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 2008 - Day 1  



Austin, TX


Clay Leverett, Madeline, God Is An Astronaut, We vs. the Shark, Elfpower, Sean Hayes, The Wedding Present, Yellow Fever, Phil and the Osophers, Call Me Lightning, Delorean, Peel, Dub Trio, Naked Raygun

Reviewed by:
  Tracers and PostLibyan  
Photographs by:



In Evil Sponge land, SxSW is our holiday, a high holy time to eat good food and see lots and lots of bands. As usual, we arrived a day early, mainly so we could visit with long absent friends, but also so we could get well-rested in anticipation of the mayhem yet to come. Therefore, on Wednesday, March 12, we woke up pretty much ready to go and do. After a quick trip to the handy dandy Whole Foods for nourishment and the book store for a little light reading material (this year's purchase: The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, the Epidemic that Shaped Our History), we wandered up to Bourbons Rocks in order to see a few of the acts at the Athens in Austin party.

Stomp and Stammer's Jeff Clark, at the Athfest In Austin party.

When we got there, Mr. Clay Leverett (you may remember him from such bands as Lona) was on stage, strumming the guitar and singing nicely. He left stage pretty much as we were saying our hellos to the folks we knew, so I can't say too much about his music. However, Clay has always been a charismatic and interesting performer, even if armed only with a guitar, so I suspect he was probably pretty good.

Mr. Clay Leverett on acoustic guitar.

After a really quick break, the first unknown act of SxSW took the stage: Madeline, a six piece act who release on Orange Twin records. Therefore, I guess it wasn't too surprising that the afore-mentioned six pieces featured not only guitar, bass, and drums but also French horn, other brass, and some keyboards to boot.

The band was led by a young woman (named Madeline) with a very nice, somewhat delicate voice who sang whilst playing the guitar. Musically, I think it was a bit country, but more in the old-time folk/country vein than in any more modern configuration.


Huh. You really thought this was country? Sure, she sang with a Southern accent, although i suspect that was not on purpose. The music had none of the "twang" that seems to infect country music. I thought her a folk/pop artist.

Southern folkster Madelline.


However, what really made them stand out for me was the unusual horn arrangements which accompanied most of the songs.

Madeline's horn section, in a staredown with the photographer.

Horns aren't something you usually find in such an act, and they definitely added an unexpected touch. Likewise, the drummer, who was beating the daylights out of the kit, kept things moving right along at a fairly upbeat pace. With all of the elements together, Madeline were definitely an entertaining act, with enough variation on traditional arrangements to keep me interested and think that perchance I would like to see them again.

  I was impressed too. The horns added a really nice touch to her light music. Nicely done.  
  Once Madeline had finished, we quickly trotted off to Red 7, as PostLibyan really wanted to see God is an Astronaut.  

Well, we have a couple off reviews on this site, courtesy of our Belgian reviewer, Mr. Brett Spaceman. He likes a lot of the elctro ambient post-rock that i enjoy as well, and since he highly recommends this act, i thought them worth checking out. And this was their only set during the festival…


Unfortunately, we were way way early, so we left to wander about and see what other things were going on. After an hour or so, we came back, just in time to find the three piece God Is an Astronaut take the stage. I wasn't sure what too expect, but looking at the instrumentation: keyboards/guitar, bass, and drums, I thought they might be o.k. Then, as the band members climbed on stage, they all put in earpieces/earphones and I thought, "Well this might be kinda cool."

And then they started to play. And it was very loud, very heavy, and a little on the metal side. This was certainly not anything like what I was expecting. No, not at all.


Yeah, me either. Brett normally rants about the sort of flowing, ambient stuff that i like listening to, so mentally i lumped God Is an Astronaut into the same category as Port-Royal, Lights Out Asia, and Bitcrush. I became suspicious of this assessment when looking around at the crowd: that gaggle of teenage girls are wearing Opeth t-shirts, and the long-haired dude with a Nerosis patch sewn onto his denim jacket who said, "Cool!" when i confirmed to him that this was God Is an Astronaut. So: metal! Rock!

God Is an Astronaut rock out.


