Thursday, March 20, 2008

Rarebit's SXSW

(By Rarebit)

Despite an initial performer list seriously lacking in wow factor, it seems like this year’s SXSW just kept getting better the more little things came to light. In the end, it was everything it was supposed to be, a year of discovery and revelation. It seemed like everybody played even more times than usual, leaving tons of opportunities to experience a wide variety of world-class acts at intimate bars and houses.

The biggest revelation overall had to be Saturday night’s Load Records/Deathbomb Arc showcase at Red’s Scoot Inn. I was reeled in by all the great things I’d heard about Sightings and White Mice, and to fully eradicate any urge to make a suicide Sunday night drive to House of Tinnitus after the drain of Austin. In the end, both of these groups totally matched or exceeded my high expectations, yet somehow they didn’t even crack my favorite three acts of the night. It was that kind of night.

The best thing about it (other than the $5 cover(!)) was the location, tucked away safely on the east side, a mile away from all the downtown moronity. The large fenced-in grounds consisted of an outside stage and bar with a very nice craft-brew selection on tap, and a small inside venue room that had the steamy, dangerous, and insane atmosphere of an out-of-control House of Tinnitus at 4am.

After missing a set by glass-blowing/smashing/eating monster Justice Yeldham that was reportedly far bloodier than his Tinnitus appearance, I got there in time to see Japanese breakcore noise clown DJ Scotch Egg engage the crowd outside to the point of stage dancing and audience karaoke to some (not very) remixed Bon Jovi. Inside, Kevin Shields (female noise artist Eva Aguila, not the Bloody shoegaze slacker) played one of the most dynamic 10-minute noise sets one could hope for. Violently spinning some sort of amplified/circuit bent metal wheel apparatus that looked like a reject from grandpa’s shed, Aguila blasted lively buzzsaw timbres, thrashing back and forth, fully puzzling and captivating all onlookers.

Back outside, Sightings played an almost psychic brand of stream-of-consciousness avant-rock that was equal parts texture and aggression, anchored by an intense drummer using a hybrid of standard and electronic pads. Seemingly improvisational to a high degree, they were about as challenging and free form as a three-piece guitar/bass/drums/vocals heavy rock format could go. Inside once again, Foot Village was the closest thing to Crash Worship I’ve ever seen, and probably in terms of sheer penetrating tribalism it was a step ahead (if not quite on the same scale as far as riotous carnivals go). The small, packed room was brimming side to side with a battalion of drum heads and Cali dudes well-versed in the art of tribal frenzy, with a small, hyper girl with a megaphone running around the crowd blaring out all sort of distorted chants and siren blasts in people faces.

A few beers later, one of the craziest dance parties I’ve ever seen erupted inside, courtesy of Captain Ahab, a shirtless, sweaty metal dude with a laptop, and another even sweatier guy in nothing but briefs whose sole function was to get in peoples faces and make them uncomfortable. Actually, it failed miserably, as they had the entire room (the ubiquitous Yeldham included) leaping in unison to their twisted version of techno frat music littered with over-top-hypererotic parody, filtered through the spastic lens of the Providence art-metal scene. Outside, White Mice closed out the night with an all-out sensory assault, massive crests of fuzz and rifle-shot drums kicking out unexpectedly lively beats as their incredibly bulky trademark costumes were suitably surreal -- think Sta-Puff marshmallow man invades the sewers of Chernobyl. In a fitting nightcap, the bassist ended up wrestling with an audience member in front of the stage.

Other Highlights:

Health at the Side Bar Friday: Believe the hype. I’ve never seen anything quite like this tightly orchestrated orgy of instrument swapping, with the band jumping around like madmen, jabbing microphones into amps in rhythm, throwing basses and drums around, and chanting on cue, all behind an unyielding aggro-tribal beat that ebbed and flowed but never faded. MUCH more satisfyingly organic and urgent than on record. Uncluttered but texturally interesting at the same time.

Nice House Friday house party on the East Side: Indian Jewelry proved they can conjure virtual strobes and fog even in broad daylight. Blues Control proved that their muddy interplay is even better with more playful sound-tweaking and less noodly guitar licking accompanying the smooth, morphine-drip piano flow. Rahdunes proved to be master conjurers, their custom-built modular consoles emanating ornate webs of raw, rhythmic electromagnetics, seemingly hijacked straight from some extra dimensional netherworld. And I wasn’t even shrooming at that point.

Pink Reason at the Slitbreeze showcase at Soho Lounge Thursday: Imagine if the Dead C were from Columbus and were slightly more punk and less drone …. and actually a tighter band. They were the spot-on masters of a night that also featured strong showings from Times New Viking (infectious, fun, noisy/chaotic … vintage Matador. I get it now.) and abstractly rhythmic Aussie post-postpunk art duo Naked on the Vague.

Steve Reich presents at St. David’s Episopal Church on Wednesday: After a bewitching, pulsating “Electric Counterpoint” by guitarist C.E. Whalen, So Drumming performed four consecutive Reich numbers, one of which was a quartet of mallets on wooden blocks, and the last of which was nothing but handclaps. About as wonderfully whimsical and of course rhythmic as serious, high-minded music can get. Special bonus: public interview with Reich himself in the lobby during the intermission.

Gowns at Habana Calle 6 on Wednesday: Weird, compelling hardscrabble song-stories by a female vocalist behind violin, analog keys, and some very tasty, unorthodox drumming. A perfect buildup for the release by Parts and Labor, whose unyielding loud, melodic, and smart saturated hook-rock showed far more emotion and warmth than on record.

(Photo courtesy of Maximum Rock N Roll)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

health sucks

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


1:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HEALTH is a band you imagine making with your friends when your drunk......"dude lets make a.....noisy, tribal, but melodic too...but short songs man! the point! abrasive, fucked up!.....yea!"....well they went and did it. They are the band of your dreams(and they're younger and better looking than you too!)

2:01 PM  
Anonymous analyass said...

I wish I could read.

3:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Despite being a Health fan, I think they're pretty overrated.

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


4:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

missed them at sxsw, but was sold on them at hailey's sunday.

i think that's hard to argue with.

4:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Music's cool as hell- just seems to lack substance.

4:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


4:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you got that right!

5:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

haha 'slitbreeze'

5:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sightings, Rahdunes, White Mice, DJ Scotch Egg, all are great bands.

5:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

an din i'm drop M&M, an din u b pikkin' it up, yo.

6:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i wish i didn't agree with 2:01 so hard

7:22 PM  
Anonymous A Silence Production said...

Steve Reich thing was awesome and it was So PERCUSSION by the way.

9:58 PM  
Anonymous rb said...

So Percussion .... performing Reich's Drumming


10:18 PM  
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3:01 AM  
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3:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

health is good and worth most of the hype. unfortunately a lot of good bands get overhyped and people want to hate on them. HATE, HATE, HATE!!!keep on hating if that's what gets your rocks off

9:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So this is all the SXSW coverage? Whatever, it's too late now anyway.

3:08 AM  
Anonymous Lee said...

Some of us have a life. I hope to get my own SX blatherings up over at Womblife later today. Good stuff here. Not a bad week at all considering the lack of a WOW band big name draw, but ya know, Motorhead and Enslaved were there too, and we didn't have badges so no go. Hail Thor.

1:50 PM  

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