Best of the rest: SXSW features Sallie Ford, Jean Grae, Wild Flag
I didn't go to bed on Saturday night. The Kanye West/Jay-Z love-in stole my soul at about 11 p.m. that evening and then sent my broken and music-battered body back into the streets around 4 a.m., an hour before an airport shuttle was to whisk me away to a hipster refugee camp, aka the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
The thousands that thronged at that abandoned power plant was a massive contrast to the rest of the shows that weekend (though Spring Break crowds flooded 6th Street and its offshoots with more than 200,000 people according to some reports.)
Among the many BBQs and day-parties juggled, I rarely watched acts for their entire set. But Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside were the exception to this rule, one reason being their, well, sound outside. With free tacos, a cold mid-day beer and the hottest heat yet of the fest, she and her smile-less band performed tightly. Ford has this ultra-quirky voice, a throwback to rockabilly and the odd tensions of Jolie Holland. It's hip-dancing music rather than head-bobbing, with clappy melodies that name-check Jets to Brazil and have you reaching for Wanda Jackson.
They didn't move much on the tiny Barbarella stage, and maybe it was the temperature, but there was something so moderated about Ford's embarrassing amount of raw musical talent, it was slow-burning to see it manifest as it did.
A little later, the nubs that used to be my feet needed a rest indoors, and Dolorean took the stage about this time. I spent a lot of time with their most recent EP "Anticipation Blues," trying to decide if the dolor of their name was too much for me to enjoy them on the whole. From a nice, cool booth, I could see no less than three trucker hats on their stage. But I could hear a lot of noise, a lot. It was a series of kiss-off songs that wanna sign of on romance with a bang and not a whimper.
[More after the jump...]
Friday night was claimed in large part by the Merge Records showcase. I had my head hanging to my chest for the atmospherics of Versus, whose banter trumped the one-noting starry-eyes of Wye Oak. I disappeared during that time to the Thrill Jockey stop-off at Emo's, and I was told be at least three different rock lovers that I'd hate myself if I missed Jim Jones Revue.
The name alone -- Jim Jones Revue -- would be an automatic turnoff for the majority of indie rock dorks, keep it far away from the Vice party or whatever, and the band couldn't give two sh*ts. It was a relief, it was like MC5 and the Bad Seeds hosted an unannounced jamboree. Their "High Horse" rode in and rattled. They were falling off the stage with rock 'n' roll.
The same could be said of Wild Flag, an all-girl supergroup featuring Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney, Mary Timony (Helium) and Rebecca Cole of The Minders. Don't really know the latter, don't really care: their heavy, loose psych riffs sound like a fist, and it just kept uppercutting through the 50-minute set of songs from their forthcoming debut. "Glass Tambourine" is floating around and you should check that out.
As much as I would have liked to see the full set from Talib Kweli, I'm glad I got the ounces I did from hip-hop firebrand Jean Grae. She's as funny and prolific as her Twitter account insinuates.
I'd seen them once before at New York's Mercury Lounge, and it seems like Yellow Ostrich is getting better by leaps and bounds, Austin their next test. Those melodies on album "The Mistress" are good enough to standalone, but it helps that the crew smiles through the whole thing live.
The Head and the Heart are gonna be a big deal.
At The Mohawk for the MOG Party, Theophilus London wowed not just with his R&B-loving beats, but threw dollars bills into the crowd like this was Philly. The gesture was in conjunction with his track "Girls Girls $" (remember: women are both money, and spend your money). He invited TV On The Radio's Dave Sitek up with him at one point. He looked goofy and makes sexy songs.
For the minor second I had to reflect on ill-named For A Minor Reflection, I thought the performances really stuck out for such a young, all-instrumental crew. They sound like Iceland looks, when the volcanos are at work.
This comment I heard at Sarah Jaffe's show summarizes how I felt: "If I could marry a voice, it'd be hers."
Because the British Music Embassy sat so close to my hotel, I'd jump in and out all weekend. Little Comets were one of the little surprises I caught: the foursome mixed some typical U.K. rock-snottiness in with all the lightheartedness of Vampire Weekend. They were cheerful, and fit the sunshine well. These guys could very well blow up over here.