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Event:
  South By Southwest 2011  
 
Date:
 

Friday.18.March.2011

 
 
Location:
 

Austin, TX

 
 
Artists:
 

The Fling, The Dears, Eulogies, Gold Motel, Pontiak, Shimmering Stars, Los Impostors, Class Actress, Oh No, Oh My, and Elizabeth and the Catapult

 
 
Reviewed by:
  Tracers and PostLibyan  
 
Photographs by:
  PostLibyan  
         
 
 

Review

 
 
Tracers:
 

Friday at SxSW is really the mid-point of the festival. Usually by this time, Iím starting to get annoyed and feel more or less over it with regards to the crowds and the people. But, as we continued with our more laidback approach to SxSW, I found that I really wasnít too bothered by the chaos that littered the streets by Friday. Of course, this was assisted across the board by the fact that, as weíve mentioned previously, we were taking it easy on the day shows. So, after a lovely lunch of Moroccan food (one of our usual stops in Austin), we took it easy for most of the afternoon. This was primarily because we knew we were going to a late afternoon day show that would likely run late and would likely involve us having to scramble for food. So, in essence, the early afternoon was our rest period. And rest we did.

Then we headed up to a bar called ďRusty SpursĒ for the Swing House/DíAddario Day party. We had a rough idea of the schedule (although the timings were not listed anywhere on the web, or at least not anywhere I could find) and PostLibyan really wanted to see The Dears, so we decided to traipse up to the venue a little early.

Anyway, according to my research, ďRusty SpursĒ is a country bar; once inside the venue, the rustic vibe was borne out, with some wooden floors acting as a ďdance floorĒ, not all that much air circulation, and lots of rough-hewn barrels and dťcor. At the end of the dance floor, a stage had been set up and this somewhat cramped environment was were The Dears would play. At the back, the bar opened up to a smallish courtyard, where other acts (including Gold Motel) would play under a lean-to. It wasnít exactly the best layout, but the two stages did allow a number of bands to go on right after one another, so it was at least efficient.

When we got to Rusty Spurs, a band was finishing up inside. They were Tender Box, and I have to confess they didnít make any impression on me at all. In fact, Iím not sure I could identify them, even if one of them wandered up and started gnawing on my ankles. Once they finished up, we went outside to see the patio band they were starting. Both PostLibyan and I first thought that this was Eulogies (who we wanted to see); instead it turned out that this was The Fling. The Fling had some nice instruments, but were in general a competent, moderately interesting rock band. They had a slightly psychedelic, hazy feel that complement their fairly old school approach. Iím not sure Iíd go out of my way to see them again; however, as a band playing whilst I stood in the warm spring air, they did pretty o.k.


The Fling had nice guitars, too.

We then changed direction and went the 30 feet back into the venue so as to see and hear The Dears. Honestly, Iím not all that familiar with their work, but I did see them a few years back, also at SxSW. However, that time they played a much much larger venue, which I thought suited their very theatrical style quite well. In fact, looking at the smallish stage in front of me, I kept wondering how The Dears would sound within the somewhat limited space, especially as I always imagine The Dears as being one of the overly-dramatic acts, albeit in a good way.

As The Dears set up, I did notice that the lead singer apparently was using a wireless microphone. It also seemed like they managed to cramp all of their gear into the smallish space. When they began to play, it was a bit astounding. Yes, The Dears sounded really good and their pop sound doesnít seem like its changed too greatly over the years. But what really impressed me was the way the band retained their sense of spectacle as the lead singer made grand gestures and the music swelled even though they werenít playing too all that many people. It kinda came across like a big theater/amphitheatre show that had been squished down into a small space: not too much interaction with the crowd, but an enjoyable musical time nonetheless. Oh, and not surprisingly, it was loud. No seriously, they were very loud, which just plays into the big show mushed into a small space theory.

