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  South By Southwest 2007 - Day 3  



Austin, TX


You Am I, Airbourne, The Oohlas, Picastro, Saturday Looks Good To Me, Mistress Stephanie and Her Melodic Cat, Tijuana Hercules, The Faint

Reviewed by:
  Tracers and PostLibyan  
Photographs by:



This day started off poorly, with Tracers becoming sick to the stomach from the egg noodles she had at Mekong River the night before. So we got a late start.

Music began at around 3:45 PM at Aussie day at the Brush Square Tent, just across from the convention center. I grabbed a free Cooper's Pale Ale (when i commented that i was surprised they didn't have a keg of Foster's, the Aussie manning the beer table said, "We don't really drink that swill at home"!), and enjoyed the nice warm sunlight for You Am I. This band made normal indie rock, and although i wouldn't say they were awful they also really didn't impress me. Of course, there are hundreds of bands that sound similar. One weird thing -- the way that the vocalist tried to hide his Australian accent when he sang came across like a South Georgia drawl. That is, by trying to sing in "normal" English, he ended up sounding like he was from Vidalia. Weird.

You Am I from South Australia, apparently.

You Am I utilized The Super Pedal!

As i waited for the next Aussie band to set up, i stood there looking about the crowd. And who should be standing about 3 people away but Jim White, drummer in one of my favorite bands ever, The Dirty Three. I knew he was doing some solo performances at the fest, but to see him standing around in the crowd with a beer was kind of cool. I geeked out for a moment and snuck a surreptitious photo.

Look! It's one third of The Dirty Three.

The next Aussie band set up an impressive array of Marshall stacks, which means that they intended to be LOUD-oud-oud-oud in the outdoor tent.

Check out the wall of Marshall's behind Airbourne!

They are called Airbourne, and they made good old-fashioned Australian heavy metal. You know, in many ways it must be hard for Australian musicians to crawl out from under the shadow of AC/DC. I pretty much expect to hear at least one AC/DC tune at any club i go to here in Atlanta -- their music is ubiquitous. That must be hard to get over... And Airbourne obviously decided that they weren't even going to try. So they're Australian, right? And they make metal, right? And they sound kind of like AC/DC (with a little bit of early Iron Maiden thrown in), right? Yeah, that's about it. But i have to admit, they were fun, and just the right thing for the middle of the afternoon.

Good old-fashioned Australian head-banging!

I left before they finished and headed into the convention center to The Rat Bar. This is actually a giant sound stage made up to look like a bar in a club. It is equipped with expensive looking film gear, and my guess is that playing here is something sold to bands who want to record a live video. We went to see the video filming for The Oohlas, who impressed so much the night before. Today, they were great. I do like this band, and will look for them to trek all the way across the country from LA so that i can see them again. They make happy, loud, energetic music of the type i like to listen to in the car as i drive. It's very sunshine-y/stuck in traffic music to me. Tracers says that they remind her of The Breeders, but i would say that The Oohlas are more upbeat than Kim Deal ever was. Either way, good stuff.


After a sickly day, I got tired of feeling sorry for myself, and trudged out to get a cure for anything that ails me and my stomach: a Smoothie. Yeah, that's not very rock, but you know what? Who cares? Feeling much better (and determined to not be a downer), I wandered over to The Rat Bar to meet up with PostLibyan. This was a venue set up inside a room at The Convention Center where bands were being telecast live on Direct TV. This probably explained all the painted side drops, which tried to make the "bar" look like, say Lenny's, instead of a expensively put together TV set.

The Oohlas make a video.

Still, I really liked The Oohlas on this afternoon. The clear, crisp sound suited them well, although the large stage sort of dwarfed the small-ish band. Likewise, their happy brand of pop translated really well to the crowd. In fact, I only had one complaint about The Oohlas: the lead singer's dressed was a scary scary thing (scarier that anything about The Horrors, in fact). Looking at it on the monitors, it seemed more subdued, but in person, it was like a flourescent fifth member of the band.


After that, it was time to head out for food. Tonight's choice: Korean food at a small shop next door to The Beauty Bar. I had an excellent bibimbop and some vegetable kim pop. Nice and spicy!

