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  South By Southwest 2007 - Day 1  



Austin, TX

  Saturday Looks Good to Me, Minmae, Rahim, Tammany Hall Machine, Through the Sparks, Al G., Faceless Werewolves, Oxford Collapse, Kinski  
Reviewed by:
  Tracers and PostLibyan  
Photographs by:



South by Southwest is the one of the few times of the year in which I get to put my day job to the side and act like a real Music Dork for going on a week. And in 2007, I've been really really looking forward to this vacation. After an uneventful trip from Atlanta to Austin on Tuesday 13 March, by noon on Wednesday I was ready to hear some music and get into the spirit of things.

Luckily for us, Polyvinyl Record's Saturday Looks Good to Me was opening up the festival's Day Stage with a quick set. Since I wasn't sure we would have an opportunity to see them at the Polyvinyl showcase, this seemed like a good time to hear SLGTM's new music as well as experience the utter mayhem that is the Austin Convention center on the first day of SxSW.

It took a little while to navigate past all the people stuck in queues for badges, so by the time we reached the Day Stage, I could already hear sweet, reverby sounds beginning to echo from inside. We popped around the corner and looked up to see…a band I certainly didn't recognize on the stage.

Saturday Looks Good to Me, especially on Wednesday!

After a quick glance around, I ascertained that this was indeed SLGTM, although leader Fred Thomas looked awfully thin and blonde and with long hair. Strange.

Fred Thomas and his new 'do.

They played a really short set (maybe 15 minutes or so), and some of that was taken up with technically difficulties, revolving around the keyboard setup. But the set consisted of new music, and it did indeed sound fine.

SLGTM rocking out.

Now that I had actually heard some good music, I was now starting to feel like we were indeed at SxSW, so it was off to the big Whole Foods to pick essentials and then over to Book People to pick up my annual weird reading material. This year's find was 1066: The Hidden History in the Bayeux Tapestry by Andrew Bridgeford. And a fun, entertaining read it was…


While Tracers sat down to read, i grabbed my camera and headed off to Sixth Street, just to see what i could see. Wandering around, i found a random bar advertising a free day show featuring Minmae. This is a psychedelic band from Portland, OR that a friend of mine who emigrated out there also knows. I'd heard a few tunes on the Internet, and was curious to check them out. The door guy at the bar, which was called Treasure Island, informed me that they had just started, so i went in.

While walking down 6th Street, i enountered this random act,
rocking out on some upstairs patio.

Treasure Island is a "tropically themed" bar, the first of 2 i would be in over the course of the week. Minmae, a four-piece, were set up on the little thatched roof stage, playing loud distorted rock to a freaky light show. They had a lot of pedals, and their faster, thrashier songs really worked. They also played a couple of slower numbers, and i thought that these songs didn't hold together as much. Still, i was glad i got to see them.

Minmae need a dacquri!

It was approaching 5 PM at this point, and i really wanted to catch French pop act Cyann and Ben at the convention center day stage at 5, so i meandered over there. I arrived to find the place packed out as Robyn Hitchcock was standing around with an acoustic guitar talking to some guy. HeTheother guy did some readings, and over the course of a half hour i learned that he was Joe Boyd, who apparently was a producer in the late 60s and worked with, among other acts, Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd. Boyd would do a reading, he and Hitchcock would banter for a while, then Hitchcock would play a song. I like Mr. Hitchcock OK, although i confess i am not as familiar with his work as, say, Tracers is. Nonetheless i thought he did well. He and Boyd seemed to be having fun, and the crowd was respectfully enjoying watching them banter. It was a pleasant half hour.

Even Joe Boyd can't believe how ugly Robyn Hitchcock's shirt was!

They wrapped things up to appreciative applause after a slow version of Arnold Layne. Since their setup was minimal, within minutes Cyann and Ben took the stage. They were a four-piece who played sitting down. They featured a guy shaking weird things to make percussion, a girl who sang and played flute, and two guitarists.

The stage right half of Cyann and Ben ...

... and the other half, on stage left.

Their music is light and poppy folk rock, and they are just slightly more energetic than Mr. Hitchcock. The two acts actually complemented each other quite nicely. Their songs, and they only did 3 in their 20 minute set, were nice and epic, and progressed in interesting ways. Each song grew and morphed several times as they played. I have to admit that i was impressed. I had heard good things about this act, and based on the strength of this brief set, i would have to agree that they are doing interesting things. Tres bon!

By then it was time to go wrest Tracers from the grip of the Bayeux Tapestry, so i headed back to the hotel room…


After an afternoon nap, we wandered off in search of food and ended up at Habana Calle 6, a Cuban restaurant that also servers as a music venue during the SxSW extravaganza. They also have amazingly good Cuban Homebrew beer on tap and, as I found out, a slow roasted pork dish to die for. Hands down, this was the best meal I had in Austin.

