Menu | Rating System | Guest Book | Archived Reviews:
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

  South By Southwest 2008 - Day 4  



Austin, TX


David Monks, FM3, Magic Bullets, The High Strung, Record Hop, Oh No! Oh My!, Tally Hall, Colour Music, The Autumns

Reviewed by:
  PostLibyan and Tracers  
Photographs by:



In many respects, the South by SouthWest experience is about endurance. Four days of live music entails hours of standing, lots of walking (i estimate we walked 28 miles during the course of the event), and lots of dealing with crowds. This last is especially difficult for an introvert such as your author. I can spend entire weekends where the only conversations i have are with my cats, and i am perfectly happy like that. I find the constant press of humanity, with their pointless chatter and inattentive slamming into you, to be tiring. Exhausting. That more than anything else is what wears me out.

  This trait is perhaps one of the best reasons as to why PostLibyan and I have remained friends for so many years. I too am a bit of an introvert, and like him, by Saturday, I was just totally "peopled" out. I was tired of having to dodge crowds and drunkards. I was entirely sick of being stepped on. And all I wanted to do is listen to music in peace.  

On the Saturday of the festival, the crowds always get to me. It seems as if there are even more people, and they are even more oblivious of their environment, so they knock into you more frequently. Add to that a constant background din of meaningless conversation that really drives me to distraction. So, the last day of the festival, and my least favorite.


What PostLibyan fails to mention is that Saturday started off with a bit of bang, even prior to Korean food. You see, he had left on the daily morning trek for coffee, whilst I read the newspaper. About the time I was thinking about getting moving, my cell phone started to ring. I ignored it at first, thinking it was someone from the Day Job ™ having some sort of computer crisis. Then it began to right again. Sighing deeply, I drowsily answered the phone….and was immediately inundated with my Mother asking frantically, "Is your house o.k.?!?"

Somewhat puzzled (and not being helped by my lack of caffeine), I finally got her to slow her line of questioning down and tell me what was going on. You see, it seems that on the previous evening, whilst I was enjoying the sweet sounds of various bands in Austin , a tornado hit downtown Atlanta and traveled off into various intown neighborhoods, including perhaps the one in which I live. Well, now I was definitely awake, and spent a large part of the morning on the phone, before finally determining that my house was o.k., albeit with a few limbs in the backyard, and that my cats were completely fine, albeit totally freaked out.


We started off by trekking to the Korean restaurant on 7th street for a nice bowl of tofu, rice, and veggies. Really yummy. As we were sitting there we watched people carrying in trays of Italian food to the bar next door, The Beauty Bar. As we left we looked at the line to get into The Beauty Bar and saw that it stretched about 2 blocks. That is about a block and a half more people than will fit in the place, all waiting to get into the Rachel Ray day party. Good Italian food and fun music, including buzz band The Raveonettes. I really wanted to see them, but there was no way we were going to get into this...

So we headed out for coffee, and then trekked up to The Free Yr Radio tent. Here, supposedly, Minnesota Public Radio was putting on a performance by Canadian pop band Tokyo Police Club. Sadly, instead of the whole band, singer David Monks was alone, performing as a singer songwriter, complete with acoustic guitar.

David Monks, sans the rest of Tokyo Police Club.

It takes a particularly strong musician to pull this sort of thing off, and i found that Monks was not strong enough to do so. After two songs i was bored, so we decided to head to the next day show.

This involved a long drive down First Street to End of an Ear, an oddly named record store. We showed up and some four-piece of older vaguely country musicians were playing. They never said who they were, and quite frankly i didn't care. Their music was tolerable as i browsed the bins of vinyl at the store, finding several good, rare records.

Eventually, FM3 showed up. They asked for a flat table, and they set up a large microphone hovering over the table. The two band members sat at opposite sides, armed with a glass of cheap whiskey and Coke, and they set up 9 of their Buddha Machines on the table. They asked for quiet, and indicated that their performance would be easily drowned out by any background noise.

FM3 start their performance.

So the 20 or so people in the store clustered around them in hushed silence, as the two band members proceeded to play with their Buddha Machines. Each one would take a turn, placing a machine at some distance from the microphone, with it turned to one of the loops. Then the next band member would adjust that box, maybe increase the volume, move it, stack it, or change the loop.

Adjust the volume.

Then the first one would take another turn.

Move them around.

This went on for perhaps half an hour, and slowly a lovely, multi-layered ambient drone was built up.

