice pedal board, and spiffy boots.

They played three shows at SxSW this year, and i am really glad that we were able to make at least one. They are doing some very interesting things.


Exhilarated (and, oh yes hot), we made the long trek back in order to plan our evening out.

After more rest and water, as well as dinner and another cup of coffee, it was time to venture out to our evening shows. PostLibyan has something of an affinity for Polyvinyl Records, so we intended to make their showcase at the Habana Calle 6 our home base for the evening. We wanted to see Joan of Arc first, then wander off for a couple of bands, and then return to see the late part of the show, including Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Headlights, and Tilly and the Wall. However, once we got to the complex, I began to come up with an alternate plan. You see, the little grotto outside, wherein most of the show was planned, was already packed by locals and scensters who apparently intended to camp out for the entirety of the evening, mainly so they could see Tilly and the Wall at 1 AM. Therefore, they were chatting, talking, laughing, and generally ignoring all the bands around them. Yuck.

This crowd behavior was a bit of a shame, because once Joan of Arc began, I thought they sounded quite good. The natural echo of the outdoor grotto enhanced the delicate sounds coming from the stage, given Joan of Arc an ethereal aura. Unfortunately, I couldn't hear the band all too well, given the afore-mentioned chatting, which only seemed to increase as more folks poured onto the patio. And my mood was deteriorating rapidly, as more than one person shoved me to the side, the better to get to their friends and maintain a spot to see the bands they had really come to see (who was most assuredly not Joan of Arc). After just a few songs, PostLibyan finally located me in the crowd (I had taken shelter near the back, where at least people left me alone) and we decided to wander on, and perhaps, maybe, return for the rest of the showcase, if the crowd and mayhem were not too annoying.


I was disappointed with this event. Joan of Arc make lovely, delicate music of quirky voice, laptopped noises, light drumming, and strummed guitar. I enjoy their records, and really wanted to see them. Well, i could see okay, after shoving my way to the front while waving my official photographer's pass in people's faces, but even up there i couldn't hear. Everyone was talking, and the crowd conversation drowned out Joan of Arc.

Tim Kinsella of Joan of Arc.

Really disappointing to me. Still, i liked what little i could hear over the background noise. And when Tracers proposed her "Plan B", i was willing to go with it.


So we decided to make another trek, across the main drag and into the more "fashionable" area of downtown Austin to see if we catch some of the Athens-based labels Kindercore/Hello Sir showcase (and perhaps see We Vs. The Shark again). This showcase was at a place called the "Light Bar", and once we entered I realized we had entered a somewhat trendy place, complete with stainless steel features and a sheet of water running down one side of the bar. This was a little incongruous, considering that both Kindercore and Hello Sir feature loud, rocking bands and I wasn't sure how this bar could stand up to the pressure, if you will.

  The Light Bar. I imagine that this is a place where highly paid Texas government people go to drink martinis. It's right down the street from the capitol, and looks far trendier than any of the places i tend to hang out.  

The other thing I discovered when we entered was that the showcases were already running horribly behind schedule. Spring Tigers, the first band, were supposed to go at 8, and at 8:30 they had yet to take the stage. Yes, it was indeed just like a show at home, where nothing ever happens on time. For some reason it made me happy. What made we happier was when Spring Tigers took the stage to sound check and at least one member of the band said, "Give me more reverb….Reverb is my friend!" Ah….nice to know that some things about my beloved Athens bands never change…

Thank goodness Kindercore bought the box of toys to
play with when the sound system blew out...

At around 8:45, Spring Tigers began to play, and it was a very energetic mix of Indie rock with more than a little retro 60s garage thrown in. I love this stuff, and when it is well done, I am a very content audience member. However, just as the band was hitting their stride and really getting the sparse-ish crowd to dance and bop around, the lights and sound on the little stage went totally dead. It seems that the circuit controlling these elements had blown, and we all stood around a bit confused as phone calls were made and workers at the Light Bar retrieved, in order to see what could be done to fix it. I immediately turned to PostLibyan and pointed out that they should see about switching circuits (or at least getting some very long extension cords, so as to patch something together). However, this solution seemed to flummox the workers, so we waited and waited and waited until finally someone came to my conclusion and gradually things were brought back on line. In the intervening time, the band as well as the head of Kindercore records made wry jokes, including, "Does anyone have an acoustic keyboard? Anyone?" Also during this lull I ran into a couple of long absent friends with whom I could chat, so that the delay didn't seem like such a waste.

