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  South By Southwest 2009 - Day 4  



Austin, TX


Natccu, Great Northern, Low Line Caller, Peel, Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, The Love Me Nots, Efterklang, An Horse, Lou Barlow, Say Hi, The Rosebuds

Reviewed by:
  Tracers and PostLibyan  
Photographs by:



Saturday, the last day of SxSW 09, I awoke early and tired. I wasn't sure how much more I could take, what with the crowds and the noise and the chaos. Honestly, it seemed like the mayhem had been ratcheted up a level from previous years, as if the chaos and stress of the world had been reflected onto the streets of Austin, Texas. This point was brought home that morning as I peered out the hotel window to see a line stretching two blocks down the middle of 6th street at 9 in the morning.

Seriously people: why so early?

Pardon me? I know nothing was going to start before noon at the earliest, and there were already people lining up? Likewise, if I peered towards the opposite end of 6th, I could already see lines forming for the Rachel Ray SxSW day party, again at 9 in the morning. Don't people ever sleep? Don't people ever even bathe?

Anyway, after a suitably lazy morning, we wandered off in search of food, ending up at the Latin Café, an Austin restaurant we had often seen, but never managed to eat at. After a good Tex Mex meal, which also including an awesome appetizer of coffee encrusted beef in a sherry reduction, we hurried over to the Convention Center so as to catch Great Northern at the day stage.

We got there a little early, so we were treated to the last few minutes of Japanese pop/rock singer Natccu (I thought originally this was the band name for the group on stage, but a quick Internet search revealed that Natccu is actually the name of the female singer/guitarist).

Natccu and her band.

From what I heard of her set, the music was an enjoyable mix of pop-punk, over which Natccu sang in that high-pitched tone that is so common in female musicians. I'm not sure I could sit through an entire set of this, but for a few unexpected minutes, it worked.


Natccu was decent enough J-pop singer. However, i felt kind of sorry for her. She was trying to tell some story about it being hot and her needing a beer, and i think she thought it would be funny. No one laughed, and she seemed quite nervous about that…

Natccu did not like the stage lights.

Her English wasn't the best though. Still, it was awkward. Musically, not bad at all though.


After that, we settled on a low couch close to the stage in order to see/hear Great Northern. I've really liked Great Northern's last album, and I thought they were amazingly good in concert, so I was quite eager to see what the band offered up in the way of new music. However, this was not a normal Great Northern set. Instead of a full band, just guitarist Solon Bixler and keyboardist Rachel Stolte came on stage, and each handled a guitar. So, "Great Northern" was really just an acoustic duo for this performance.

Great Northern wear their sunglasses inside.

  I thought that this was a really weird choice, as Great Northern are very much a "studio band". Their songs are complicated layers of sound, something that two people with acoustic guitars just cannot replicate. Huh.  

Still, the two of them played their new songs, and I thought it all sounded pretty good. Admittedly, the songs (and especially Stolte's vocals) came across as a bit moody and melancholy when presented without the soaring full instrumentation I would expect from Great Northern. And it was particularly odd to hear Great Northern's music as played by the two guitars only, but it was definitely enough to wet my appetite for the new record.

Afterwards, we took a small break to wander through the record and guitar exchange at the Convention Center. While Postlibyan could go browsed the used records, I wandered, looking at the guitars and basses on display. Whilst there were some good looking instruments there, the prices seemed a bit high and, as usual, I didn't see a hollow-body bass (I own one, so I'm always on the lookout for another one…). By the time I was done, Postlibyan was also done, so we went back to the hotel. I promptly curled back up with my book, and he went off to see another band, Low Line Caller at the intriguingly named Tiniest Bar in Texas.


I like the name "Tiniest Bar in Texas" and had been curious to go there over the years, but never had an excuse. It is way down 5th street – approximately 13 blocks from the Hotel.

So i trekked that distance, and arrived at: a gravel parking lot that had a stage built at one end, backed up against one of the creeks, on the other side of which was a high-rise condo building. At the other end of the gravel yard was a small bar. The gravel yard had picnic tables lined up in it. So this is an outdoor venue, i guess.