Stuffed to the gills on good food and good beer, it was then time to hit the first evening show of the festival. So we headed up to The Red Eyed Fly patio to catch New York band Rahim, who we had seen the previous year. For some reason, I had never been to The Red Eyed Fly, and I wasn't too impressed by their overly bumpy patio and already grungy restrooms. Still, I have to like a place where I can buy a PBR from someone who remembered Atlanta institution Dottie's.

Rahim rock The Fly!


I had been there at a day show a few years previously. It's not the worst venue in Austin, nor is it the best. It is open to the air, so that's something positive on a nice warm evening such as this. (Although being open did stink when i saw The Frames play there in a slight drizzle a few years back…)

But there is something really cool there that i had never noticed before. There is a strangely constructed wall behind the drum riser. I zoomed in on it with the my camera (thank goodness for 20x digital magnification!) and discovered that the wall is constructed of drum sticks! Yes, really. I bet that all of the random drum sticks broken their over the years have been glued together at the back of the stage. I find this is both interesting and clever! I wonder if Rahim added a stick on this evening?

The Drum Stick Wall at The Red-Eyed Fly.
(Click photo for large version.)


As I mentioned previously, we randomly went to see Rahim last year, and I thought they were quite good. Since then I have learned that some of our Atlanta bands really like Rahim, so I was even more interested in catching this set. Rahim remain a three piece, but they've tightened up their arrangements in the intervening year, which rounds out their angular but aggressive version of rock. Combined with their enthusiasm, especially when you consider the sparse crowd to which they played, you have a really solid and intense band who know how to deliver a live set. One of these days, I want to catch them in Atlanta, on my home turf.

Rahim in fast keyboard action.

After Rahim finished, we quickly left the venue and then headed down to 6th street to see an Austin band, Tammany Hall Machine. They sent us their first album a while back, and I thought it was rather good, but I hadn't managed to see them live at all. They came on the stage (such as it was on Maggie Mae's patio – which at least was upstairs and level…), and it immediately struck me that all of the musicians were just…tiny. We're talking cute tiny. We're talking so adorably little that they need to be action figures.

THM -- so tiny they were hard to photograph!

Either way, once they started to play, I immediately recognized some of their songs as being off the first album. They translated rather well to stage, where they came across as more sheer rock and not as produced as they sounded on their first album. Likewise, their (tiny) lead singer has a big big voice that just echoed across the patio as it played off the sounds coming from his piano. Behind it all, the rest of the band rocked out, and weren't nearly as mellow as I would have expected. All in all, Tammany Hall Machine were way better than perhaps they have any right to be, considering very few people have ever heard of them. Still, the people around me didn't all look to be friends and family, and I hope some new listeners discovered this band.


In fact, a lot of the crowd were well-dressed Asians. I wondered what was up with that, and then one of them handed me a random promo for their band, which had just played. Apparently Seoul Electric Band opened for Tammany Hall Machine. I wonder what Korean music sounds like? I wonder if they liked Tammany Hall Machine?


From there, we walked over to the Habana Calle 6 Annex, which is another parking lot with a tent. (It seems like I spend a lot of time standing in uneven parking lots with tents this year, but more on that later). The band we came to see was Through the Sparks , who hail from Birmingham (Alabama, that is) and who had specifically invited our own Mr. Spaceman to this show case.

Through the Sparks are surprisingly popular in Belgium!


Brett was stuck in Belgium (Brendan's note: Hoepfully working on reviews the whole time), but he mentioned we should go see these guys. I remember that i liked their debut when i listened to it before i mailed it to The Land of Waffles, so i figured they were worth shot. Besides, not a lot of bands come out of Birmingham, and i like to support that little music scene when i can.

Through the Sparks: "Is this a maracca i see before me?"


Although I wasn't too sure of them at first, it turns out that Through the Sparks made a nice follow-up to Tammany Hall Machine.

Through the Sparks: brothers, or an Alabaman cloning experiment?

Through the Sparks are a little more on the twangy side, but their music sounded fundamentally nice, and I liked the lead singer's voice. They also had a nice looking new drum kit that I envied, and which was very prominent in the loud, low sound mix.

Through the Sparks: Nice drum kit.


Speaking of the heavy low end on the sounds at this venue: did you know that one of the notes on the second string of a standard bass guitar is, in fact, the same resonant frequency in the blue plastic walls of the standard porta potty? I had no idea until i needed to use said porta potty during Through the Sparks set, and everytime the bassist hit a particular note the entire thing shook eerily, with a rahter deafening rattle. Quite honestly, that was not something i needed to know…


All in all, Through the Sparks were quite good and, like Tammany Hall Machine, I hope some new people discovered them.

Through the Sparks: "Whoa, i got mail!"