 
         
 
PostLibyan:
 

The Dears are a six-piece band these days, still with frontman Murry Lightburn on guitars and voice and Natalia Yanchak on keyboards. Tracers is right in describing their sound as big. The Dears make epic pop, with powerful emotive vocals and big, booming guitars. Lightburn danced and sang, really moving and trying to motivate the sparse crowd. His performance, and the epic complex pop he band was doing really made me think of Pulp. Lightburn has the stage presence of Jarvis Cocker, and i thought he put on a great performance to a small crowd. A big difference from the last time i saw The Dears at SxSW, where they were playing to the huge crowd at Stubbs.


Murray Lightburn starts it here....

 
         
 
Tracers:
 

After The Dears played, we moved back onto the patio to watch Eulogies. This West Coast band is one that PostLibyan was convinced we had seen and heard previously, although I wasnít too sure. However, once I got a look at the hollowbody guitar held by the lead singer, I knew PostLibyan was in fact correct. Just like some folks donít forget a face, I wonít forget a guitar, especially if itís particularly interesting or unique.


Eulogies and their memorable guitars.

I think this bass is pretty neat too.

Anyway, once the band began to play, I rather enjoyed them. They music was loose and fuzzy, with an unusual Indie lo-fi feel you donít normally hear in a live set. Likewise, as the group continued, I was struck by just how talented each musician was in their own right whether it was the rhythm/secondary guitarist and his noisemakers (including the best use of a Heineken can seen at SxSW this year) or the bassistís muted throb.


Shaky Heineken can.

In some ways, the set as presented on this afternoon reminded me a bit of the first time we ever saw Silversun Pickups, back when they were so reverby and insular. Either way, by the time they ended, I was quite happy to have seen Eulogies again and became interested in hearing their recorded output.

 
         
 
PostLibyan:
 

Looking back at my review of the last time i saw Eulogies, i would say that they are much improved. Last time i found them a little unfocused in a jammy sort of way, bit this afternoon they were tight. The lead guitarist, who has "Peter Walker" stenciled on his gear, was quite simply amazing. He played an amplified acoustic guitar through pedals, and got a beautiful sound. He was very interesting to watch, and i enjoyed their short set.

 
         
 
Tracers:
 

Pleased and happy with the Eulogies, neither PostLibyan nor I really wanted to go back inside to see the last band on that stage, The Mother Truckers. That twangy sound is something I admittedly enjoyed oh some 10 years ago, but Iíve moved on in a musical sense and donít find it all that appealing. Besides that, the sound bleed from inside to the patio was large enough that I felt like I was already inside the venue, so I donít think we missed too much. Rather we both stood around and watched Gold Motel do their set up.

Ah, Gold Motel. I found them ever so impressive during their Wednesday night set, and I really really wanted to see if the energy, enthusiasm and sheer happiness I saw could be reproduced. But once the band did a quick setup and bounced onto the stage, I was positively thrilled. I think the sound on Wednesday night was a bit better, but the music itself seemed more kinetic on this day, especially as lead singer Greta Morgan kept exhorting people to dance, since it was Gold Motelís last performance of SxSW.


Dance for Gold Motel! DANCE!

Now that I was marginally more familiar with the music, I realized how contagiously catchy it seemed. Even after a listen or two, I pretty much recognized the various songs and appreciated the bouncy, bop along with the band feel (which was of course only enhanced by the dancing going on around me). Truly this was a success, since Iíve now got Gold Motel pretty much stuck in brain and in constant rotation these days.

 
         
 
PostLibyan:
 

Yeah, Summer House pretty much stayed stuck in my head for the entirety of SxSW. This afternoon, the band was having fun. They encouraged the crowd to dance, and seemed to be goofing off a bit on stage. It was another great performance.


Take On Me... or, rather, Axel from down the street...

 
         
 
Tracers:
 

Gold Motel played a little long (or perhaps they went on a little late), so afterwards we had to scramble a bit for food before beginning the evening festivities. Luckily, Rusty Spurs was conveniently located next to the evening location of the Korean/Mexican fusion food truck both PostLibyan and I enjoyed. So we stood in line and picked up food (and learned in the process that apparently Kurt Vile doesnít like onionsÖno seriously, no onions!). After chomping down on the good kimchee fries (this time with spicy pork), we grabbed a cup of coffee and headed out into the evening.