Grabbing a Buddha Machine.


I spent much of our time at End of Ear browsing the local Texas music section, which was located in a side room far distant from the stage, such as it was. Therefore, I missed FM3's set up and only figured out they were playing when I began to hear a light drone in the distance. I popped around the corner, and was a bit puzzled to see two guys sitting opposite one another across what looked like a large checkerboard playing with these colored boxes. It was like watching a bizarre chess game and I thought, "Are these guys even DOING anything?" But I gradually focused my attention to hear the faint music, and I began to appreciate the way FM3 was layering the varying loops. Intriguing, but not nearly so amusing as watching the crowd around me who consisted of numerous folks seeming to hang onto every movement of the FM3 guys as well as few people who wandered in randomly, and seemed totally confused.


It was interesting to watch them play, and the sounds that were made were also interesting. I suspect that if i had paid good money to see them perform this at some club, i would feel cheated, but for something experienced for free at a record store during the day, it was neat.

Buddha Machines arranged in some sort of pattern to make sound(s).

Eventually there was only one machine left, the volume all the way up, cranking a slow loop. And then one band member turned it off, and the performance was over. They then talked about the performance, saying that they called the game "Buddha Boxing", and they invited others to play.

I found the whole thing to be kind of cool. It was, at the very least, something different.

Well, after that, we had time to kill before the night showcases began, so we headed out for food and rest. One last time into the breach...


One final note. After focusing so durn hard on the silence of FM3, I found the daily noise of Austin really loud and a bit distracting. So I was quite happy to just relax in silence afterwards.


We started our final night at Bourbon Rocks with Magic Bullets. We had seen this San Francisco act play a brief day show on Friday, but their performance was so good we wanted to catch a longer set.

They did not disappoint. Their performance tonight started with an irresistible bass groove which sounded almost like it was something from the old heyday of Motown. Then, suddenly, the two guitars exploded into a chiming jangle, and the rest of the band tore into it.

Magic Bullets, in action.

I found the sound at Bourbon Rocks to be better than that at the front stage of The Red-Eyed Fly, and the nice big stage gave the band plenty of room to dance around as they played. I too, found myself happily bouncing along to their grooves.


Unlike PostLibyan, I thought the sound at Bourbon Rocks lacked the warmth which characterized the mix at Red-Eyed Fly. That's not to say that the larger stage of Bourbon Rocks wasn't appreciated, as it gave the band more room to move (although it didn't keep the gangly lead singer from jumping into the audience to dance). But rather, the sound seemed a bit more sterile and isolated, so that the instruments didn't appear to fill up the sonic space as they had previously. Nevertheless, I totally enjoyed this second set by Magic Bullets, and I really would like to see them for once on my home turf.


Once again, they ended with Yesterday's Seen Better Days, and with the clearer sound here i really missed the shouted backing vocals on the chorus.

Yesterday has, in fact, seen better days.

A minor complaint, to be sure. Overall, this is an excellent band that makes insanely catchy music. They have a lot of good songs, which come across very well live. I look forward to more from this band.

Ominous graffitti in the men's room at Bourbon Rocks.

After that set, we headed over to Emo's Annex (a tent in the parking lot across from Emo's) to catch EvilSponge friends The High Strung. We have known these boys for years, and there are many reviews on this site. The High Strung always do the long haul at SXSW, playing many shows (tonight's being their fifth of the festival), and spending their non-performing time out partying and schmoozing. I applaud them their stamina, but tonight they really seemed exhausted.

The High Strung's rhythm section, looking tired.

It also hurt that the sound at the tent was not that great. In fact, for most of their performance i couldn't hear vocalist Josh Malerman's guitar at all. Remove the guitar, and The High Strung are a bass groove, a thick drum beat, and a high-pitched voice. Not exactly exciting. In fact, this was probably my least favorite of the half dozen or so performances i have seen from this band.

Josh Malerman in action.


After the first couple of tunes, I moved backwards in the tent, hoping to find a location where the sound was a bit better. However, I was thwarted in this because, even right at the soundboard, the mix was incredibly bass heavy and Malerman's guitar was completely inaudible unless he used his overdrive pedal.

Nice shot of The High Strung's pedals.

That atrocious mix didn't serve The High Strung and I was rather disappointed for them, as I could tell they were trying to pull it off, but a lot of crowd just wasn't getting it. Finally, seeing the complete exhaustion of their faces, I had to retreat in order to get over my need to give the boys milk and cookies and send them off to bed.