But then, the mayhem finally began to occur. Towards the end of their first song, suddenly the vocals, keys and guitars went totally dead as the sound system in Red 7 rebooted itself. In fact, I think I heard one of the sound guys say a bit incredulously, "They blew up the sound system?" After a short break that involved some power changes and replugging in some cable, things managed to right themselves. In the interim, the band talked to the sparse crowd, indicating that it was a lot hotter than they expected, as they were Irish. Who knew?

God Is an Astronaut began to play again and, as it turned out, my earlier impressions of their sound were correct. I think when it comes to mostly instrumental acts (which they are, despite the presence of a vocal mic), I prefer my music either lightly ambient or a little jazzy. In the case of this band, they were way too loud to be ambient and way too heavy to be jazzy. Either way, I think they have something to offer, but it didn't really suite me on a clear, warm day when I was expecting I don't know what? Maybe a little shoegaze?


Apparently this band travels in the prog metal circle. Who knew that Brett Spaceman had a little bit of headbanger in him? That said, despite my surprise at the thunderous sound they were making, they were not bad. I don't really listen to this sort of thing, although i appreciate the work of bands like the afore-mentioned Opeth and their ilk. This is Thinking Man's Metal, all about hard and heavy, instead of that "Hair Metal" cheese that was out in the 1980s. An entirely different genre, really. I think that had i gone in with different expectations, i might have enjoyed their set more. As it is, i made a mental note to go back are re-read those reviews (here, here, and here) in more detail. Still, they weren't bad. I like what they were doing with the deeply bass heavy riffing and the keyboard work. Not what i expected, so that threw me off, but not bad.

God Is an Astronaut's bassist points out the sign of Brooklyn Vegan, who
were presenting the day show. Good marketing there, dude.


After a couple of songs, I suggest that perhaps we could return to Bourbon rocks and see a little bit of We Vs. the Shark, another Athens band whom I've never managed to catch live. By the time we returned, though, we only got to see a song or so before they finished. But, man did I like what I heard. We Vs the Shark are kind of a math/prog hybrid, with angular guitars, shouted vocals, and off-kilter rhythms.

We Vs. the Shark's drummer rocks out, hair flying.

In some ways they reminded me a bit of Eyes to Space in their weirder moments, or Cinemechanica on their less hard tunes. Of course, the latter comparison is natural, as they are label-mates. Either way, I enjoyed them and decided that we should attempt to catch their evening showcase on Friday, if it was at all possible.


I have a Hello, Sir sampler CD featuring three of their bands, including the epic Maserati, and We Vs. the Shark is the band i like best on that CD.

We Vs. the Shark's keyboardist, sporting an Unfortunate Hair Choice.

Tracers made an apt comparison -- they are like the unholy fusion of Shipping News and Tool. It sounds like it won't work, but somehow they tie it all together and create something listenable. I was impressed with what i saw here today. If only these people would ever make the long drive down 316…


At this point in the afternoon, we took a little break, but then returned to an increasingly crowded Bourbon Rocks yet again. This time it was to see old Athens stalwarts Elf Power. Over the years, each time I've seen this band, I've thought they've improved. And considering the last time I saw them in Atlanta was the best show I'd seen by them, I was pretty stoked to see what Andrew Rieger and company could pull off this time. And I wasn't disappointed at all. Elf Power were playing as four piece, without Laura Carter on keys (oddly, she was in the audience, dancing and singing along).

Elfpower in elven action. (The pointy ears don't show up due to image compression. Honest!)

Nevertheless, Elf Power played their usual brand of poppy, slightly psychedelic Indie Rock. In fact, as I stood there pondering, it seems to me that as time goes by Rieger's vocals and songwriting style has begun to resemble Girlfriend-era Matthew Sweet: very happy, very catchy, and extremely melodic. This is, in my world at least, a very good thing. In fact, by the time they ended, I really wanted Elf Power to continue and play a full length set. Alas, it was not to be and, besides, we had other places to be.