Kim Chee Fries, again.

Out first stop was a return to Emos Jr to see a band PostLibyan had suggested, Pontiak. Not knowing anything about them, I wasn't sure what to expect. My first impression of this three piece was that were rather loud, with an ominous tone to the music. Rather, they seemed to alternate certain metally aspect of deep, harsh chords with some angular, almost droning melodies. In my head, I'd call it "hard math" rock, with a particular emphasis on discordant feedback. Still, as I listened to them, I was quite impressed with the way Pontiak managed to combine the harsh elements in such a way that the overall effect wasn't muddy or dreary. About the only thing I would have added to their sound was a gong. Perhaps the one that wasn't put to such good use the evening before?

 
         
 
PostLibyan:
 

Pontiak is a band from Virginia that records on Thrill Jockey records, and we have received a few of their releases in promo form here at EvilSponge. I really enjoyed their records, which are a mťlange of blues, math rock, and metal. I find the music hard to describe, which is why i havenít reviewed them. Sometimes, when i canít think of exactly what to say, i say nothing at all...

Anyway, i was looking forward to seeing them live, and i think they delivered. This was a performance of loud riffing and complex time signatures. The band is a three-piece, and they were really getting into it on stage, dancing around and grimacing and thrashing. Good fun.

 
         
 
Tracers:
 

We then had another empty space in our itinerary. Therefore, I had done some more research and come up with the next band. This was a Canadian group called Shimmering Stars. On the surface, this group had a lot to recommend itself. First off, they were Canadian, and based on our joy of Rah Rah, we were already inclined to think Canadian groups might be a good thing. More importantly, the blurb I read about them indicated that this was a dream pop act which referenced the lovely sounds of the late 50s and 60s with a strong influence by acts like the Beach Boys or Del Shannon. Now, this is just my type of music, so it definitely sounded promising on paper.

But, once we arrived at the Soho Lounge and the little three piece band began to play, I remembered something very important. That 50s/60s sound may be associated with Phil Specter and the Beach Boys. But it was also the sound of Pat Boone and Ricky Nelson. Unfortunately, Shimmering Stars fell on that more bland and non-threatening side of the spectrum. The music itself was plodding and restrained and without any of the effects I think are necessary to carry a "dream pop" label. Additionally, the harmonies, which should have been the lynchpin of the sound, were completely off and were so rudimentary that the group sounded almost doo wop. True, there was nothing absolutely horrendous about the band, but I still found the insipidness vaguely offensive. We actually thought about moving on after a couple of tunes, but since we didn't have a backup plan and since the actual environment at Soho was fairly decent, we stuck it out, whilst I tried to discover how many synonyms I knew for "milquetoast".

 
         
 
PostLibyan:
 

I am very relieved to hear Tracers say this, as i found the band dull. This was non-threatening boy band music. It was the opposite of edgy.

 
         
 
Tracers:
 

However, we had planned to stay at the same venue to see the next band on the label's showcase. But considering my massive disappointment, we thought it best to find another act. I did some quick research during the last part of Shimmering Stars' set, and determined that our best bet was to head on over to the venue where Class Actress (the group PostLibyan really wanted to see) was going to play a bit later and take our chances with whoever was on the stage. So we toddled across the street in time to see this unknown act beginning to take the stage. All I knew is that this was Los Impostors and they were apparently a Mexican dance band.

As we watched Los Impostors set up, I could tell they were a two piece with a lot of electronics as well as some more regular instrumentation (including guitars and various percussion items). The other thing I could tell you is that they a small, but enthusiastic, group of fans who were eagerly anticipating their show. After a longish set up, which impressed me because it was clear that the musicians in Los Impostors knew exactly what they were doing, as evidenced by some of their rather specific sound checking requests, the band began to play and I was most pleasantly surprised. While the music had a vaguely dance beat, the musicians would play and then loop most of the instruments and percussion, which gave it a very dynamic sound. Likewise, the melodies and songs, albeit buried within the loops were interesting in themselves, making the band sound more like Rizzudo (or one of those electro-dance groups) than like a rave group. I enjoyed listening to them as well as watching their fans dance around and have a grand old time. It was bit exhilarating and made me happy we had bailed on the previous venue.

