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  South By Southwest 2009 - Day 2  



Austin, TX


O + S, The Carrots, Death is not a Joyride, Foot Patrol, Azeda Booth, Ohbijou, My Latest Novel, Tungsten Coil, That Petrol Emotion

Reviewed by:
  Tracers and PostLibyan  
Photographs by:



Looking at the day show schedule, it looked like Thursday day was going to be rather slow for us. This was fine because, after going over the evening schedule, it appeared that Thursday evening was going to be the late night of SxSW. You see, whilst perusing the band listing, I saw one name that jumped out at me: That Petrol Emotion. Wow. That Petrol Emotion playing together again? Great. I loved That Petrol Emotion back in the day, and I was just totally thrilled that they were reuniting, and I would get to see them. That Petrol Emotion playing at 1 am, at the same venue as Peter Murphy? Well….let's just say I knew it was going to be late night. All of this is a long lead in to say that I was quite happy that it was going to be a slow day.

So, after sleeping in and beginning to recover from the stress of the day job™, we wandered out and up towards to Capital to eat at one of my favorite Austin restaurants, the divine Marrakesh. This Mediterranean place serves up some of the best hummus I've ever eaten, and their lamb is nothing to sneeze at, either (especially with the sauce, yum). And they have this herbal red iced tea that is absolutely brilliant…


It is a hibiscus mint blend that is perfectly refreshing on a hot day. They brew some imported brand that i cannot find in Atlanta, and i have spent lots of time over the past few summers trying to recreate this by blending other teas… I think i pretty much have it down now. The secret is to use more mint than hibiscus, say a 60-40 blend. Good stuff.

I would also like to point out that Marrakesh makes a really good falafel sandwich. Tracers hates the stuff, but i really enjoy it, and theirs in excellent. I think it is the nice tzatziki sauce that really makes the sandwich…


Anyway, after stuffing ourselves with delicious food, we wandered back towards 6th street, where Maggie Mae's (downstairs) was hosting some sort of girl's rock camp shindig. And playing this party was one of the bands that we wanted to see: O + S, the latest group headed up by former-Athenian and Azure Ray member Orenda Fink. I hadn't heard of her new band, but Postlibyan has the album and assured me that it was pretty listenable, so that was good enough for me.

Ms. Fink in action and ugly dress.

  I really enjoy the O + S debut record. It captures that dreamy feel of the first Azure Ray record, while adding in a smattering of electronics. Look for a review here soonish.  

So with that in mind, we hustled into Maggie Mae's to see them setting up, just prior to their scheduled time. Yet, I quickly noticed things weren't going exactly well up on the stage. The band was sluggish in loading in their gear, and it was clear that perhaps they were missing a couple of folks as well as some gear. I tried not to get frustrated as I watched them meander about, but it's always a little annoying to be on time yourself and then to be kept waiting. However, eventually, a guy showed up carrying some equipment and quickly took charge of the set up, pointing the various band members and stage hand towards their tasks and instruments. Unfortunately, though, as O + S began to sound check, it was clear that the sound demons which had plagued The Besties the night before had returned, with mics feeding back and the sound coming across as rather muddy.

This O + S performance is brought to you by Gibson Guitars.

Eventually, O + S finally got started and apologized for their delay, explaining that they had problems getting the van parked. That made a lot of sense, I suppose, but it did mean that they were only going to play maybe 4 songs.

O + S plus blonde keyboardist/vocalist.

Still, despite the brevity of their set and the sound issues, I could definitely hear the potential within O + S. In some ways, they reminded me of the first Azure Ray album, albeit with more instrumentation and more samples to support the music. Yet the gently lulling vocals are the same and, even with the sound problems, I could hear that Ms. Fink and the female keyboardist had quite complimentary voices.

Vocal harmonies are important to the O + S sound.

And under it all the bassist (who ended up being that guy who arrived late because he was presumably parking the van) added some subtle throbbing touches that contrasted nicely with the melodies provided by the male keyboardist and the guitarist.

Guitarist in action.

It was quite nice, and whetted my appetite, so much so that I suggested we might try to catch them in the evening, if we had time to spare.

Ms. Fink in closeup.

Since O + S had started and ended late, we ended up missing the other day set Postlibyan wanted to see.

