Last Night, Rocker Stalker Said…: SXSW 2011 RECAP!

Posted: March 24, 2011 in Entries

Yes, that’s right. Rocker Stalker was down in Austin, TX. Wednesday, March 16, technically the second day of SXSW 2011’s music week, was my first day, and I certainly made up for lost time.  My third SXSW and the festival’s 25th anniversary, I celebrated with eleven bands and a huge dose of venue hopping. After being rejected by NYC’s Shilpa Ray’s show at the Austin Convention Center (“Badges only!”), I meandered down 6th Street to the “British Embassy,” where a Welsh showcase was beginning, and I was privileged to see synth-rockers, We//Are//Animal, and dance-y electro-pop trio, Bright Light Bright Light. Only steps away at The Parish were Brooklyn’s quirky quartet, Black Taxi, Austin’s space rockers, The Frontier Brothers, and wacky dance-rockers, Bright Light Social Hour, also native Austinites.  A long walk to the Buzzbands LA Party and an extended sound check ended in a short sample of orchestral Other Lives. A coffee break and pedicab ride were followed by Washington D.C.’s indie-pop Jukebox the Ghost at the Empire Automotive Shop. Back to back, I explored LA’s alternative electro-pop/rock foursome, Hell and Lula, at Emo’s Annex, New York’s retro-rock outfit, Blackbells, at Fado’s, and my favorite new band, Oklahoma City’s hard rock showmen, The Pretty Black Chains, at the Oklahoma showcase at Friends. The day came full circle as I was denied entry to The Black Angels and Queens of the Stone Age at La Zona Rosa, but I closed my first Austin night right with the soulful sound’s of NY’s Kendra Morris at the Scoot Inn before heading home to prepare for an even bigger second day! Here’s a glimpse into fresh-faced, day 1!

St. Patrick’s Day at SXSW 2011 was unlike any March 17th I had ever experienced. The Deli Magazine teamed up with Brooklyn Lager, GAT5, and Black Knight Productions to showcase thirty bands, eight of which I was proud to present, on three stages at Hotel Vegas/Volstead Lounge in the heart of downtown Austin at the Brooklyn BBQ.  My day began with The Gay Blades, who are becoming a household name. Unfortunately, the set was cut short by a loss of diesel power. The crew quickly replenished the generator for the outdoor stage, but TGB unleashed some mega-phone free-styling, a resourceful and entertaining solution to the unexpected events. Fueled up, Fan Tan hit the stage, while speed metal, Goes Cube, shook the indoor “Dive” stage. Bouncing between stages, I encountered Butcher Bear Soundsystem with Charlie who included a man in a yellow bear suit, pretty painful for the 86 degree Texas temperature. Following the plush performer was reggae-tinged rock quartet, Deadbeat Darling, special guests, fashionable and punky The Vandelles, and ethereal Dream Diary.  As the sun set, the crowd  grew and feasted on BBQ , enjoying on-the-house beverages (during the last quarter of ever hour), and one of NYC’s top artists, soothing, bass-driven, The Dig, outside,  while piano accompanied poet, Emily Greene, played the acoustic “Volstead” stage, and  The Wicked Tomorrow’s sultry sound stopped attendees in their tracks. Continuing the rock duo them, The Courtesy Tier echoed throughout the “Dive” space, followed by guitar-heavy Blackbells, and simultaneously, in the backyard, Black Taxi drew the crowd into a dancing frenzy.  The ear-catching melodies  and moving vocals of Brooklyn trio, Apollo Run, pulled the audience indoors before the last, but not least, dynamic and rhythmically  complex decibel., closed the BK BBQ with a bang, literally, as the duet landed in a pile atop the drum kit.  All in all, the day was a memorable and proud twelve hours for New York music.

On my third day of SXSW, I was showing clear signs of slowing down.  Despite my zombie state, I sauntered over to Beso Cantina for the Moheak Radio party, a station for whom I DJ, to show support; there, Austin’s Tony Scalzo and the Familiar Strangers were crooning. Next, was the Baeblemusic Party at The Phoenix.  The Rural Alberta Advantage, Toronto’s indie trio,  soothed with  dreamy harmonies. The Boxer Rebellion, whose members are from Tennessee, England, and Australia, engaged with their rock with a twang, and warmed the crowd up for the Norwegian electro-rock band, Datarock, who pranced about in matching red sweat suits and sunglasses, promoting their new single, “Catcher in the Rye.” After a taco break at Chupacabra, I hailed a cab to the 21st Street Co-Op, a group of dorm-style quarters with rooms dedicated to live performances. I paid a visit to virtuosic Brooklynites, Apollo Run and hopped downtown again to Club De Ville for LA’s Gram Rabbit, whose twists on cowboy get-ups and interpretive dancer wearing a bunny suit, combined with their danceable and echoing electro-rock, consistently make them a band to note.  Another trip to the Co-Op landed me mid-set for NY’s duo, Hank and Cupcakes and  my night’s closers, Black Taxi.  An “early” 1am evening seemed like a good idea in anticipation  for the following day, the penultimate of SXSW. Take a looksy!

My final official day at the annual SXSW closed with what felt like a 5K. Arriving at the Filter Magazine Cultural Clash party in the Cedar Street Courtyard, I once again caught Norway’s jumpsuit-wearing dance crew, Datarock, who played until they were “thrown off” the stage, followed by New Zealand’s soft alternative quartet, The Naked and Famous.  An attempt to see Surfer Blood ended quickly at the first glance of the mile long line, but LA’s new wave-meets- psychedelic rock act, Superhumanoids, and Toronto’s solo electro-pop act, Diamond Rings provided a soundtrack for the ideal spring day. A trip across the Congress Bridge led to folksy sensation, Bright Eyes, at the Auditorium Shores, where thousands flocked to enjoy the mini-festival atmosphere fraught with food stands and light sabers. The trek back to downtown landed me at the Texas Rockfest’s “Roial” stage, a chic rooftop space where Black Taxi played amongst a roster of metal bands. Around the corner at the Speakeasy, Austin’s The Frontier Brothers’ energy radiated to the crowd and dragged people out of their exhausted state and had them jumping for joy.  One last hike to the “Roial” roof ended my evening with Austin’s very own hard rock trio, Chronolung. SXSW 2011 had officially come to a close. Fin.

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