 
 
     
 
PostLibyan:
 

Los Impostors were impressive for an act i had never even heard of. There were two of them, and they would play something, then loop it a bit, then play something else. Keys and drums and congas and synths and bass all blurred together. It looked a little complex as the two members continually moved around, but all of the music had great beats, and the crowd really got into it. They were fun.

 
 
     
 
Tracers:
 

After Los Impostors finished, the venue began to fill up as people filed in to see Class Actress. This, like Pontiak earlier, was a group with which I wasn't familiar, but PostLibyan really really wanted to see them. Since I'm so short, and the crowd was started to fill in, I slipped towards the back of the venue while PostLibyan moved towards the front. Back where I was standing, I listened to a few hipsters coo about the "innovative sound" of Class Actress. Then I saw the lights dim and heard what sounded like a very tentative soundcheck. However, after a couple of minutes, I (and the folks around me) realized that the band had in fact started. And it didn't sound quite right. Not knowing whether this was normal or not, I focused on the thin-sounding, slightly dark female vocals and the marginally throbbing beats. It wasn't all that compelling, but it wasn't actively offensive, so I was happy enough to stand around and listen. However, most of the folks around me didn't seem so inclined, as I watched a fairly significant exodus occur after two or three songs.

 
         
 
PostLibyan:
 

I really enjoyed the debut Class Actress EP. It is full of wonderful female vocaled synthpop. Live, however, well, they sucked. The woman in the band felt that she needed to dance and sing, but she couldnít really multitask like that. Her dancing was jerky and hesitant, and the vocals became breathy. The two guys she had playing synths were not exactly mixed well either. I recognized the songs, but they were done much more poorly than on the record.

And that's fine. Not every act needs to be a live act. After a few songs, i felt that we should cut our losses and move on.

 
         
 
Tracers:
 

When PostLibyan slipped back to me and suggested that this set wasn't all that wonderful and perhaps we should wander on. I said o.k., and we quickly made our exit and headed towards to venue where EvilSponge favorites Oh No Oh My would play a bit later.

After playing a game of hide and seek with the venue entrance (it was actually on a side street, even though the venue itself faces 6th street), we climbed the stairs to the second floor and discovered a version of nirvana. There was a band finishing up their set (this was Santah and they were pleasant), but more importantly, there were wood floors and rather dominating air conditioning. AhhÖ.I was happy and ready to settle in.

It's been a couple of years since we caught Oh No Oh My; I'm not sure if they've made it to Atlanta recently. Nevertheless, ever since PostLibyan drug me to see them (at a previous SxSW), I've been a fan. Traditionally, Oh No Oh My play very upbeat, bouncy and catchy Indie Pop with lots of guitars and keys. Also, in the past, the three front guys tend to switch instruments which, unlike most bands I've seen that do this onstage, has never felt like you're watching a volleyball rotation. In short, Oh No Oh MY are one of those bands that overlaps the musical tastes of both Postlibyan and myself and every time I've seen them, they've put on a fairly awesome show.

So, seeing them in front of their hometown of Austin and in a comfortable environment seemed fairly promising. Once the band began to play, though, I had to amend my judgment: this was in fact very promising. I didn't recognize many of the songs, which leads me to believe that they played a fair amount off their very recent album, People Problems. While the music was in much the same vein as their earlier releases, I did noticed that the vocals were more evenly distributed between the normal, guitar-oriented lead singer and the blonde keyboardist (sorry, but I don't know which one is which in a name sense, so I'm not even going to try). This equity in vocals was really nice, since I actually tend to like the keyboardist's voice a bit better. Or perhaps I tend to like the music better on the songs he sings. Either way, their set was the real high point of the evening for me. And I could tell others enjoyed it as well; there was even a guy behind me playing air keyboards!