I walked in, and Low Line Caller were setting up. I had heard some of their music online, and really wanted to see how they pulled it off live. I knew nothing about the band, so was curious to see them set up. It turns out they are a five-piece band with nice gear, including a lovely green Gretsch that i just know Tracers would have been drooling over.

Nice guitar.

They then proceeded to play a set of reverb-y pop with soulful vocals. Live, they reminded me a lot of what Magic Bullets do in concert, and i think that Low Line Caller pulled it off well. They played a lovely version of Anderson Junction, which used to be featured on their MySpace page.

He'll wait, at Anderson Junction.

I found them really pleasant. They put on an interesting show, and the music has nice layers of guitarwork. I am glad that i made the long walk to see them.

LLC rock The Tiniest Bar in Texas (which is really more of a gravel yard...)


Postlibyan returned from seeing Low Line Caller just about the time I read the conclusion of my book, which was perfect timing. This was truly a good thing as well, since we had to grab food and hustle on over to Smokin' Music, as their evening shows were beginning at 7:30 pm. So after another trip to the Mongolian Barbeque for more garlic and ginger than most people can stand, we grabbed coffee from the nearest real Starbucks and then headed on to the venue. On the way, I ran into Derek Berk, the drummer for Evil Sponge favorites The High Strung. We chatted a couple of minutes and I mentioned I wouldn't be likely to see their showcase, as it conflicted with The Rosebuds. But it was nice to see him, even if I couldn't catch the whole band. Even with that small digression, we got to the venue in plenty of time, so we wandered in and planned out the rest of the night while we waited.

Still, to give Smokin' Music credit, right at 7:30, the band I had wanted to see, Austin's Peel, came on. If you look back through our SxSW archives, you can see that Peel is one of those acts I specifically go to Austin to hear. They don't really tour (or at least they never seem to make it Atlanta, or if they do, they play a venue I boycott on principle), and I do really like them, so SxSW is the one time in the year I get to see them live.

Anyway, Peel took the stage promptly with much the same lineup as last year. I think the bassist was different, but otherwise the core musicians were the same.

It's Peel!


They didn't just change the bassist – they hired one of the Gallaghers to play bass! I kept expecting them to break into Champaign Supernova!!!!

Dakota Smith and ... Liam? Or is that Noel? (I get them confused.)


Not surprisingly, they launched into a set of alternating raucous and slightly twangy indie pop. It's always an interesting combination: some songs rely heavily on the melodies of keyboardist Allison Moore while others really focus on the feedbacking guitar interplay between main vocalist Josh Permenter and the always frenetic Dakota Smith. It's a fun mixture that has a less of an immediate "signature sound" than many other bands. On this evening, in particular, the emphasis seemed more on the noisy aspects of Peel's music, which really suited the cavernous Smokin' Music quite well (and also really worked with the constantly billowing smoke from the fog machine).


Smokin' Music is a strange place. It is a huge empty room with a really nice stage, and expensive and elaborate lighting, and lots of smoke machines. Do they have shows here during the rest of the year? The one link i found seems to imply that they do not, so it seems as if this place, with it's fancy setup, exists only for the one week of SxSW. How strange is that? Well, it is a nice venue, and it sounds and looks good, so i guess that is a plus.

Awesome lights at Smokin Music.


I know that some of the songs were newish (especially one of Moore's that was apparently about an ex-boyfriend), but they also did several numbers off their older debut album, including the a completely over the top version of Workers, Wake Up! that made me positively giddy.

Ms. Moore in action.

My only complaint about Peel's set is that they didn't seem to play all that long, but that could have been just me, as I could have listened them for a good 30 or 40 minutes more. Nevertheless, their set was one of the highlights of SxSW09 for me.

  I enjoy Peel, perhaps not as much as Tracers, but they are a fun little band. I thought they played well tonight.  