  That would have been Austinian pop act Oh No, Oh My, who were playing in the conference room at that hotel where we saw My Education fail to use Powerpoint last year. I would have liked to have seen them, but i guess i will have to catch them the next time they come through Atlanta.  
  So, I went back to the hotel to read my new SxSW book purchase (Pox: Genius, Madness, and the Mysteries of Syphilis, for those of you keeping track at home. It's a really good read, I have to admit.), while Postlibyan went over to the Convention Center to see the sights. I curled up with my book and lost track of time for a while.  
  I spent my time wandering the trade floor, gathering freebies for our loyal staff members. I also had a really yummy bit of French toast that the Canadian delegation was giving out. The cook they had grimaced and called it "French Canadian Toast". I guess by the time i got there he was sick of the lame pun, but had to say it nonetheless…  

Then, eventually, Postlibyan came back, and it was time to go to dinner and begin the evening shift, so to speak.

After a nice Mongolian Barbeque dinner and a cup of coffee, it was time to get over to the first show (which allegedly was going to start at 7:30, but ended up starting at 8). And it was time for my annual expedition to one of the Emo's venues. As I think I've mentioned before, Emo's is a bit of an Austin institution. Everyone wants to see a show at Emo's. Everyone, that is, except me, because I think all of the Emo's venues are pits, with bad bathrooms, bad sight lines, and overly inattentive bartenders (for those of you from Atlanta, just imagine the old Dottie's with concrete floors and a larger capacity and you're in the right frame of mind). Anyway, despite all of these drawbacks, we really wanted to see the first band at Emo's Jr, Austin's The Carrots. We caught them by accident a couple of years back and both Postlibyan and I were suitably impressed. So off to the Emo's pit we went.

The Carrots in action.

When they took the stage, a little after 8 pm, I was happy to see that The Carrots appeared to have the same line-up we had seen before.


Actually, it appears that the non-swarthy non-instrument playing female vocalist has been replaced. But otherwise they are the same band as far as i could tell. That is definitely the same lead vocalist.

The new Carrot is on the right in this picture.


They were still a 6 piece, with 4 female singers (two of whom played keyboards and guitar, respectively) backed by a male rhythm section. More importantly, once they began to play, it was clear that The Carrots still have a similar sort of sound to what I remembered. You see, they play a nice soul/Motown-y mix, with the expected prominent bass lines holding up the melody, over which the women sing and harmonize.

Carrots harmonize well, because of all the Vitamin A.

It's a very evocative mix that's made especially charming by the vocal strength of the primary singer, who has grown into a much more comfortable stage presence over the years. Quite frankly, these days The Carrots have accomplished what The Pipettes were always attempting to do: producing new music that references those old girl groups while still referencing more modern topics and touches.

The keyboardist obviously needs to eat more carrots to improve her vision!

In fact, their music blends so seamlessly with the oldies that the one cover I was familiar with didn't stand out for be unusual. This cover was the sublime Breakaway (originally by soul singer Irma Thomas, although you might be more familiar with Tracey Ullman's 1983 version), which was for me the highlight of their set. But all of this is only to say that the Carrots were quite good and their set list seemed much more fluid and natural than it did years ago.

Lead Carrot vocals.

  I have to agree. This band has matured very nicely, and i like what they are doing. Their music is fun and interesting, with a fair amount of complexity in the vocal interplay, and they manage to pull it off rather well. It would be nice if these girls toured… (Just saying!)  

After The Carrots, we had a bit of a lull before heading across town to the Bella Union Showcase. This was not a bad thing, as to get to Bella Union night, we had to trot some 12 city blocks from Emo's to the other venue. I hate to be rushed, so we just figured we'd go ahead and find stuff to listen to along the way, which would allow us to meander at an unhurried pace. So, with that in mind, I chose another of my semi-random bands (always picked due to the interesting or intriguing name) who just happened to be playing a venue about 1/3 of the way down our walk.

We walked in to Wave (downstairs – we had see Antietam last year, albeit on the roof) to see the band in question setting up. It looked promising. There were several guys in standard issues indie thrift store clothing, and one of them was tuning a violin, which shouldn't have been surprising as the violin was quickly become the ubiquitous instrument of SxSW09. Likewise, as I wandered back to the restroom, I ran into the female member of the band, who had full skirts and a corset. So I thought this could be promising, especially when you consider the band's name, Death is Not a Joyride. I was thinking something like Anti-Social Music, but perhaps with a slightly Latin feel. Or maybe a slightly more quirky Envie. Either way, I thought it might be enjoyable. Clearly, other people were intrigued and/or excited as well, as the venue continued to fill up and people began to crowd into the small area in front of the stage.

Death is not a Joyride, especially in masks.

