First, some important news on this final day of SXSW dispatches. Yesterday I shared my goal to double my total breakfast taco intake from three to six. Well, I did it. Found the best ones of the trip so far at an unassuming corner market a block from my hotel.
And now for something completely different
The music track is up and running, so last night I bopped around and caught sets from a wide range of up-and-comers. Bands of all stripes are here to play multiple shows over just a few days in hopes of landing a manager, a record deal, and/or a few new fans. It’s clear just how important the event is to the young musicians, as every band I saw played with serious energy from the first note on.
At a showcase of Canadian groups I watched John Jacob Magistery (that’s the band’s name, it’s not just one dude with an incredible name) , which played a fiery 40-minute set full of bouncy rockers that drew heavily from the band’s Canadian peers Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade. They were followed by Guidestones, a which balanced 80’s hallmarks – overdrive guitar, yearning synths – with melodic, Fleetwood Mac-esque hooks.
Before they went on stage, I wound up chatting with the drummer and lead guitarist for Guidestones, a pair of twin brothers who were rocking completely different looks. They were friendly, excited, and clearly a bit nervous to play at such an important event. Nerves or no nerves, they proceeded to bring the heat and, in a nod to their home country, wrapped the set with a raucous rendition of “Everybody’s Working for the Weekend” by fellow Canucks Loverboy.
One more thing on the Canadian showcase: In an extremely Canadian move, the sound engineer had several screens to handle the mixing, and one that was showing…a hockey game. Loved it.
Up at Maggie Mae’s on 6th street, things took a welcome turn for the super weird. A Brooklyn-based electro pop band called Blood Cultures took the stage, with all four members wearing black sacks over their heads.
Below the neck they were all wearing standard indie rocker duds, which made for a somewhat jarring dichotomy.
Blood Cultures quickly won over the crowd with a set of propulsive, bass-heavy songs that were super danceable and a little sinister. Think a mix STRFKR, Summer Heart, and a dash of Passion Pit (or a slightly heavier version thereof).
After their set I chatted with one of the band members – now unmasked – who urged me to see the band the next time it plays on its Brooklyn home turf. Done and done.
The last band I saw last night was Geowulf, a female-fronted power pop outfit from Australia. They had a sunny, surf-y vibe that was bolstered by serious lead guitar chops and the lead singer’s voice, which was vulnerable and assertive all at once.
I looked up Geowulf on Spotify after they finished, and saw that one of its songs has 16 million listens. It made me think about just how crucial SXSW is for bands looking to break out. It’s clear that Geowulf has already built some serious momentum – at least among online listeners – but that didn’t stop them from traveling across the world to play 1:00am set in front of 40 people.
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