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 2005  
  The Tillery Street Theatre, The Red Eyed Fly, The Blender Bar, The Velvet Spade, The Velvet Spade Patio, and Nuno's  
  Austin, TX  
Reviewed by:
  PostLibyan and Tracers  
Performance Rating:
Sound Quality:
Overall Rating:

So the South by SouthWest music festival/conference is really about 4 days of nonstop music. There were bands playing all day in lots of places. This made going record shopping in Austin inconvenient, as my flipping through the stacks was often interrupted by some band, or some fool drinking in the middle of the afternoon sloshing beer all over the records…. But for the most part we avoided these. Except for today. This was the day for us to do day shows, as our final blowout of the festival.

So in the afternoon, after a wonderful meal of Japanese fast food, we headed way off the main drag to The Tillery Street Theatre for a day show. There we saw Palaxy Tracks play again. They sounded as brilliant as they did the first time, and I really enjoyed their set.


If anything, Palaxy Tracks sounded even better at The Tillery Street Theatre. The relatively cramped confines of the venue worked for them, as it allowed the music to echo and reverb and grow as each song progressed. Although I only recognized one of the songs as being from their first album, I liked the new material even better this time around.

  Then +/- played. I had been looking forward to seeing them, as I really liked the band the first time I saw them back in 2002. Well, the lineup of the band has changed, and there were some problems with the sound system at The Tillery Street Theatre, but for the most part they sounded great. +/- do a sort of electro influenced indie pop, all catchy melodies and funky beats. However, a storm was brewing, and as more and more people filled up the theatre it got really stuffy, so we headed out mid-set.  
  Even with the stuffiness in the venue, +/- were enjoyable. However, unlike PostLibyan, I thought the sound issues (particularly with the laptop played by the drummer) turned some of their tracks into sonic mud. Still, I wanted to stay for more of their set, but my newly acquired cold, combined with the storm, made me increasingly sniffly and I just wanted to sit down.  

We went back to the hotel, where Tracers decided to nap and not go walking about in the storm, while I headed out to The Red Eyed Fly to try and see The Frames. The Frames are one of my favorite bands, and they played pretty much every day of the festival and I had yet to see them, so this was my chance. I managed to make it into the club before the brief thundershower happened, so that's good. The band on before The Frames was Centro-matic, who are The Drive-by Truckers of Texas. That is, they do a vaguely country influenced 70s rock that inspires mania among their fans. They're like The Grateful Dead, only for rednecks instead of hippies. Anyway, i heard the last two Centro-matic songs, and they weren't bad, but they certainly weren't anything I'd go out of my way to hear.

Then the crowd completely changed during the set change (something all too common at South by SouthWest), so I was able to get into the band room and get a decent place for The Frames. This time, the band played as a 6-piece, adding two guitarists to their normal setup. They sounded great too, tearing through rocking version of Pavement Tune and What Happens When The Heart Just Stops. I must applaud the soundguy at The Red Eyed Fly for appropriately miccing the violin so that I could hear it over the roar of the three guitars. Overall, The Frames put on a funny and enjoyable show, and I will go see them again whenever I get the chance.

After that I hooked up with Tracers to grab a quick burger, and then headed over to The Blender Bar, again, for another act I really wanted to see: Timonium. I have an early Timonium album from the late 90's, when the band was doing a sort of mostly instrumental shoegazery thing. Well now they have added vocals, and the music they play is more slowcore than shoegaze, for the most part. They are a three piece: drums, keys, and vocals/guitar. The drummer was really getting into it, almost air drumming during quieter parts where he wasn't supposed to be playing. The last song they played was what I had come there to hear: it started out as a Modest Mouse style pop rock tune, then exploded into a wall of noise before ending with a flurry of minor chords and some old fashioned post-punk. Truly wonderful, and an enjoyable set on the whole. My only comment is that Timonium might have benefited from a smaller venue, one with better vocal miccing, as I could never really hear the lyrics. Still, that's a minor complaint.

  Like so many acts that I saw over the 5 days we were in Austin , I wasn't sure what to expect from Timonium. But once they began playing, I really liked them. They played with their musical volume in intriguing ways. First a song might start off softly, and then grow into something loud and almost overwhelming. Other songs might include an ebbing in the middle, which then caused the audience to lean forward, as if they were afraid of missing anything. In fact, as I listened to them, I thought that Timonium might go well on a bill with Paik, who we had seen back on Thursday.  

Up next were +/- for their second set of the day. However, as this point we were kicked off of the tiny balcony viewing area in favor of the MTV film crew, which was kind of annoying. (Hint to venue: if you seal an area off before anyone shows up, no one will complain. We complain because you made us move!) So we went and stood on the floor for +/-, which sucked because people in the crowd were talking over the band. Sigh. Still, they sounded good, better than they had in the afternoon, and I really enjoyed seeing them. I hope that they come to Atlanta on tour, so I can see them in a proper venue.