Once the sound was retrieved, the showcase was now running incredibly behind, but Spring Tigers began again. This time around, if anything, they played with more fierceness and energy, as if to work out the frustration of the wait. Much like their earlier songs, the reminder of their set was filled with raucous rock combined with some synthpop which ended with a rousing number whose sing along chorus consisted of the band yelling out, "Victorious!" over and over again. It was totally anthemic and seemed to sum up the triumph over the adversity aspect of their set.

Spring Tigers, take two.

Unfortunately, by this time, we had another band we really wanted to see, so I reluctantly left the showcase without seeing We Vs. The Shark and toddled up 6 th street to catch New York 's Antietam. Much like Naked Raygun, or even The English Beat, Antietam were one of those bands which I heard so much of in my youth, but have never seen live. I can remember one of my little punk rock friends playing them for me back in the day, and I remember thinking they were way cool. But then again, when I was 15 at least, anything slightly odd or off the beaten track seemed cool to me. What would Antietam sound like?

We made our way onto the small roof top patio of Wave, where the sound from the downstairs band (some group from Columbus , Ohio , I believe) bled through. Although it was sort of crowded, we immediately ran into Jeff Clark from Stomp and Stammer, and some other Atlanta people, leading me to comment that at least Atlanta was representing at the Antietam show. But such humor was immediately driven from my brain as soon as the band began to play. From the first, I was totally entranced by the incredibly interesting musical interplay between guitarist/vocalist Tara Key and bassist Tim Harris. Ms. Key didn't necessarily flair around much, but her handling of the guitar was masterful, as Antietam roared through their set. It was hard sounding, semi-punk (a la New York) with some echoey reverb thrown in, all overset by Key's growling vocals. I was surprised by how many of the songs I knew, and I was forced to admit that I was both more fond of and more familiar with Antietam than I remembered. But, in short, they were absolutely phenomenal, and I was totally pleased that we had come to this set.

Key and Harris of Antietam.


This was another band i wanted to see just because i remember hearing good things about them. And they certainly delivered! Dark, muttered vocals, growling bass, thudding drums, and some squealing energetic guitar held my attention for the 40 minutes they played. They kept pointing out that they had a new, 2CD release coming out soon, and i get the impression that they played a lot off of that. Well, in that case, the band still has it.


And then we faced a conundrum: did we go back and fight it out at the Polyvinyl showcase, or did we just throw planning to the wind and go find something else? We walked over and peered down at the Habana Calle 6 complex, and I could immediately see it was, if anything more crowded with folks than when we had left. In fact, I was fairly certain there was an increasing line, and I know I could already hear the chatting half a block away. Knowing that there was no way I wanted to mix with this, we shrugged at each other, made a turn and wandered til we ended up at ... The Red-Eyed Fly, once again.

It's one of our unwritten laws of SxSW that we try not to see bands we have either seen recently or will see soon. This time, we decided to break this guidance, as we worked our way through a fairly large crowd to see Seattle's Say Hi. Yes, I had just seen them one week before on our home turf, and I even had reviewed that show. But yet, I so love Say Hi, and I was hoping that on this evening they would play to more appreciative crowd.

Eric Elbogen says hi to The Red-Eyed Fly.

I was not disappointed. Say Hi played essentially the exact same set as the previous week. They focused on some newer material (which sounded absolutely amazing when mixed at The Red-Eyed Fly), but still gave time to some of their older favorites. But the biggest two changes in the intervening 7 days was that singer/guitarist Eric Elbogen and his drummer seemed to be having infinitely more fun on this stage. They laughed and joked around, clearly having a grand old time.

Say Hi's drummer points out that he does, in fact, rock.

More importantly, the packed crowd around me seemed to know most of their songs. The people danced and bounced and sang along to tunes like Blah Blah Blah and even Spiders, off their latest record. It was so nice to see this band get their due amongst the occasionally jaded SxSW folks, and I was really a bit sad that they kept to the time limit, and finished in under 40 minutes. Still, I really enjoyed their set, and was happy that we broke our law this one time.

Funny cartoon that graces the front of Say Hi's keyboard.

Afterwards, we were a bit at a loss as to what to do next. We certainly did not want to try to go back to Polyvinyl night, and since the Light Bar was a total scheduling mess, it didn't seem prudent to make that trek if we weren't certain the sound system was going to be intact. So we decided to stay at the less-crowded Red-Eyed Fly and see Minneapolis band Cloud Cult, about whom we knew nothing. However, things were encouraging as we saw first a cello and then a violin come onto the stage. And I was almost certain I could see a hollow body guitar from my vantage point. This was a bit promising, and if it was weird, well, we could always wander on.

