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  South by SouthWest 2005  
  The Blender Bar, Room 710, and The Blender Bar Balcony  
  Austin, TX  
Reviewed by:
  PostLibyan and Tracers  
Performance Rating:
Sound Quality:
Overall Rating:

The second night of SxSW did not begin auspiciously. You see, it was St. Patrick's Day and no matter which way we turned, our quest for pre-show food and beer was thwarted. Eventually we found a place at a bar and figured that it was better to eat and subsequently miss VCR (our planned first band) than to not eat and regret it later.

The Armadillo markers on the street signs in Austin are not a warning to be on the lookout for shelled, carnivorous mammals.  Instead they are a complimentary bus system, no doubt getting lots of use on St. Paddy's Day.

So it was after 8:30 before we finally finished our meal. This left just enough time to get over to The Blender Bar and settle in to watch Ulrich Schnauss.

  When we walked into The Blender Bar, there was a generic Britpoppish band on the stage called Adem. I would term them a "Belle and Sebastian" damaged band. They were something we endured whilst waiting.  

During Adem's set, I noticed a couple of things. First off, the lights on the floor of The Blender Bar were insanely bright. Second, it was rather crowded. This surprised me. I mean, PostLibyan (who is a fan) tells me that Schnauss is big, but I don't know…I have a hard time imagining the excitement of watching some guy spin records.

Anyway, Schnauss came out and music began to play. And the crowd began to chat. In retrospect, I think most of the folks there had come to see some of the later bands, so they were just not that into the music. After about 15 minutes, it turned out that, well, I wasn't that into it either. And even PostLibyan admitted that perhaps this type of music is more interesting on the stereo than in person. Therefore, we decided to go on to the next venue and the next band.

  I gotta admit that, even though I love his music, there really wasn’t any benefit to seeing it live. Basically, Ulrich Schnauss sat at table full of gear and "made music". Heck, for all I know he was playing solitaire on his laptop. Sure, it sounded good, but I think I could get the same experience out of sitting around listening to A Strangely Isolated Place. Some music just doesn’t translate to a live setting, and Schnauss clearly falls into that category. I will continue to buy his albums, but I will never go out of my way to see him "perform".  

The last time The Deathray Davies played Atlanta, Postlibyan did not get to see them. And as they are one of my favorite live bands, I did not complain when he suggested that we should head up to Room 710 for their set. As we had left the Ulrich Schnauss show somewhat early, we arrived to find Maplewood still playing. I knew (and still know) nothing about this band, but from where I sat near the bar, they sounded like a good little punk band, filled with loud guitars, fast drums, and a screaming lead singer. In short, they sounded like fun.

After a quickish breakdown, The Deathray Davies took the stage to a large crowd. They played fast and well, including some of the old favorites, including They Stuck Me in a Box in the Ground, Part I. They also added songs from their upcoming release, which sounded to me just as The Davies ought to sound. In other words, the lyrics are both wry and funny and the music is a little jangly, although you can still dance to it. Clearly, even drunk, which I suspect most of the members were, they put on a good set, and I think the audience appreciated it.


The Deathray Davies played loud and fast and catchy. They put on a damned fine set. This is a band that has to be seen to be believed.


At this point, we had a small break in our scheduled shows, so we wandered on up to The Blender Bar balcony (which is actually a separate venue) in order to catch the band before Paik, a band PostLibyan really wanted to see. As it turned out, the first act we caught was a guitarist from Montreal by the name of Harris Newman. I think he was rather good, although some of his quieter parts were drowned out by the band playing the actual Blender Bar below (see: popular venue, noted above). Musically, I'd characterize him as bluesy drone, but as I'm not connoisseur, that may not be right. All I know is that PostLibyan was impressed enough to buy a single.

  Newman is one of the seeming legion of ambient guitarists out there. I would classify what he did as being in the same general genre as Yellow6, Robin Guthrie, or Portal. Of course, he didn't have a drum machine, but he did manage to create layers of sound, mostly with just an effected acoustic guitar. Rather interesting.  

Then, there was Paik. All I knew going into their set was that they were a three piece whom PostLibyan wanted to see, and that the drummer had a kettle drum. Now, that's cool. And, although I have a hard time describing the music of this Detroit-based band accurately, I can tell you that were loud and incredibly interesting. By this I mean that all three band members played inter-woven melodies that, as whole, kept me utterly fascinated. One part would be loud, then another would be soft. And throughout the set, I kept turning my focus back to the drummer, who managed to create a sonic ebb and flow that made Paik's music seem like a musical landscape. In short, they were really good.


Paik just continue to impress me. I would classify their music as post-shoegaze psychedelia. There is a hint of early Pink Floyd in the mix, but it sits alongside a dash of My Bloody Valentine. What I like about Paik is that they play in a darkened venue, film images projected onto them, a smoke machine running, and they just played through for 40 nonstop minutes. No banter, no stopping the flow of music. It is as if one tune flowed seamlessly into the next. I think, upon inspection, that the drummer was running the show in that the changes in what he was playing led the other to members to transition to a new tune. Still, a wonderful set. If you get the chance to see Paik, I urge you to do so.


Afterwards, we wanted to go see The Dears, but when we got to the venue it was crowded and not really worth the wait. So, figuring that Paik had ended things on a high note, we decided to call it an evening and wandered back to the hotel, laughing at the increasing number of intoxicated individuals staggering on the streets.


Ah, Despair.  The unwelcome follow up to a night of binge drinking, like what the Minions saw on St. Paddy's Day.  Fortunately, The Despair Corporation has an office in downtown Austin, to help out with all of those drunks....



Go on and read about the other days of SxSW05:
Day 0: Tuesday.15.March.2005
Day 1: Wednesday.16.March.2005
Day 3: Friday.18.March.2005
Day 4: Saturday.19.March.2005

Related Links:

Many of the bands mentioned here have been reviwed on EvilSponge before. Links have been placed where those bands are mentioned.


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