Watching +/- in the evening, I was suddenly sad that we had left the afternoon show. Yeah, the afternoon show was stuffy and there were sound issues, but at least the crowd was quiet and into it. Instead, on the evening, I could barely hear the band over the people around me, who continually complained that "this band sucks! And so did the band before them!" Yeah, whatever. No-one was forcing them to listen. All in all, The Blender Bar, with its obnoxious crowd and slightly rude staff was by far my least favorite venue.

  PostLibyan:   We headed out to The Velvet Spade to attempt to catch another Austin band that EvilSponge has reviewed, What Made Milwaukee Famous. As we walked into The Velvet Spade, a fun indie pop band was playing. I found out that they were called Western Keys, and are a Chapel Hill band. We only caught their last two tunes, which were a lot of fun. Hopefully they'll swing this way soon.  
  Tracers:   While listening to Western Keys, I kept thinking that I had heard them somewhere before. And lo and behold, looking back, I had indeed seen them, back in early 2003, opening for Knife in the Water. I didn't like them at the time, but I have to say that they have improved. Or at least it seems like perhaps they've been fleshed out to a full band, which is an improvement. Either way, I liked the couple of songs I heard this time, and I'd like to give them another chance.  
  PostLibyan:   We grabbed a spot and stood waiting for a Chicago band called The M's to take the stage. I couldn't really see the stage as the club filled up, but I could hear them. I think that The M's are trying to do a soul or old fashioned r'n'b kind of thing. The problem with that genre is that it is so vocal heavy that your singer must really be top-notch to pull it off, and, well, the singer in The M's wasn't that great of a singer, so the songs fell flat. We headed outside after two tunes, but I really was unimpressed with what I heard. Maybe it was the mix in the club, but I really think that Mark Spottiswoode did that type of music better.  
  Tracers:   True Confession: I really disliked The M's. Postlibyan pretty much nails the main issue with that band, although I have to also point out that their take on soul seemed unduly influenced by jam-rock. As I happen to like my soul/r'n'b short and sweet, so The M's were one band that I could have done without.  

Outside on the patio, a rock band was tearing through a few numbers. They weren't bad, and I found that they were called X27. Loud energetic guitar music.

We stood around enjoying the pleasant evening and waited for the next band to set up outside. They had a ton of electronics, and seemed to be suffering from technical problems, but it was all worth it when they started to play. The band was called Parts and Labor, from Brooklyn, and they do a sort of electronically modified hard thrash rock. Really, Parts and Labor succeed in doing what local act Rizzudo are attempting. The music was loud and fuzzy, with bleeps and electronic noises here and there, all to a catchy, almost dancey, beat. I really enjoyed their set, and will definitely look for these people on tour.

  Tracers:   Surprisingly, I also liked Parts and Labor. They had a lot of energy and really threw themselves into their somewhat discordant music. In fact, in retrospect, thinking about the crowd and heat inside the Velvet Spade for What Made Milwaukee Famous, I wish I had stayed out for the rest of their set, instead of walking inside.  

We headed back inside to hear What Made Milwaukee Famous. I say hear and not see because the club was so crowded we couldn't really get out on the floor in front of the band. That's okay, since the acoustics were great and I was able to hear fine from anywhere in the venue. WMMF played a fun set of new wave tinged indie pop, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Tracers had played their album for me, and I think that they mostly played off of it. Still, an enjoyable and catchy set.

At this point we left The Velvet Spade and headed to Nuno's to camp out and wait for one of my favorite Austin band's to play. But first we had to sit through an opener. Not that we were complaining, as Nuno's had ample seating and nice air conditioning. The club itself was kind of funny – it's obviously a dance club and the bands played in the upstairs, which is done up with a spaceship themed décor a la The MJQ. There was even a crazy automated light show.

After a bit of hassle with the kick drum, Norfolk and Western took the stage. They were billed as an act, but again I will dispute that classification. Sure, the first song featured a guy on acoustic guitar singing lightly, accompanied by a woman on drums singing light backup vocals. But after that they put down the acoustic, added a bassist, and turned up the distortion. Again, I would say that this was excellent post-rock, and something about the music and the spastic light show really worked. They were fun, and more Slint than Uncle Tupelo.

  Tracers:   Norfolk and Western reminded me a bit of Tijuana Hercules on quaaludes. By this I mean that the guitar had a lot of reverb, and the female drummer seemed integral to the pacing and tone of the set, which was somewhat moody and mellow. It contrast heavily with light show, but perhaps that added to the somewhat drugged out feel of the set.  

Then Knife in the Water, an excellent band who happen to be based in Austin , took the stage. Amused by the light show, the keyboardist asked if they could get fog, and they did! It was funny and relaxed. Of course, they played to about 20 people, most of whom were probably friends, but they played well. They focused more on the country side of their catalog, but the sound was excellent. It was relaxing and friendly and fun, the perfect end to a long 5 days of music.

After that set, we set off for the hotel, trying to avoid drunks staggering in the streets. Even though I had a lot of fun, I was looking forward to being at home.


Go on and read about the other days of SxSW05:
Day 0: Tuesday.15.March.2005
Day 1: Wednesday.16.March.2005
Day 2: Thursday.17.March.2005
Day 3: Friday.18.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.


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