Then, the lights dimmed and the band came on stage, with each of the members wearing some sort of animal mask. Suddenly, the woman standing next to me with painted on cat whiskers began to make sense, as I realized that much of the crowd was this band's friends. And then the band began to wail on their instruments, playing a melody without vocals, except for the occasional shout of "Death is Not a Joyride!". Admittedly, this was slightly weird, but I was willing to go with it. Then, however, they launched into the next song. The music was o.k. and still that slightly off-kilter tone, but then the female keyboardist began to "sing" over everything, and totally ruined the effect. You see, she had one of those "operatic" voices that reminded me a bit of Diamanda Galas records people used to play in college and it didn't blend well with the music. I stood through another couple of minutes, then looked to Postlibyan and suggested we perhaps find some other band to listen to. Oh well, sometimes picking by name doesn't work.

Death is not a Joyride in "singing" action.

  Musically i thought they were interesting, but like Tracers i could not take that voice!  

We pondered the schedule and singled out two venues that were further along our trot and closer to Bella Union night. From there, we looked at the bands playing (never heard of them) before deciding that of the two, we were more likely to enjoy the Absolutely Kosher showcase, considering that Evil Sponge favorites +/- were to play the same showcase a bit later in the evening. So we wandered to Prague, a venue which we had never encountered in our previous years, but about which I had some preconceived notions, considering it was located remarkably close to the Light Bar, which had seemed like such a weird location last year.

The first thing I noticed upon entering the venue is that Prague was in the basement of a building. Hmmm…hadn't expected that. The next thing I noticed, as I peered around the basement and looked at the décor of velvet and metal, was that it appeared we had entered an upscale Goth bar. Hmmm…that was really unusual. The final thing I noticed was that there was a band onstage and it appeared to be any number of men dressed as Mennonites (or maybe they actually were Mennonites) singing soul/funk music. When faced with the unexpected at this level, there is little you can do. So, I kind of shrugged and decided to go with it.

Bloody Mennonites and their damned horns...
Go build a barn you freaks!

The band on stage was apparently another Austin band called Foot Patrol (the band listed on the schedule was "Butterfly Boucher" from Nashville, so clearly there had been a change). And I have to confess that despite my reservations, they really pulled off the soul/funk combo. As an example, they did a particularly dead on version of Kiss, complete with breathless falsetto. We only heard a couple of songs by this group, but what I heard I liked.

You do not have to watch Dynasty, to have an attitude...


: I squeezed up front to get a few pictures, and i was able to see the rest of the band. The ones dressed as Mennonites were the horn section. The guitarist was dressed in the cassock of a monk, while the drummer wore the orange robe of a Buddhist monk. Then, to further mess with their already religiously confused costuming, the vocalist was a shortish blind Latino gentlemen dressed like a policeman. I have no idea what was supposed to be going with the costuming…

Inexplicable costuming in Foot Patrol.

But the band was tight. The rhythms really grooved, and the blind vocalist had a perfect voice for that sort of thing. I hate to stereotype, but the music really reminded me of early Stevie Wonder. Great stuff.

After they finished, we decided to take a seat in a seemingly empty booth. It had a half full beer on the table, but was otherwise deserted, so we moved in. In a few minutes a gentlemen came out of the bathroom, walked over to our booth and exclaimed, "Are you trying to steal my beer?" with a Canadian accent. Never, ever, try to steal a Canadian's beer. They are a fiercely beer-loving people, and no good can come of such actions. So we returned his beer, and he took a seat with us.

He was a journalist from Calgary, and he was here to see local band Azeda Booth, who were apparently crashing in his hotel room. He seemed nice, and i apologize for not catching his name. (But i am terrible at remembering names!)

Also, there were these assemblies of glasses at each table.
What the heck is this?


As Azeda Booth began to set up, i noticed that they had two guitars between the three members, but also several tables of regular electronic equipment to make additional noise and loops. Knowing nothing about their sound, I began to imagine the worst (howler monkeys, anyone?), but once they began to play I was happily pleased.

Now let it be said that at the beginning the lead singer of the group was not happy. A couple of minutes into their first song, he stopped the proceedings and spoke directly to sound guy, "I hear only one thing up here on stage, and it is sadness."

The only sound is, in fact, sadness. AND ROCKING OUT!

However they tweaked the mix a bit, and restarted and I started to hear something interesting. Azeda Booth play the same type of ethereal sound swirls that characterize Atlas Sound. It's a bit more angular and cold and a little less reverby, but its core is quite similar. Within short order, I was totally entranced and involved in their set, which seemed to just fly by. By the time they concluded, I made a mental note to see what Azeda Booth's recordings sound like.

Azeba Booth in action.