Still, it's always good to see a friendly face in a sea of confusing strangers at a chaotic event like this. I know that they can do better, and really felt bad for them on the stage. They were too tired to be dealing with the sound issues. Oh well, better luck next time.

We quickly headed out to grab a spot at Buffalo Billiards for Oh No! Oh My! I really wanted Tracers to see this act, as i suspected that what they do would be right up her alley.

As we walked in, there was a four-piece band on stage making an unholy guitar racket. I am talking loud, noisy stuff. A quick look at the schedule told me that this was Record Hop, a band from Denton, TX.

Record Hop, with the bouncing rock star ending.

The bands i am familiar with from this Dallas suburb tend to be noisy, almost shoegazery, and the song and a half i heard from Record Hop places them squarely in the norm for their scene. Still, they weren't bad. I liked the female voice that was buried under the wall of distorted guitar, and the guitar wall itself was nicely textured. I would not be adverse to seeing a full set from this band at some point.

So we stood there waiting for Oh No! Oh My! to set up. As they were assembling their gear on stage, another band, dressed in dark slacks, white shirts, and primary colored ties, was assembling their gear just off the stage. This seemed like a remarkably smart thing to do, so as Tracers perused the schedule looking for the band name, i remarked, "Boy, look at those efficient Mormons! They will be ready to play almost as soon as Oh No! Oh My! clear the stage."

She looked up quizzically. "Mormons?"

"Sure," i replied. "They are in white shirts and slacks, just like Mormons. I bet they even rode their bicycles here."

She looked at the schedule and frowned. "But they are from Michigan , not Utah . They are more likely Mennonites."

"Those efficient Mennonites?" i asked. Which made us giggle, partly from the ludicrousness of the conversation, and partly from the shell shock of the long week. We stood there riffing on the efficiency of Mennonites, and how they are so much more organized than those slacker Amish. (It is okay to mock the Amish on the Internet. They don't believe in electricity, so they will never read me making fun of them.) This kept us amused for the 10 minutes or so it took Oh No! Oh My! to set up, and we decided that we needed to stay and see at least a little bit of the efficient Mennonite band...

Oh No! Oh My! display almost Mennonite-like efficiency by
sound checking two instruments at once.

  I still maintain "Those Efficient Mennonites" would be excellent band name. Just saying.  

Eventually, Oh No! Oh My! took the stage, oblivious to our amusement at the band that was to follow them. They are a four-piece band from right here in Austin, so they were playing on their home turf. In fact, during their setup we learned that the keyboardist/guitarist must in fact be a sound guy, as he made very specific comments regarding how the sound board should be set up. Good to know.

Sound guy and keyboardist.


Oh yes, I was thanking my stars that the keyboardist understood the sound mix. Unlike other bands that may have asked for more guitar in the monitor, this guy basically told them what the various DI levels should be. Sweet. And I think that precision really helped out the sound for Oh No! Oh My!


They played a set of great pop music with rich keyboard accents. Their music comes across as Britpoppish to me, but not in a derivative or affected way. Rather, they have that great sense of the pop song that Blur and their ilk had.

Oh No! Oh My! in action.

I especially liked watching their drummer, who plays an almost rave beat. This is the second time i had seen them, and this time i realized what it is that makes his playing seem almost electronic: his high-hat cymbal is incredibly tight, so that it makes that rapid "tish tish tish" sound that is so often sampled in electronica.

Oh No! Oh My! in action.

Once again, i found myself enjoying a performance by these boys. I really need to pick up their CD at some point. And Tracers seemed to enjoy them, as i suspected she would.


Somehow, along the way, as I am wont to do, I thought PostLibyan said that this band played synthpop. So I was really surprised when they played a quirky little indie rock/dance mix. But, I was immediately taken in by it, as the music was really tight and very enjoyable. In particular, I enjoyed the way one of the guitarists would begin his songs with slightly shouted vocals, ala Club Awesome. Furthermore, the sheer poppiness of their music grabbed my attention, so much so that I was quite unhappy when their set ended.


So as Oh No! Oh My! were clearing off, those efficient Mennonites set up around them.

Mennonites know the value of a quality guitar.

Their band is actually called Tally Hall, and they are from Ann Arbor, Michigan . Which is, by the way, squarely in Mennonite country. There were five band members on stage, and they even set up a projector and a screen off to one side. "Finally", i thought, "a Powerpoint presentation. These people should be playing at The Creekside EMC..."