The next band we wanted to see were the Faceless Werewolves, who weren't due to go on for a while, but we walked up to Beerland anyway, expecting to see the last part of The Trashies. Apparently, they were no shows, and instead we heard most of an acoustic set by a gentleman called Al G, who I think is the guitarist for Austin 's The Ends. He played somewhat bluesy rock, and it was definitely fun for a guy and a guitar.

Al G. steps in for The Trashies.

Then on came the Faceless Werewolves, who we happened across last year, based upon a recommendation. This three piece were a big blast then, and I wanted to see how they were doing.

Faceless Werewolves' female guitarist.

I shouldn't have worried and they still play loud raucous punk in the vein of X. They have no bass, but two guitars (male and female) and a female drummer who bangs the living daylight out of her kit whilst she sings.

Faceless Werewolves, with drums being beaten senseless.

Faceless Werewolves: singing and drumming.

This night, it seemed like the vocal mix was a bit low, but this was compensated by the male guitarist, who really tore up the stage to the delight of the packed in crowd. In fact, about halfway through their set, I had to fall back because I thought he was going to end up in my lap. And I certainly didn't want to spill my Blue Moon (on draught, to boot).

Once they were done, we had a large break before the next band, so we headed on over to the appropriate venue. Now, it seems like at least once per SxSW, I have to go to Emo's, or one of its many variations. I don't really like Emo's, but it's one of those Austin things. This year, we wandered into Emo's IV, which oddly enough is located on the main street corner, and could be easily mistaken by outsiders as the main Emo's. Once we got there, we had plenty of time to enjoy the band on stage, who were called Oxford Collapse. They weren't particularly good or bad, just sort of there. Kind of like background music, SxSW style. Still, we saw enough of them that I had time to enjoy looking around, watching the exceedingly intoxicated crowd bob and weave and collide with irritated looking Emo's employees who were taking out the trash, quite literally.

Oxford Collapse at ... some venue. Oh, right: Emo's.


I had never heard of Oxford Collapse before. What i heard tonight was two longish songs. One of which featured a prominent sax part and was rather catchy. The other was sort of Brit-poppish, although still long like a post-rock tune. Not bad, really.

Oxford Collapse's talented saxophonist.


Eventually, Oxford Collapse loaded out, and we moved towards the front in order to enjoy the band that PostLibyan wanted to see, Kinski. My first confession is I'm not really familiar with them at all, but since SxSW is all about seeing new music, I was game for it. But you see, I started to get a bit confused and the drummer set up with a full kit and then, nearby, they also set up what looked to be a long stick stood upright with some drums hanging off of it. I looked more closely and then I realized that it was a pool cue. For some reason, this bothers me.

Even Emo's Staff is confused by Kinski's pool cue.

But the pool cue didn't bother me as much as Kinski's music. When they began to play it was loud. Loud enough to cause my hair to rustle in the sound waves. Loud enough for me to dive for my handy dandy earplugs (heretofore unneeded) and shove them in my aching ears. This deadened their heavy dark thudding instrumental sound enough that my hearing was no longer in danger, but it also deadened any intricacies that might have been present in their music.

Just some of Kinski's pedals.

So I was left pondering the pool cue, whose presence bothered me more and more as time progressed. In fact, I started working up a theory in my head that Kinski was just like that a pool cue: you can dress it up, hanging drums (or effects) off of it and at the end of the day, you know what? It's just a pool cue. And at the end of the day (or the end of the set, in this case) Kinski was just another band, who I wouldn't have paid $8 to see at The EARL.


You see, i really liked the first couple of Kinski records. But the last one was kind of a disappointment. I had hoped that they would play their older, slightly more energetic stuff.

Kinski's lead guitarist/vocalist.

No go. The first 20 minutes of their set were slower numbers off their more recent releases, and i grew weary of it. And if i wasn't impressed i imagine that Tracers wasn't either. So we called it a night and headed off to the hotel.


O.K., so the day ended up a slightly disappointing note, but otherwise the music seemed pretty durn good, and I was pretty ready to move on to Day 2 at this point.

Related Links:

Read the entire South by Southwest 2007 review:
    Day 1 featuring Saturday Looks Good To Me, Minmae, Rahim, Tammany Hall Machine, Through the Sparks, Al G., Faceless Werewolves, Oxford Collapse, Kinski
    Day 2 featuring Headlights, Kaki King, The Stars of Track and Field, Chairs of Perception, Hummersqueal, Trances Arc, The Apostles of Hustle, The Dears, The Oohlas, The Horrors
    Day 3 featuring: You Am I, Airbourne, The Oohlas, Picastro, Saturday Looks Good To Me, Mistress Stephanie and Her Melodic Cat, Tijuana Hercules, The Faint
    Day 4 featuring Lee Scratch Perry, My Latest Novel, Field Music, Tilly and the Wall, The Pipettes, +/-, The High Strung
In addition, some of these acts have been reviewed before. Links within the review point you to the appropriate places.


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