And that other place was the outdoor venue of Emo's Annex to see The Wedding Present. Woohoo! I really like David Gedge and company and I was more than willing to wait in line (which we did) and listen to the unexpected (which we did) in order to catch this occurrence. As we finally filed our way inside the venue, a folky singer-songwriter type named Sean Hayes was finishing up his set. I wasn't paying too close of attention to him, but he seemed to be inoffensive; looking him up later, I can see that he is played a lot in retail settings, which pretty much sums him up to me: a nice background while you've got something (or someone) else on your mind.


We heard about two songs, really. Sean Hayes played guitar and sang, and was backed up by trumpet and drums. Really not bad at all. Rather pleasant.

Sean Hayes and company.


PostLibyan had given me a heads up, so I wasn't surprised to see David Gedge take the stage accompanied only by his bassist, Ms. Terry de Castro.

David Gedge is confused while setting up.

In other words, this was only half of The Wedding Present, and from the first, the absence of a drummer was sorely missed. Some of this was because, without a strong rhythm section, Gedge and de Castro had a difficult time staying in sync; this was compounded by the fact that once Gedge gets going, his guitar playing isn't particularly rhythmic, which must make playing accompaniment challenging at best.

Around me, some of the crowd seemed disappointed by the stripped down arrangements, but the true believers (if you will) threw themselves into the short set, singing along to the older town and applauding new song enthusiastically. Not surprisingly, Gedge's new material is reminiscent of much of The Wedding Present's catalogue, with the occasional gentleness of his other act, Cinerama, thrown in. Yet, I think the loudest cheer was reserved for the version of Montreal that Gedge and De Castro rollicked their way through. Certainly, by the end of their set, it seemed like most of the crowd had overlooked any flaws and were just entranced by seeing an energetic Gedge enjoying himself, thrashing through his guitar work in his inimitable style.

David Gedge in action.

  This was fun to see, but you're right in that they sorely needed the drummer. I liked the new songs, and look forward to a new Wedding Present album and fall tour. With a full band, this time.  

Wound up and now totally drawn into the SxSW experience, we took another break for dinner and coffee in order to prepare ourselves for the first evening showcases. As usual, for the 8 PM Wednesday slot, we chose to go see a band based entirely on their name. So, after standing outside Mohawk in a somewhat chaotic line (enhanced by the fact that they were selling showcase wristbands), we filed our way onto the smallish patio to await the French Kiss Label showcase as the before-set music blared out the Drive-By Truckers.

The outdoor stage at the Mohawk.

After 5 minutes or so, we determined that things were running a bit behind, so PostLibyan ducked inside to see a bit of Yellow Fever (appropriate, no, considering my earlier book purchase?) whilst I reveled in the clean, spacious women's bathroom.

This bear guards the entrance to the Mohask interior. Scary.


I had liked the song by them that i heard on the unofficial SxSW08 torrent, so since nothing was happening outside, i ducked inside to catch a few songs. This is a three-piece act, consisting of two women who play guitar bass, and sing, backed up by a male drummer. I think they were some loops playing as well, a simple synthesizer riff. The music was light pop with female harmonies, and really reminded me of Stereolab. I would like to see more of this Austinian trio at some point.

The drummer of Yellow Fever is confused by what the bassist is singing.


After a few minutes, we thought we heard the band sign, so we moved back onto the patio to see Phil and the Osphers (see, I told you it was a great name). Of course, by the time they took the stage, we realized that there was one Phil (the singer/guitarist) and only one Ospher (a drummer playing a neat kit, with one of the largest kick drums I've ever seen).



When i pointed the misleading nature of the nomenclature out to Tracers during the set, she remarked that i was just arguing semantics. But after all, isn't that what Philosophy is about, anyway? [Brendan's Note: PostLibyan was a Philosophy Majorin college. Darned Spinozists!]


They played a nice set of quirky Indie Rock featuring Phil's nasally voice backed by some really amazing drumming. No seriously, this drummer was really good, using occasionally hard tom hits and thudding kick as well as neat little percussion elements to fill out the sound. As an example, at one point the drummer put this little hand shaky thing on to hit his snare, and it added a nice rhythmic percussion to the expected snare sound. It was rather nice and intriguing, so much so that at times I forgot to focus on the front man whilst I paid attention to the percussion (in fact, I kept thinking that this was a drummer who could have helped our Mr. Gedge during his earlier set!).