We chose the Korean place because it was conveniently near Red 7, where Polyvinyl night was scheduled. It has occurred to me that i always end up at Polyvinyl night. I suppose that is because as a label they produce catchy pop music of a type i really like. It's a good label, and we headed to the showcase to catch a full set by Saturday Looks Good To Me.

But first, there was an opener: Picastro. I am not familiar with this act at all. Tonight, Picastro was one vaguely tired looking woman with an acoustic guitar. She did comment that "sometimes i have a band", but apparently they couldn't make it tonight. She played, well, acoustic folk pop, kind of like Faith Kleppinger. Heck, she would have fit right in at Eddie's Attic! She also borrowed SLGTM's keyboards for a few songs, and a few times her voice vibrated with a natural tremolo that gave those songs a melancholy undertone, kind of like what Jason Molina did in Songs:Ohia.


Her set was okay. I was not terribly impressed, but i did not hate it either. However, there was one problem: about 50 feet away, on the outside back patio at Red 7, another stage was set up, and a loud punk band were playing out there. Their sound spilled into the inside of Red 7, and Picastro just wasn't loud enough to overcome the noise. It sort of detracted from her set.


I really felt for the woman from Picastro. Her music would have worked rather well in a quieter venu; however the live, punk-rock remix that took place overwhelmed the more intimate portions of her set. This effect was particularly bad as the bands playing outside were still loading in through the main venue, thereby unleashing a loud fast torrent of RAWK every time someone took an amp outside.


After that, Saturday Looks Good To Me took the stage. They started off as an 8-piece band, adding accordion and saxophone to the mix, and everyone was dressed all in white like one of those "cult" bands that were trendy back in the late 90s.

Saturday Looks like a cult To Me, in all white clothing.

They kicked off their set with a little sax-based jam that segued into something very Motown-y. Fred Thomas does Motown so great, and current SLGTM vocalist Bettie Marie Barnes does an excellent job. They played a great set, including Alcohol and The Girl's Distracted, both of which came across great in concert. As the show progressed, musicians drifted off the stage, so that at the end when they were doing new tunes, the band was down to a 5-piece. Overall, a great performance.


For regular readers of this site, you may know I have something of a love/hate relationship with Saturday Looks Good to Me. Sometimes, I see them and I think they are one of the best bands I've ever heard. Other times, I want to smack at least one member of the band around and yell, "What are you thinking?"

Bettie-Marie Barnes has bells.

Luckily, it was the former band that showed up to play tonight. They started off with primarily older material and then gradually removed members until they were down to the stripped down band we first heard on Wednesday. This odd game of musical chairs worked for them. More importantly, for the only time in the many years, I heard them sing my absolute favorite SLGTM song, The Sun Doesn't Want to Shine. When Fred Thomas began to sing that tune, my entire skeleton began to vibrate until I thought I might be having a religious experience. Wow. Truly, a great performance.


We headed out from Polyvinyl night to go see something silly: Mistress Stephanie And Her Melodic Cat. This is a "schtick" band. They dress up in costume (Mistress Stephanie in lingerie, the guitarist/cat in cat ears) and play German Cabaret music. This, gentle readers, was spectacle.

Mistress Stephanie and ...
... her Melodic Cat.

Their act consisted of an elaborate series of jokes interspersed with songs. It was remarkably well rehearsed. They had one number called Lola in which Mistress Stephanie would sing a bit, then when she looked away the Melodic Cat would lead the band into a brief interlude of the old Kinks song of the same name. Then Mistress Stephanie would yell at him, and they would go back to her Lola for a while... You would think that after 5 minutes the joke would wear thin, but i think they pulled it off. Musically, this act was nothing special. Live though, it was a fun to watch. Definitely enjoyable in a very weird sort of way.


I have cats. PostLibyan has cats. How could we not end up seeing this band? As Postlibyan mentions, this was sheer spectacle, albeit in a weird 30s-style cabaret sense. Furthermore, it was so tightly rehearsed that I couldn't help but be impressed at both the characterization as well as the band's ability to make something odd just work. I'm not sure I'd want to see them on a regular basis, but for another random band (chosen simply for the name), I have to say that I rather enjoyed them.