Then, just as a bonus, we had the last of the bands I wanted to see, based solely on their name alone. This was Chicago's Scotland Yard Gospel Choir. Prior to their set, I knew next to nothing about them, other than they have an awesome band name and they released their first self-titled album on Bloodshot Records back towards the end of 2007. Well that, and they played the Stomp and Stammer bash before we arrived, and the folks I knew there said they blew the lid of the stage. So, great name and Stomp and Stammer recommendation equals good. Bloodshot Records could be…well not bad exactly, just extra twangy. Either way, I wasn't sure what to expect. This confusion only grew as I watched them set up with a group of folks including a violinist, a horn section, and keyboards (beyond the usual guitar, bass and drums). Someone had mentioned that Scotland Yard Gospel Choir had been termed as "Chamber Pop", so looking at the lineup I was beginning to think they might be right.

Scotland Yard Gospel Choir. The scottish are so strange....

But then the band began to play. And the clouds parted and the angels sang.

O.K., maybe that's a little bit of hyperbole, but it's been a long time since I was completely blown away by a more or less random band. You see, I don't know the music of Scotland Yard Gospel Choir is really "chamber pop" or not (I'm inclined to think not, as at least the set I saw was loud and rocking, which wouldn't seem to fit the bill), but it is filled with catchy and jangly musical hooks, repeated at length so as to insinuate themselves into your brain. Likewise, the lyrics tended towards straight-forward narratives, complete with sing-along choruses delivered with an endearingly bombastic air and wry humor by band leader Elia Einhorn. The best way to describe Einhorn's performance to my mind is to think of Chris Lopez back in the heyday of The Rock*a*Teens, when he would just put it all out there and yelp at top volume and the consequences be damned. As Postlibyan might say, "Chamber Pop" my fat white ass.


I was surprised to read that this was a Bloodshot Records band. I, personally, find Bloodshot to release depressing and/or boring music, and SYGC was neither. I would describe them as "The Waterboys on speed". They had that shambling mulit-instrumental sound, but sped up and with insane layers of catchiness. I only saw the first few songs, but i really liked what i heard.


Scotland Yard Gospel trumpet.


Based on the band's dialogue, most of the songs from this set are from the soon to be released second album, which based on the lyrical content is going to be a "break up record." This observation can be born out by some of the song titles, including the title track for the records, …And the Horse You Rode In On (during the "…" part of the chorus of that song, the band just flipped folks off, so you get the idea). Likewise, the other main highlight of the set was a song called Libertyville, which per the pre-song intro is about losing an entire suburb during a breakup. The funniest part of the set was as this song ended and someone from the crowd yelled out, "But you've always got Schaumberg!"

He will, indeed, always have Schaumberg.

Still, pretty much everything I heard from Scotland Yard Gospel Choir was wondrous, so much so that when Postlibyan suggested it was time to move on to the next band, I shook my head and indicated I would stay at Smokin' Music and see the rest of the set. So Postlibyan wandered off, and I stayed through the conclusion, happily bouncing along with the band and very disappointed when it came to an end. I don't know if the forth coming album will capture the magic I heard up on that stage, but I bloody well hope so. And if not, well there is always the live performance, when they hopefully tour.

So, Scotland Yard Gospel Choir finished, and I found myself with a little dead time before I had to meet up with Postlibyan at the Barsuk/Merge Records showcase at The Parish. Seeing as how I was running 2 for 2 at Smokin' Music, I figured I'd just hang out there, catch a little of the next band, and I'd still have plenty of time to make it over for Say Hi's set. So I stood around and waited whilst the next act set up. This was Phoenix's The Love Me Nots, and they were a little confusing to me.