The Osopher, with his huge kick drum visible.

Of course, part of my distraction may have been due the fact that while Phil and the Osphers played, the folks back at the sound board seemed bound and determined to try out every combination of their stage lights. First they flashed purple. Then it was red. Then yellow, alternating with green. And don't forgot the blue, as they eventually remembered. It was like an arena rock light show out on the patio as the bright lights kept flashing, sometimes so quickly that I feared seizures may have been imminent during the set. In short, I'm guessing the guys at the sound board were, in fact, bored. But I wasn't, and I was kinda frustrated as the lights blinked on and off, never allowing me to really focus. Anyway, that may have been part of the reason I was focused on the drummer.

After they finished around 9, we had a bit of an open spot, as the next band we really wanted to see wasn't until 11 down at Maggie Mae's rooftop. Therefore, we decided to wait around and see part of the next band, a group from Wisconsin called Call Me Lightning. As this three piece took the stage, I was a bit concerned, as they had long hair and looked more like an old-style metal act than the allegedly punk act they were.

Call Me Overly Bright Club Lighting, i mean, Call Me Lightning.

So, I guess I wasn't too surprised when they began to play and it was in fact a harder punk, almost metal style music that they threw out. Yet, based on my earlier experience with God Is an Astronaut, I have to saw these guys were a bit more melodic than that particular act. Yes, it was definitely hard and, yes, I do think we had a little bit of punk/prog going on. But you could hear that there was something about the band, despite the sound guy's best attempts to make them sound like a revved up version of the Drive By Truckers. Still, after a few minutes, we decided not to fight it out, and instead we meandered down to Maggie Mae's.

  Okay, so at this point i was thinking, "What the heck is going on this SxSW? Is this our 'metal year'? I should have grown my hair out…" It's hard to really head-bang with indie rocker hair, as these long haired dudes showed us as they thrashed their long locks about while playing. Sure, rub it in. I have a corporate job you dinks, and have to keep my hair relatively short. Darnit.  
  Part of the reason to hurry on down to the next venue was because I was really did want to see that 11 PM band. However, in planning out our rather intricate schedule earlier in the day, we had determined that the 10 PM act, Delorean, might be acceptable and even kind of interesting. You see, PostLibyan had downloaded a few free songs and we thought they sounded kind of poppy and a little dancey. And considering Delorean were from Spain, it might be nice to get a little international flavor into our listening.  

The unofficial SxSW08 torrent was our friend, allowing to sample many acts. I really liked As Time Breaks Off by Delorean, on the torrent. This is a fun tune of chiming guitars and ravey keyboards. An interesting mix that Delorean make work. I was actually looking forward to seeing them.


So we climbed up to the Rooftop just as Delorean were setting up, and I was immediately shocked by the large number of folks crowded around, preparing for the band. I tried to get a place to stand, but I was more or less shoved to the side by any number of folks way taller than me who were incredibly interested what the band was doing right that very second, despite the fact that they had not started to play and were in fact apparently having difficulties getting their keyboards to work.

Delorean thump-thump-thump rock thump-thump-thump out.

But, right on time, Delorean began to the thump thump thump of a very loud, very deep rave-like drum beat. Alright, now I was a little taken aback. This was absolutely nothing like those tracks we had listened to earlier in the day. As the very tall, slightly smelly crowd began to jump up and down around me, singing along, I felt a little out of place, and retreated the far end of the rooftop, where the airspace was open and hopefully the mix wasn't so drum heavy. And I have to admit, from my new vantage point, the mix did seem a bit better. However, the drums were every bit as loud. And with the mix being better, I could in fact tell that every single song seemed to have that same repetitious beat at exactly the same rhythm. Now, I get that part of the dance/rave scene is that you don't want people to think about the rhythm changes (Heck, have you ever seen someone try to dance at a math rock show? Now that's funny.).