We left before they were done because we had a 13 block trek to Molotov to see the next act, EvilSponge favorites Tijuana Hercules. It has been many years since we saw John Forbes and his band. Since then we have received a few promos, and they continued to sound great. I was looking forward to seeing the one guy in the band beat the crap out of some coffee cans, as they used to do.

Imagine my surprise when we got there and saw them setting up with no coffee cans. And instead of a three-piece, Tijuana Hercules were a 7-piece band, including a guy with a laptop, a harmonica player, and a 3-man horn section! In the past, Tijuana Hercules made a dirty rock-n-roll type of music that hinted at the blues. Now, the band has been reborn as a full-on Chicago blues band. Heck yeah.

Tijuana Hercules kicking it old school.


When we first went into the Molotov, I saw the band setting up. I didn't see cans. I didn't see the tiny little antique amp John Forbes always plays. I was concerned; in fact, I checked to make sure we hadn't accidentally wandered into someone else's set. But when Mr. Forbes came on stage, I knew it was Tijuana Hercules, even if it wasn't the band I remembered.

Tijuana Horn Section.


They tore into their set with a fury, the harmonica player -- excuse me, let me use the lingo of the scene -- the blues harpist blowing away, the horns dancing and blasting, and John Forbes standing in the middle of it all, a six-string, alligator skin boots, and a gravelly voice. Simply glorious.

Blow that harp, man!

I grew up with that sort of music -- my dad was a big fan of Sam and Dave, and tonight Tijuana Hercules put on a set that old Chicagoans would be proud of. In fact, they made such a racket that people poured down from the upstairs patio of the bar to watch, and people walking by in the street also stopped and stared, smiling and shuffling their feet.

As people came downstairs just to listen to Tijuana Hercules,
some didn't make it all the way down the stairs...

Tijuana Hercules ended their set with a lovely old-fashioned blues call and response number that got the crowd clapping and shouting along. I think, in all honesty, that everyone there had a great time. I know i sure did.


You know, I really shouldn't have been concerned about this new version of Tijuana Hercules. John Forbes et al have always musically tended towards Chicago blues. On this evening, it was clear that his vision and love had been fully realized. The band really tore up the stage (such as it is) and showed so much skill and enthusiasm that they won over the entire crowd. In particular, I enjoyed the horn section and their attempts at percussion (I think one guy was hitting a rubber ducky?) whist the guitar and harmonica wailed away in the forefront. In the end, I have to say that this set was probably my favorite one from the entirety of SxSW07.

Duckie Solo!


We hung out a bit afterwards to say hi to Mr. Forbes. We chatted a bit, then trekked back 12 blocks to Eternal. After a set as energetic and high-spirited as that, the only logical choice was to go see a band play energetic dance music. So we went to see The Faint.

The Faint, from above.

I have long loved The Faint, but i have never had the chance to see them before. Not that i saw them tonight, because by the time we got to Eternal, the club was so packed that i could not get anywhere near the stage. Fortunately Eternal has good acoustics, so we were able to stand in the back and hear just fine.


It was packed and hot at Eternal, a deep, somewhat narrow club. Suffice to say that with the crowd and the shape of the club, I couldn't see a damn thing. But that was perfectly alright by me. I could hear The Faint, and I believe they sounded better live (on this evening) than I've ever heard them sound on record. Certainly, all of the folks around me loved the music as they danced and bounced, flinging sweat and beer into the steamy air.

The Faint's guitarist, thrashing it up.


And The Faint sounded wonderful. They make elctroclash -- heck, they practically invented the genre. The music is crunchy beats, soaring synths, loud guitar, and vocals. They sounded remarkably like they do on record, which i guess isn't that surprising. I really enjoyed the live version of The Engineer off of Danse Macabre that they did.

The Faint in action.

Basically i spent their set bouncing around like a fool in the heat of Eternal. But eventually the heat plus the 24 block walk caught up to us, and we headed out near the end of the set, to beat the crowd to the door, and head back to hotel for a much deserved rest.

This was a good night of music.

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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