The Love Me Nots set up as a four piece, with two women in black and white mini dresses and white go-go boots at the forefront (on organ and bass, respectively). They were backed by a guy on guitar, who looked suspiciously like Michael Bradley (Myssouri, Antic Clay), and a guy on drums (who I couldn't see from my vantage point). But they began to play, and I understood the look. This was fuzzy 60s-esque garage rock (think: The Woggles), with a female vocalist who growled her way through the tunes. Ten years ago, I would have eaten this up, but after 15 minutes or so, I pretty much got the point and based on the folks around me, I was definitely the wrong gender to appreciate The Love Me Nots. Thinking I had only a little time to get over to The Parish, I rushed out of Smokin' Music and hurried up to 6th street to queue up in order to see Say Hi. In retrospect, had I know what was to come, I probably would have just stayed where I was.



I left the pleasant SYGC set to fulfill the last item on my "to do during SxSW" list: wait in a long pointless line. I wove my way through the mayhem to get to Emo's Jr, hoping to catch Efterklang. Instead, i had to wait outside for about 30 minutes. The good news is that i could half-hear them over the roar of the outdoor crowd staggering through the streets.

I finally got in about half-way through their set. Efterklang are a 7-piece act from Denmark. I guess they are a post-rock band, because they are hard to classify. Several of the members sing, often in harmony. In fact, one of the highlights of their performance was a song that started with them all singing, a cappella, for several minutes in a long introduction, before hammering away at their instruments.

Efterklang in action.

Instrumentally, they had horns, keys, guitars, violin (of course – it wouldn't be SxSW09 without a violin!), drums, and a table of electronics. Members changed up what they were doing, so the drummer would sometimes stand up and wail out a mournful trumpet note, while the lead vocalist kept time on a floor tom he had handy.

Efterklang's main vocalist.

The music was very complex, with layers that evolved and transformed in unexpected ways. Utterly, stunningly, beautiful. I own a 12" by this band, and it was the strength of that recording that made we want to see them, but they completely blew any expectation i had out of the water. This was a magnificent performance, and the packed crowd at the sweaty Emo's Jr. ate it up.

They actually played a slightly long set – perhaps 50 minutes. In many cases this would delay the next act, but Efterklang geared off with remarkable speed. Bless that Scandinavian efficiency!

The next act was Australia's An Horse, which is a two-piece of guitar and drums. They set up rather fast, and the show moved kept on schedule.

I have a download of An Horse's latest record, which some promo company or other sent to me. I have been listening to it off and on at work, catching a song or two between phone calls. I found it pretty nice. They play a kind of bluesy, primitive rock. I guess they are an inverse White Stripes – in An Horse, the male drums and sings while the woman plays guitar and sings. (And she is tiny too. I had no idea….)

An Horse (not to scale).

Drummer Damon plays with a big, thudding style, really creating a huge echoing rhythm. Kate's guitar is a twangy, whining whirr, all fast notes. Added to this, the two of them harmonize rather well. They really weren't bad. I found it strange though that played to an almost empty club, the Efterklang fans having poured out of the venue. I watched perhaps half their set, making a mental note to give that download a few more listens, and then i headed off to find Tracers at Merge night.


: I got vaguely confused on the time as that early 7:30 start at Smokin' Music threw me off. So when I rushed upstairs at Parish and shoved my way through the totally packed out venue, I was expecting to grab floor space for Say Hi. Instead, I pushed my way through to a decent vantage point about 1/3 back from the stage just in time to see…Lou Barlow.

Mr. Lou Barlow. Indie rock legend. (And secret Smurf? Who knew?)

Now I know Lou Barlow is an Indie rock icon and all that, but his solo stuff varies wildly. It could be good or it could be bad. He did take the stage with someone else, but I couldn't catch the other person's name over the crowd noise. Similarly, I couldn't really tell too much about the music, as the people packed around me kept talking and talking loudly, as if the music was an annoyance. At first I told myself that it was because people were hoping for a second Dinosaur, Jr. set and were disappointed that it was not. But then as time progressed, I realized that my initial impression was totally incorrect. These people were there because this was, for some unknown reason, the "cool" show, and they were too busy visiting with their friends and drinking to pay attention to that distraction on the stage. Honestly, as I stood there, trying to pick out Barlow's delicate melodies through the din, I felt sorry for him. It seemed like he was attempting something quiet and introspective, and it just wasn't happening. So, after what seemed like a short time, Barlow finished up and the relatively newly arrived Postlibyan and I edged closer to the stage behind a group of people even shorter than me, so that we'd have a good place for Say Hi.

