SXSW Day 4

MY GOD, MAN.

I saw so much great music yesterday it’s stupid.

After getting lunch at Titaya’s, a fantastic Thai place (and not just because it’s called Titaya’s and I get to write the word Titaya’s in my blog Titaya’s), Mike and I headed downtown to catch Reggie Watts. The venue, Flamingo Cantina, is a fairly small reggae club, where the stage is about as big as the dance floor and the Red Stripes are as big as your head. Seriously, I didn’t know they even made those big-ass Red Stripe bottles. Yes I had one, are you kidding?

But ANYWAY we got there on the early side figuring there would be a huge line getting in and it turns out that wasn’t a problem at all. Crowds were filtering in and out as each band would finish so we just walked right in. Caught a band called Hooray For Earth, who did a pretty cool mix of spacey psychedelia with a harder edge and the occasional dance groove. The singer had a set of pedals for his microphone and he would pitch shift his voice up an octave for some beautiful soaring lines that sounded more like some kind of whistle. And at one point during a drum breakdown he tilted his mic towards the kit and hit the delay pedal for some live dub sounds. Very cool.

Reggie setting up. We wondered what kind of sweater he'd be rocking, and he did not disappoint.

So, Reggie Watts. Dude TURNED THE PLACE OUT. He’s a nasty beatboxer, and the sounds he was making kicked really hard in the PA. He’s a master of the Line6 DL4 delay/looper, taking that pedal’s capabilities to the absolute limit. He was clicking the footswitches with his hands faster than should be humanly possible, using the looper more like a sampler at times to throw in quick hits and drops.

He was also f’n hilarious. Not just goofball funny with the voices and accents, but really thoughtful stuff too. Also, I’m pretty sure about 80% of his set is improvised…but I really couldn’t tell where the written songs ended and the riffing started. This review is doing him no justice, so I should just stop here. Dude kicked ass, is all I’m saying.

After some running around I was heading to the convention center to pick up my official SXSW wristband (thanks, Bloodshot Records!) and I ran into none other than Adam Mormolstein, who told me Punch Brothers were playing in the evening. That’s all the persuading I needed, as I’ve been dying to see them live. Turns out the event was the Warner Sound showcase, which featured 7 acts. And every single one of them KILLED. Quick run-down, in order:

  • LP: Freaky little Dylan-looking kid with a folky backing band and hands-down the highest range I’ve ever heard from a dude. It would’ve sounded annoying if it wasn’t so damn impressive.
  • PunchBrothers: Amazingly tight, beautifully arranged pieces. The banjo player especially blew me away. It was my first time seeing Chris Thile live, and he gave off a vibe that seemed like he might be kind of a dick.
  • Ed Sheeran: Most of the set he just seemed like just another t-shirt-wearing bro with a looper pedal, but for his last song he cranked out a really insane 10-minute jam (featuring 4 broken strings and some seriously impressive British-white-boy-rapping) that had the whole place blowing up and won me over. This bro got a pass.
  • Kimbra: You may know her from her duet with Gotye on Somebody That I Used To Know (112 million views, holy hell), but on her own she’s a pretty freaky pop singer with a suuuuuper tuff band. She was excellent, killer voice, though a lot of credit for the set’s ass-kickingness does go to the band.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.: These guys were great, totally blew away my expectations. Fun songs, hit really hard, with bubble machines and giant wooden JRs loaded with light bulbs that flashed in time. They were mostly in the psych-pop world, but they dropped in a fonky cover of I Wanna Dance With Somebody that really slammed.
  • Dr. John: Dude, it’s Dr. John. You know. Though I will say that the old-funky-jamming-dudes vibe kinda felt like a downer after the young, cliffhanging, we-have-to-prove-ourselves energy of the 5 previous acts.
  • Gary Clark Jr.: By 1 AM our ears were blown out (I forgot my molded ear plugs DAMMIT) and our feat were thrice their normal size, so we could only stay for one song. Dude’s got the Hendrix thing down, it wasn’t all that original but still sounded great. I would’ve loved to stay but I just physically couldn’t do it anymore.

So basically I saw about 8 hours of fantastic music yesterday. I can get used to this.

Off to rehearse with Jon and Skull Orchard (for the first time!), and play 2 sets – one at 4:15, and one at 1 AM – let’s hope I don’t get too drunk before the 2nd one.

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