I thought Delorean were kind of interesting. The guitarist was definitely playing something light and dreampoppy, but the vocalist was shouting like someone at a rave, and that beat carried, monotonously, through their entire set. I have to admit, the thump-thump=thump got a little old after a while. It was really hard to tell any of their songs apart: the rave beat drowned out most of the rest of the sound (including an actual drummer!), and vocalist shouted his lyrics in pretty much the same manner on every song. What seemed interesting for a 5 minute tune, was dull when it lasted for 45 minutes…


After 15 minutes of the consistent thump, I was pretty durn bored and couldn't necessarily tell where one song ended and the next began. So I spent most of their set peering down onto 6 th street , watching the mayhem, and planning out the next day. By the time I got through that, Delorean were still playing, so I then began to ponder writing this review. Eventually, about the time I started mentally ranting about rave music, Delorean finally ended and the rooftop immediately cleared out, leaving me with a clear space in which I could stand and enjoy the band I had really come to see: Peel.

Peel are an Austin band who released their first album last year on Peekaboo Records, which is my favorite label. Long ago, we saw these 5 piece at the Peekaboo Barbequeue during one SxSW, and I thought they had an awful lot of promise (and besides, their guitarist was responsible for one of the funniest moments of that festival when he swigged some beer thinking it was coffee and almost hurled). As they set up on this evening, I could tell that in the intervening years, they had changed out both the drummer and the bassist, but it looked the three principles (guitarist/vocalist, guitarist, and keyboardist) remained.

Since I believe Delorean had run a little long, Peel got a bit of a late start. However, once they got started, it was really nice. After the rave beat, perhaps they seemed a little mellower than I had expected. But nevertheless, the interplay of the two guitarists kept me fairly well involved throughout their set. It seemed like neither one (the taller one, Josh Permenter, did most of the singing, while the smaller, red-haired guy, Dakota Smith, focused more on guitar) played either rhythm or lead on any given song. Rather, they both seemed to play differing melodies that would occasionally meet up and match before wandering off in their separate musical directions. Likewise, keyboardist Allison Moore added yet another alternating melody on many of the tracks, so that Peel came across as much more complex than most Indie rock bands without seeming just busy or noisy, which is quite a feat in and of itself.

Peel rocking out.

So, anyway, I really enjoyed Peel quite a bit, and as they finished with a nice little keyboardy tune that almost reminded me of a stripped down Headlights, I decided I really wanted to see them one more time before we left Austin . With a little sigh of enjoyment, we headed out into the street in order to trot over to yet another venue to see our last two bands of the evening.

Peel's vocalist.

That venue is The Red-Eyed Fly, and it is quite simply one of my favorite venues at SxSW. It's open and spacious, with plenty of tiers on a patio, so that short little person like me can get a good vantage point and still breath nice clean air. It serves PBR, instead of just Dos Equis or Tecate (like many venues in Austin), and the staff are incredibly nice. In other words, it feels just like home, and I really appreciate that. So an opportunity to traipse over to The Red-Eyed Fly to see not one but two bands made me happy in and of itself.

Just as we squeezed our way inside, the midnight band took the stage. This was Dub Trio, and PostLibyan wanted to see them. I wasn't too familiar with them going in, but I knew they played a bass-heavy, dub-influence (duh) punk. And deliver on this promise Dub Trio did. From where I stood, the mix was a little off; the bass wasn't high enough and the guitars seemed a bit prominent. But there was no denying the intensity of their music. Yes, this was a heavy sound, but it wasn't that proggy/metally heaviness we had heard earlier with different bands. Rather, this was the heaviness of layering, wherein the various melodic strains swirl together to create a coherent and densely packed whole. As I mentioned, I didn't know their music at all prior to this set, but I spent the entire time entranced and totally focused on how the tunes ebbed and flowed and just grew into a cathartic ball. It was a completely neat experience, and left me still engaged as they finished up. I'm glad PostLibyan had wanted to see them.


I had barely heard of this band before the show, but i liked what i heard and so wanted to check them out. They exceeded my expectations. It is one thing to use all of those dub effects (especially the long, wide open echoes) on a record, but it is another thing to pull it off live.