Alas, there was no slide show featuring bulleted points detailing the efficiency of the Mennonite people (who can raise a barn much quicker than those slacker Amish, who don't even use power tools...). Instead, Tally Hall projected a video of one of their songs onto the screen. This video is also featured on their MySpace page, and i guess that they are rather proud of it. It's not bad, as far as videos go, and it does feature one of their squeaky clean pop tunes, so i guess it's not all bad. I did find it odd that they would do that instead of just playing the song, but whatever.


Around us, as Tally Hall set up, people began to gather. And what I noticed was that many of them were women, who giggled and whispered to each other about which member of the band was the "cute" one. Seriously. And with their video production (which almost managed to take out part of the band when the screen suddenly rolled itself up), I immediately said to myself, "If this band is still around in 2009, mark my words, they will be one of the buzz bands."


Tally Hall then quickly disassembled the screen and projector, and proceeded to play a song of polished pop a la ELO, or perhaps Jellyfish. There was a little bit of quirkiness to the way they traded vocals, and the way the one guitarist sang through a megaphone, but they displayed an excellent sense of harmony, crisp rhythms, and delicate instrumentation.

Mennonite's use megaphones, for extra vocal distortion.

It was all so ... inoffensive. Personally i find this type of stuff to be dull. I can take about 10 minutes of it before i want them to ROCK. And this band does not rock. Instead, they meander about in a light pop way. Sure, it's catchy, but it just never really hits a groove. So after two songs we decided to head out to the next venue, to see what mayhem awaited us there.

Nice shot of Tally Hall's drummer.

  PostLibyan hit this one right on the head. In order to grab the attention of the uninitiated, a band really needs to let loose and rock in some form or fashion. Or, they need to have a song that is so catchy that it becomes anthemic and just wallops you upside the head. Unfortunately, in the time we stood there, Tally Hall never did reach that type of catharsis, and like him I grew bored by their "follow-the numbers" style. Give me sloppy but energetic any day over this. Still, looking around me, I think we were about the only two who weren't charmed by them, and I do expect you'll hear more about Tally Hall in the upcoming months.  

As we were heading to Maggie May's Rooftop, a venue in which the only access to the restroom comes after you have shoved your way through the crowd and then walked across the stage right past the performers, Tracers decided to use the restroom at Buffalo Billiards. I stood near the back, and this is when Tally Hall totally lost me. Combined with their light pop, they inexplicably started to rap. No, really. I think it didn't work at all, and came across as very affected. How very strange.

Well, we fled from the rap into the growing drunken mayhem on Sixth Street , and fought our way down to Maggie May's. We suspected that this would be crowded, as British Sea Power were headlining. And, indeed, we had to wait outside for perhaps 10 minutes before we were let in.

As we got up to the rooftop patio, the space in front of the stage was packed with people. No getting through that mess to the restroom. Tracers choose wisely.


Thank you very much. I try to plan my SxSW around decent restrooms and decent beer. Maggie Mae's, sad to say, has neither. And after a particularly nasty bathroom experience at Bourbon Rocks earlier in the evening (all I'm saying was it involved a toilet overflow mixed with what appeared to be vomit…I think I spent most of the next hour or so queasy), I really was not in the mood for another bathroom extravaganza.


The band on stage was called Colour Music, and we could not see them at all. We could hear them just fine though, and what i heard did not inspire me to try and fight my way through the crowd for some pictures. So there is no photographic evidence of this band, sadly.

Colour Music are, they said, a two piece act of one guy from Oklahoma and a British ex-pat who apparently also ended up in the Indian Territory for some reason. They had a drum machine chugging out rhythms, and on top of that layered keyboards and guitar that were so loud they were distorted. That is, there was a noisiness to the music that didn't fit, and didn't seem intentional. Maybe they did mean for it to sound like that. I hope not.

The song they ended with was the best of the four or so we heard. It sounded like a Devo tune, all stop/start keyboards and quirky singing. Not bad, but somewhat derivative. They should have just covered Through Being Cool and left it at that. Colour Music were not my favorite act, but i have seen (and heard) worse.


As I mentioned above, by this time in the weekend, I'm over people. And at this venue there were people packed around everywhere. It seemed like many of these folks were camping out, wanting to see British Sea Power late in the evening. So they chatted and visited and basically annoyed me, so much so that I couldn't even pay attention to Colour Music. So instead, I remained focused on the increasing numbers of folks packing onto the rooftop as well as some bizarro photo shoot that seemed to be going on opposite me on the rooftop.