Cloud Cult began to play and were interesting I think; I couldn't hear as much cello or violin as I expected, but the music swelled in a nice way, although it didn't rock as much as I might have liked. It certainly wasn't as phenomenally energetic as Say Hi's set, but I think that in a proper, quieter venue, they would offer something quite offbeat and intriguing, sort of like any number of bands originally influenced by Godspeed You Black Emperor!

Cloud Cult in action. Notice the Real-Time Painting™.

As I pondered this, PostLibyan suddenly poked me in the shoulder. "Is that a painter on the stage?" he asked. I cocked my head to the side, and lo and behold he was correct. There was indeed a painter on the stage, starting with a blank campus and beginning to create something rather abstract. O.K., now this was unexpected and a little odd. And I'm guessing this was their shtick?


Seeing this, i had to get a better view, so i waved my photographer's pass and fought towards the front. Cloud Cult's music is light and pleasant. The second song, i think it was, featured the violinist and cellist standing up and chanting along with the vocals while shaking percussion instruments. That was a fine sounding tune. The rest, well, it was not bad for post-rock.

Cloud Cult in rhythm shaking action.

And the painter: we was doing an abstract thing that would turn out to be a ram's head. Huh.

A ram's head? Huh.


After a few more minutes, we decided to wander down to the Habana Calle 6 annex (not to be confused with the chaos of the Polyvinyl night) to see yet another older band, My Dad is Dead.

When we got inside, we were met by a wall of sound from the still-playing previous band, Kurt Vice. This was an all instrumental act from Philadelphia who played very dark, very heavy semi-psychedelia.


Yeah, what is it with intensely psychedelic bands from Philly? Did J Spaceman hang out there a lot in the early 1990's? (I can't imagine that he did.) Do they have some sort of chemical factory that produces LSD? What i heard from Kurt Vice tonight was typical of a lot of the Psychedelphia scene. Not bad, for what it is.

Kurt Vile. Dude.


I thought they were rather good for their genre, and definitely managed to keep me interested for the few songs we heard. Also, it seems that one member of the band used to play in The Capitol Years, a group who I enjoyed back in the day.

Afterwards, it didn't seem to take long at all for the three piece My Dad is Dead to set up. Like so many other bands listed in these reviews, this is an older group who came out of North Carolina in the 80s. I never have seen them live, but I had always thought of them as sort of proto-Indie rock with a punk/roots edge. Not surprisingly, my impressions were accurate once they began to play. They were more low key than the previous band, with the melodies reminding me a little of the Replacements or Husker Du, albeit without the frenetic edge of either. Guitarist/vocalist Mark Edwards kept things a little on the mellow side, although I was totally fascinated by the very intricate tuning mechanism he kept next to him on a chair. In fact, I think had I not already seen Antietam, or had I been less sherry exhausted, I would have appreciated My Dad is Dead even more than I did.

My Dad Is Dead. So are their's, apparently.


Of the 1980's bands we saw this week, My Dad Is Dead was my least favorite. Not to say that they were awful by any stretch. They played a typical "roots rock" type of music. Singer-songwritery type of stuff, with really driving rhythms. I was entertained…

Tuaca promotes My Dad Is Dead.
They have no clue what the temperature is though...


So, although they hadn't finished, after some 45 minutes, I was growing exceedingly weary and was barely able to nod my head in appreciation. Knowing that I had yet one more day to get through, we decided to call it a night and wandered back to the hotel to flop into bed.

Related Links:

Read the entire SxSW08 review:
     Day 1 featuring Clay Leverett, Madeline, God Is An Astronaut, We vs. the Shark, Elfpower, Sean Hayes, The Wedding Present, Yellow Fever, Phil and the Osophers, Call Me Lightning, Delorean, Peel, Dub Trio, Naked Raygun
     Day 2 featuring Ravens and Chimes, Scouting for Girls, Cadence Weapon, Billy Bragg, The Hunnies, Jukebox the Ghost, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Peel, My Education, Our Lunar Activities, Melissa St. Pierre, High Places, The English Beat
     Day 3 featuring Magic Bullets, Yacht, Meneguar, Parts and Labor, Joan of Arc, Spring Tigers, Antietam , Say Hi, Cloud Cult, Kurt Vice, My Dad is Dead
     Day 4 featuring David Monks, FM3, Magic Bullets, The High Strung, Record Hop, Oh No! Oh My!, Tally Hall, Colour Music, The Autumns
Band links for today:
   Magic Bullets:
   Parts and Labor:
   Joan of Arc:
   Spring Tigers:
   Say Hi:
   Cloud Cult:
   My Dad is Dead:


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