Dub Trio rock The Red-Eyed Fly.

They had a tone of gear on stage, and they succeeded in re-creating the old dub sound. Now, old dub was based on reggae that was messed with, and instead the platform that Dub Trio worked off of was hardcore punk. The guitar was trebly and fast, the drummer really pounded his kit, and the bass was a sauntering thump. But add in the echo, and it all seemed remarkably fresh. I know that without their effects, this is just another Black Flag damaged band (however, i tend to like Black Flag damaged bands…), but the overall effect of what they were doing seemed new and intriguing to me. I bounced up and down like an idiot during this set, and was pleased to see the rather densely packed crowd doing a lot of the same. A very pleasant surprise. I had not expected them to be as great as they were.

  And afterwards, it was time for the headliner, Chicago's Naked Raygun. Many, many moons ago, I left my native Deep South and headed to the Midwest for graduate school. While there, I met folks who were as into music as I was, and every single one of them told me all about Naked Raygun and how completely awesome there were, in every sense of the word. Yet, before this night, I had never ever seen them live. So, this was in some way a chance to finally see one of those bands which had slipped away before my time. And it was clear, as I looked around the room, that there was many others of vaguely my age who were just as excited as I was.  

I wanted to see Naked Raygun because, well, they are an old punk band that i had never had the chance to see. I had heard maybe a tune or two on the radio and mix tapes, so i was minimally familiar with them. When we first arrived at The Red-Eyed Fly, the venue was packed. But after Dub Trio finished, a surprising number of people headed out, leaving mostly older punks, a lot with Chicago accents. That was actually a promising development, in my book.

Naked Raygun in action.


The energy was positively palpable as Naked Raygun began their set. And, it was just as I imagined it would be, with the band running through a loud, fast punk set, complete with a mosh pit near the stage (albeit a mosh pit of numerous midlle aged, balding guys).

  I would like to point out here that it is really difficult to take photos when older, drunk Chicago punks are slamming in to you. Just pointing that out.  

There was nothing particularly innovative about this set (although I might have felt different back in the 80s), but it was tight and energetic and, more than anything, just straight up punk. And there's nothing like a little good, old-fashioned Midwestern punk to get the blood flowing and joints moving.

Naked Raygun's bassist.

In fact, back where I stood, I couldn't help but bounce along inadvertently as the sheer power of the band washed over me. In short, it was totally exhilarating, and I wish they would have kept playing, although I know the band had to be tired by the time they were done. I certainly was.

Naked Raygun vocalist and Batman enthusiast.


This was the second set in a row at this venue that i spent bouncing up and down like a fool. Truly magnificent.


So, in the end, after the last chord faded away, we toddled off into the night, completely satisfied and excited with our first day of SxSW 2008. And I was really ready at that point to do it all again on the next day.

Related Links:

Read the entire SxSW08 review:
     Day 1 featuring Clay Leverett, Madeline, God Is An Astronaut, We vs. the Shark, Elfpower, Sean Hayes, The Wedding Present, Yellow Fever, Phil and the Osophers, Call Me Lightning, Delorean, Peel, Dub Trio, Naked Raygun
     Day 2 featuring Ravens and Chimes, Scouting for Girls, Cadence Weapon, Billy Bragg, The Hunnies, Jukebox the Ghost, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Peel, My Education, Our Lunar Activities, Melissa St. Pierre, High Places, The English Beat
     Day 3 featuring Magic Bullets, Yacht, Meneguar, Parts and Labor, Joan of Arc, Spring Tigers, Antietam , Say Hi, Cloud Cult, Kurt Vice, My Dad is Dead
     Day 4 featuring David Monks, FM3, Magic Bullets, The High Strung, Record Hop, Oh No! Oh My!, Tally Hall, Colour Music, The Autumns
Band links for today:
   God Is An Astronaut:
   We vs. the Shark:
   Sean Hayes:
   The Wedding Present:
   Yellow Fever:
   Phil and the Osophers:
   Call Me Lightning:
   Dub Trio:
   Naked Raygun:


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