That should be pretty easy, because they pretty much spammed SxSW with business cards printed with an address to download a free EP. (It’s HTTP:// in case you want to grab it yourself.) Seriously -- these business cards were all over the venue, and i kept running in to one every time i set foot in the convention center. As a marketing campaign, i hope it worked for them.

Azeda Booth in keyboarding action.


At this point, we still had nothing on the schedule, so we decided it was time to wander on down to Bella Union night and see what was happening there. We completed the long trek and finally ended up on the upstairs outdoor balcony of The Ranch, just as a band took the stage. This was Ohbijou, a group from Toronto that seemed to consist of any number of very small musicians (or people who were sitting down). I couldn't really tell, as I couldn't see over the crowd in front of me.

Ohbijou in action.


Actually, much of the band was petite Asian women, and the rest were sitting down. They were a 6-piece act, with violin, cello, and keyboards on the standard rock bass, guitar, drums framework.

Sedentary Ohbijou.


Nevertheless, the music spoke for itself, with softly gentle (yet lush) sounding music over which the vocals just seemed to float. To my mind, this is what people mean when they call an act "Chamber Pop", in that the music may have had a clear melodic focus, but it still retained some insularity. Likewise, like all Bella Union bands, Ohbijou also planed with tone and volume a lot, as things became louder or softer depending on the vocal emphasis. It wasn't anything I'd go out of my way to see in concert again, yet I think it'd be a nice listen as I read or do any number of introverted activities.

Ohbijou entertain the American Bank of Commerce.

  thought that Ohbijou were interesting. The music was light and delicate, but it flowed well and the rhythms were rather catchy. I would be interested in hearing their recorded sound.  

Then, it was finally time for the band I really wanted to see, Scotland's My Latest Novel (not My Favorite Novel, as I am still wont to call them). The first and only time I ever saw them in concert, they just totally blew me away with the way their music ebbed and flowed and with the completely evocative vocals shared amongst the members of the band. Then, after that one show, they kind of fell off the radar, and I thought I would never heard from them again. But lo and behold they had returned to SxSW and I would get a chance to see if my previous impressions had been correct.

My Latest Novel in action.

As the band loaded in, I could see they had the same line up as last time, although the little red-haired guitarist/keyboardist didn't have his little bitty xylophone (unfortunately).

Red lit red-haired keyboardist (with hidden bassist in the background).

  One minor change: they have added a full-time bassist, allowing the other members to concentrate more on their guitar or keyboards, respectively. But they shoved the bassist in the dark corner behind the red-headed keyboardist, so he was hard to see.  

But, once they started to play, the magic I remembered returned. Sure, the band didn't seem as intense as last time, and I think the vocal duties were shared more evenly than before, but fundamentally it was the same band and same sound.

My Latest Novel.

What impresses me so much upon seeing my Latest Novel is how well they play with volume. It's like a quicker and more fully instrumented version of what Low used to do back in the day. Or, to put it in more recent terms, a more ethereal, more Scottish version of some of the epics you hear from Jukebox the Ghost. And like either of those bands, My Latest Novel knows how to construct a narrative tune, in the sense that the music seems to be going somewhere (outside of any lyrical structure), as instruments come together and then split into different melodic vein before unifying again. It's an entrancing mixture that wraps you up and take you into its own head space and leaves me at least very involved in what's going on up on that stage. Suffice to say, by the time My Latest Novel finished, I was already looking forward to their forth-coming record.

My Latest Novel in exquisite vocal harmony.

  They played a 45 minute set of new material. It soared, ebbed, and flowed with violin, vocal harmonies, and lots of echoing guitars. Very nice. I look forward to their new record.  

And then it was time for the long haul back across town, where we had 15 minutes at most to trek back those 12 city blocks, through the mayhem on 6th street, to get to Elysium to see That Petrol Emotion. So shaking off the magic of My Latest Novel, we set off at a quick pace, dodging our way through the crowd, so that we got to the venue with 3 minutes to spare. But, once we got inside, it was clear we shouldn't have hurried. The previous band was still on stage and showed no sign of letting up. Postlibyan shrugged and said he had to go find the restroom, and I was left to survey the band in question.

Goth is such hard work!

Apparently they were called Tungsten Coil, and the best way I can describe them is "Goth by the numbers". I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, considering this was the same venue that hosted Peter Murphy earlier in the evening. Nevertheless, the two or three songs I heard from this band left me a bit cold, so I spent the intervening time looking at the crowd and trying to figure out which band most of the attendees were there to see.

Goth music is serious business.