After they were done, the small space in front of the stage cleared out a bit. Apparently they have a following. Who knew? I took this instance to fight for the front, in order to have a good photographing spot for The Autumns.

I have been enjoying The Autumns on record for 8 or 9 years now, and they have never, to the best of my knowledge, toured far enough East for me to see them. In fact, i had thought they were broken up, so i was both surprised and excited to see them on the bill for SxSW. I definitely did not want to miss this.

So i fought through the crowd, camera in hand, and discovered a remarkable thing: the space in front of the stage was roped off as a photographer's area. I sat there on the steps and watched them set up, surrounded by people with cameras much more elaborate and expensive than mine. Still, it was a great location to watch.

The Autumns are, apparently, a 5-piece band. I honestly had no idea -- in fact the only thing i knew about the band, aside from a familiarity with their first five records, was that they were the backing band when ex-Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde toured Mexico . They could have been a three-piece act for all i knew. Instead, they had a drummer, a bassist, three guitarists, and so many pedals that you could probably have built a working R2 unit from all of the electronics! Heck yeah.

Just one of the four pedal setups that The Autumns had.

After a brief while spent tweaking pedals, they started. The first song began with a wave of noise, all three guitarists, the bassist, and the drummer all pounding the hell out of their instruments, making a huge racket.

Autumns rock out.

The song then settled into a rapid shoegazer tune. I think it was a nosiy start to the title track off of their 1997 album The Angel Pool. It was an older one, and i was familiar enough with it to sing along over the din. Truly a wonderful moment.

The Autumns bassist rocks out.


Back along my roof top railing (about halfway towards the stage), I had a good vantage point to watch the crowd and how they reacted to the Autumns. And for the first time since we had approached the rooftop, a genuine smile came to face when The Autumns began.

The Autumns guitarist on stage right.

When the wave of noise began, I suddenly saw numerous people who had crowded in front of the stage put the fingers in their ears as they retreated to the far end of the rooftop, presumably so as not to sully their ears before British Sea Power. I think I laughed out loud, before I was drawn back into the music, as my mood began to brighten.


For the first two songs i crouched up front with the professional photographers, but eventually my bad knee started to get to me, so i pushed my way back through the crowd to stand with Tracers near the sound board.

From that vantage, i could hear just fine, except for the quieter, more dreampoppish moments of their performance. At these times they were drowned out by the band playing next door, the one across the street, and by the chattering of the crowd. Still, they sounded great, and i was disappointed to see that very few people were getting into the set.

Most of the people packed up front just stood there, stock still, as if they were at a post-rock show. The people further back chatted with each other, almost as if no band was performing. In fact, The Autumns seemed to get little applause, which made me very sad. I thought they played brilliantly, and i really liked the set, even if it was heavy on their new record (which i have yet to hear), and even though they did not play The Garden Ends, my favorite tune by them. At times like this, i feel even more out of step with humanity. I loved what i heard, but no one else seemed to care. What the heck? Don't people recognize well done dream pop when they hear it?

The Autumns vocalist, with a delicate voice, that was lost in the crowd noise.

I guess the answer is no.


Unlike PostLibyan, I was more or less totally unfamiliar with The Autumns prior to this set. Like him, however, I absolutely loved it. I loved the way the music ebbed and flowed, and I was just pulled into their intricate shoegaze sound. At times, I was so entranced that I closed my eyes (it wasn't like I could see the band) and just let the music wash over me. Totally beautiful, and for me a definite way to end the festival. As we headed out into the night (the only two people I could see who left before the headliner), I looked at the long long line to get it and thought happily, "Have at it. I'm done."


I loved this performance, and afterwards, i was ready to go home. We had a few hours to sleep before we had to head for the airport to go home, to cats and our own beds, and the comfortable thoughtfulness of my life, away from the uncaring crowds. And, with that opening Autumns din still ringing in my ears, we headed out.

Another SxSW survived, and mostly enjoyed. And after a few days spent typing on the computer with a cat asleep in my lap, i am ready to do it again next year.

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:
   David Monks:
   The High Strung:
   Record Hop:
   Oh No! Oh My!:
   Tally Hall:
   Colour Music:
   The Autumns:


Return to the top of this page. | Return to the Concert Review menu.