As Say Hi set up, the first thing I noticed that Eric Elbogen and company were touring without the keyboards that are so necessary to their earlier songs. This choice became very clear when the band got ready to play and Elbogen stated outright that he and the two other musicians were going to play the entirety of their new album, Oohs and Aahs, and would play older material if they had time at the end.

Eric Elbogen, in rock band mode.

This was a very brave musical choice on Say Hi's part, as the new album had only been out around 2 weeks at the time of this set. I had, by this time, completed my review, so I knew all the songs quite well, but I'd bet that I was one of only a handful of people who could say that. Still, I thought the new songs translated well to the stage, even if they were playing at breakneck speed so as to get through the entire record. In particular, November Was White, December Was Grey and The Stars Just Blink For Us really shone with the minimal instrumentation. Still, I have to confess that the people around me seemed bored, as they continued to talk and drink their way through Say Hi's set (I even heard one guy complain to his friends about this "country act" sharing the bill with The Rosebuds). Even when the band finished in time to throw in a version of Northwestern Girls, the crowd remained mostly disinterested, as they checked their schedules and SmartPhones with dedication.

  I haven't really heard the new record, but i was not that impressed with what i heard tonight. Maybe it was that they were playing so fast, or maybe it was the blues rock band setup, but Say Hi failed to impress.  

So Say Hi was something of a disappointment that was exacerbated by the crowd and the growing stiflingly heat inside The Parish. But, The Rosebuds were next. They're a dance band, and when they play Atlanta, everyone shuts up and starts to dance. It's like a Pavlovian response. Maybe all these yappy people were just waiting for The Rosebuds? I had a nice long time to ponder this question, as The Rosebuds seemed to take nigh-unto-forever to set up. I also had a nice long time to ponder and create my universal theory of men who wear plaid shirts as well as a while to think about the uncomfortable looking shoes I saw on the people around me. In short, it was some time after their scheduled start before The Rosebuds even got on the stage and, during that time, The Parish seemed to get even more crowded and, subsequently, even more noisy.

At long last, The Rosebuds began to play and, shockingly, the crowd neither shut up nor danced. Rather, they continued to talk to their friends, even managing to drown out parts of the music. To top it off, the sound mix from where I stood was atrocious, with certain instruments way too loud and certain vocals way too soft. Even when the band launched into the usually amazing Cemetery Lawn, the sound failed them, when a gruesome vocal effect made Ivan Howard sound like he was gargling a particularly angry alien. Combined with the heat and the chatter, this sound mis-step was enough to make me go, "I'm done." So I turned to Postlibyan and suggested that he could stay if he wanted, but I was going to get out of there.

And so that's how my SxSW 09 finished up, not with a bang but a whimper. Looking back, I should have realized that after that amazing one-two punch of Peel and Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, anything would have been a disappointment. And after I had seen how aggravating the crowd at The Parish was, I probably should have just throw up my hands and gone off to see The High Strung, who I know will play well, even if there are sound issues. But I had wanted to stick it out, and for that I paid the price.

Admittedly, Saturdays at SxSW are always chaotic and frustrating, especially as by that point I'm tired and grouchy and just over dealing with people stepping on my feet and shoving me out of the way. But for some reason this particular Saturday seemed especially bad, bad enough that when I left Austin, I was thinking I likely wouldn't return for another SxSW. Even now, I'm not sure if I have changed my mind on that point. But then I consider the sheer amount of good and interesting music I heard, and likely never would have heard had I not journeyed out to Texas, and the chaos and stupidity seem like it might just be worth it.

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:
   Great Northern:
   Low Line Caller:
   Scotland Yard Gospel Choir:
   The Love Me Nots:
   An Horse:
   Lou Barlow:
   Say Hi:
   The Rosebuds:


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