  Tungsten Coil. A four-piece goth act that failed to interest me. Meh.  
  Eventually the Goth band ended, and some people began to load in equipment. I didn't recognize any of them (I did see That Petrol Emotion a couple times back in the day, so I knew who I was looking for), so I was suddenly a bit concerned that perhaps this reunion wasn't going to happen. I pointed this out to Postlibyan, who gestured towards the little white haired guy setting up the drums and said, "No, that's Ciaran. That's the band." O.K., so I know I’m getting older and greyer, but it was still a bit of a shock to see members of That Petrol Emotion with white hair. Anyway, it took them quite a while to get set up, so I wandered over to the bar for a beer. There I learned that the reason for the delay was that Peter Murphy had gone over his allotted time, so everything was running behind schedule (ironically, the person I learned this from also told me in no uncertain terms that it was "criminal" that Peter Murphy played early in the evening while this band he had never heard off got the headliner spot).  

As TPE set up, Steve Mack walked around laying down setlists. I was crowded against the stage, and is my habit i held my camera up over the setlist to get a picture, for future reference.

Standing beside me at that time were a couple of press photographers, with big cameras and bags of gear. One guy saw me do this, then look at the resulting pic, then shoot it again to get a better shot.

The setlist in question. This is my idea, dammit.

He stared in awe for a second and then said, "That's brilliant! Shoot the setlist!" And then he proceeded to maneuver his giant camera in place to do the same thing. And i saw another photographer further down take a pic of Raymond Gorman's setlist.

Dammit, i should have copyrighted that idea or something! It just seemed obvious to me, but apparently it was a new idea to these two other photographers… So just so you know -- i came up with the idea.


Around 1:30 in the morning, 30 minutes late, That Petrol Emotion finally took the stage and launched into a set list that was heavy on my old favorites.

Steve Mack is going to sail the ocean....

I was a little too involved in the music to remember the exact set list, but I know they played Last of the True Believers, Big Decision, and Sensitize. I also know they didn't play Creeping to the Cross or Candy Love Satellite.

Damian O'Neill will make a big decision.

But, considering they haven't been together for some time, the band sounded particularly tight and together, with the music sounding even fresher than the times I saw them live so many years ago. Furthermore, and more importantly, from where I stood, everyone from the band to the crowd looked to be just having a great time. It was particularly fun to see lead singer Steve Mack looking pleased and gratified as the smallish but enthusiastic crowd danced and bounced and yelled for more.

Raymond Gorman is having a blast. Really!

So, despite the late start, That Petrol Emotion played until technically after last call, before wrapping it up apologetically (and without playing a full set) because of the really late hour. Nevertheless, I have to admit I had been anticipating this single set all day long, and I did not leave disappointed. I've heard that there is a chance That Petrol Emotion may tour the U.S. later this year and, if this is true, I will so be there to see them again. What a great band.


They sounded great. Big Decision was a pleasant surprise, and Abandon came across really well on stage. The band also looked like they were having a blast, with ONeil and Gorman grinning from ear to ear the whole time, and bassist Brendan Kelly bouncing frantically the whole show. Loads of fun – i hope the US tour happens.

That Petrol rhythm section.

  Tracers:   In fact, That Petrol Emotion were so good that, when we got back to the hotel room, it was a good hour before I could go sleep, since I had so music and energy coursing through my veins. I knew I would pay for it on Friday by being exhausted, but it's a small price to pay.  
Related Links:

Read the entire SxSW09 review:
     Day 1 featuring Dancer vs. Politician, Twin Tigers, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Vivian Girls, Harlem Shakes, (Themselves), Fol Chen, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, A Armada, The Besties, Rotary Downs, Venice is Sinking, My Education, Maserati
     Day 2 featuring O + S, The Carrots, Death is not a Joyride, Foot Patrol, Azeda Booth, Ohbijou, My Latest Novel, Tungsten Coil, That Petrol Emotion
     Day 3 featuring Winter Sounds, Ulrich Schnauss, Longview, The Union Trade, Western Keys, I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness, School of 7 Bells, Ladyfinger, O + S, Lonely Deart, Headlights, Asobi Seksu
     Day 4 featuring Natccu, Great Northern, Low Line Caller, Peel, Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, The Love Me Nots, Efterklang, An Horse, Lou Barlow, Say Hi, The Rosebuds
   Extra: Photo gallery.
Band links for today:
   O + S:
   The Carrots:
   Death is not a Joyride:
   Foot Patrol:
   Azeda Booth:
   My Latest Novel:
   Tungsten Coil:
   That Petrol Emotion:
                      (fan site)


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