Having now thoroughly enjoyed myself, we decided to go to one last random show of the evening. For the last couple of years we here at EvilSponge have received occasional promo tracks and listings from a Brooklyn based group called Elizabeth and the Catapult. I've listened to these tunes and found them interesting. So, since we had the opportunity to see the band and they were playing out one of my favorite "odd" SxSW venues (a hotel conference room, complete with conference chairs and a stage that makes you think they ought to have a PowerPoint going in the background), we decided to check them out.

After settling into the conference room, where PostLibyan quickly discovered PBR was cheaper than water, we found ourselves in the middle of a prolonged setup. I wasn't sure what the delays were entirely about, since the instrumentation of this three piece seemed fairly straightforward (keys, strings, and drums). However, Elizabeth herself, who was directing the proceedings, was very peppy and made several self-deprecating comments. This was a good sign, since she was entertaining even before she began to play.


The quirky, yet highly entertaining, Elizabeth. (Catapult not pictured.)

At last, Elizabeth began to play solo (while the other two musicians waited in the wings). This solo song brought to mind those late 60s/early 70s jazzy female singer-songwriters, like Carole King. Similarly, her voice was very powerful and emotive and soothing, in a sense, which made things even more pleasant. Still, once her band joined her on stage, and the music became more rounded and full sounding, I enjoyed them even more. The music itself was still sort of poppy, but with a jazzy/bluesy undertone that gives it more depth than your average act. Likewise, the sheer power of her voice was endearing, and I could see people who like acts like Feist enjoying Elizabeth and the Catapult as well. Yet, because of their late start and because of the generally soothing nature of the music (and the conference room), I found the late hour catching up to me. So, after a few more tunes, we decided to call it an evening and go ahead and get some sleep in preparation for the last (and usual most chaotic) day at SxSW.

 
 
     
 
Related Links:
 

Read our entire SxSW11 review:
     The Introduction.
     Tuesday, 15 March.
     Wednesday, 16 March, featuring Judgement Day, Rah Rah, King David, Gold Motel, Ólöf Arnalds, Summer Camp, Dry the River, Eisley, Sun Airway, Small Black, and Parts & Labor.
     Thursday, 17 March, featuring Rah Rah, Little Tybee, Sealions, Simon Says No, Resplandor, Magic Bullets, Royal Thunder, The Wooden Birds, Say Hi, and Maps and Atlases.
     
Friday, 18 March, featuring The Fling, The Dears, Eulogies, Gold Motel, Pontiak, Shimmering Stars, Los Impostors, Class Actress, Oh No, Oh My, and Elizabeth and the Catapult.
     
Saturday, 19 March, featuring Matthew and the Atlas, Reptar, Dry the River, Venice Is Sinking, Cheap Girls, Colin Stetson, Wires Under Tension, and Balmorhea.
Band links for today:
   The Dears: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dears
          http://www.thedears.org/
          http://www.myspace.com/thedears
          http://www.facebook.com/TheDears
   Eulogies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eulogies_(band)
          http://www.eulogiesmusic.com/
          http://www.myspace.com/eulogiesmusic
   Gold Motel: http://www.myspace.com/goldmotel
          http://www.goldmotel.com/
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_Motel
   Pontiak: http://www.pontiak.net/
          http://www.myspace.com/pontiak
   Shimmering Stars: http://www.myspace.com/starsshimmer
   Los Impostors: http://www.myspace.com/losimpostors
          http://www.facebook.com/LosImpostors?v=app_2405167945
   Class Actress: http://classactress.tumblr.com/
          http://www.myspace.com/elizabethharper
   Oh No, Oh My: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oh_No_Oh_My
          http://www.ohnoohmy.com/
          http://www.myspace.com/ohnoohmyband
   Elizabeth and the Catapult: http://www.elizabethandthecatapult.com/
           http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_%26_the_Catapult

 
         

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