A couple of take-aways from SXSW
Now that I have out of the way my interpretation of the week’s events, I’d like to share a few of the great artists you may not already know and love, who held my ears during SXSW 2011.
DRY THE RIVER (London, ENG)
Dry the River was one of the first bands I saw after arriving in Austin on Tuesday. They played a packed and loud Bat Bar on 6th Street to a crowd perhaps not prepared for such quiet, lovely music. Despite, their set was impressive and memorable. Their music is intuitive and emotional and, as you can see in this video, lead singer Peter Liddle throws his whole self into every single note:
MATTHEW & THE ATLAS (London, ENG)
This year was mostly about seeing bands about whom I was already curious. I spent so much time catching bands I’d been meaning for some time to catch, there weren’t too many brand-new-to-me acts who rocked my world this year. The one exception would be Matthew & the Atlas. They played the Paste mag party and came at the recommendation of a publicist whose taste seems to be consistently in line with my own. If I understand correctly, she doesn’t even work with these guys – just thought I’d like it. I did. Understated, simple, lovely. Honestly, they’re so new to me, I can’t quite put my finger on what it is about them yet. Check them out, let me know if you figure it out for yourself. Here’s a video:
JAMES VINCENT MCMORROW (Dublin, IRE)
The set I saw McMorrow play was in a conference room at the Convention Center – quite a bit separate from the insane cacophony two or three blocks away on 6th Street. It was a thinnish crowd – unfortunate given his remarkable gift. As I mentioned in my last post, it was easily my favorite set of the whole week. This video I found shows him playing solo (he had a band with him at SXSW), but the energy is the same. Even though his stage presence is deeply introspective, I think he has an impressive gift for drawing you so deeply into the song, you’re drawn straight into yourself. Quite a task for a solo singer-songwriter.
THE HEAD AND THE HEART (Seattle, WA)
What can I add to the already existing lovefest aimed at these guys from critics and bloggers far and wide? Sometimes everyone agrees on a band because the band is worth agreeing on. They’re good. They’ve got it – that elusive thing which separates a band from other bands. I stood through painful sound to see these guys, because the energy they were creating was almost enough. I was relieved when, later in the week, they were delivered through much more forgiving speakers. Their songs are about loneliness – recognizing it, surmounting it, gazing backwards at it. All this delivered with an infectious brand of joy. More than just worth your time. If you’re not on board yet, hop on:
NICOLE ATKINS & THE BLACK SEA (Brooklyn, NY)
To be fair, I’ve been a fan of Nicole Atkins for years, since her 2007 album Neptune City. Somehow, though, I’ve never managed to see her live. During SXSW, I caught her first at Antone’s for about half a set, then again at the Paste party for a full 40 minutes. She’s a hell of a performer, and her backing band – the Black Sea – is remarkably tight. She funded her current tour via Kickstarter (a campaign which garnered her upwards of $22k). Her new record, Mondo Amore, is creative and well worth your time and money. The tune in the video below, though, is from Neptune City, and it slays me every time.
As a bonus, how could I not share this?: