Friday, March 18, 2011

Day 2 of SXSW Music: J. Mascis Shreds, Wise Blood Raps, St. John's Lose

Posted By and on Fri, Mar 18, 2011 at 2:12 PM

Wise Blood at The Windish House
  • Wise Blood at The Windish House
As predicted, the crush of St. Patrick's Day/NCAA Tournament drinkers on Sixth Street was truly something to behold on Thursday. Sixth Street was a sea of green that eventually turned, quite literally, into a sea of vomit. It was by almost any estimation, remarkably unpleasant. It's another substantial change from years past—the energy on the street, which was once so invigorating and infectious now borders on frightening. The crowds have It is also entirely possible that I'm just old and tired, but I don't really think that's it.

Anyway, here are some superlatives from our very long, very sunny day:

Worst Basketball Game: St. John's vs. Gonzaga
Oh well, that was fun while it lasted. Maybe next year, Johnnies.

Best Brooklyn Band: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart at Club De Ville
It is objectively sort of silly to travel halfway across the country to see a band that lives in your neighborhood at home, but whatever. A few minutes before the were scheduled to take the stage at Insound's day-party, Pains frontman Kip Berman told me, nervously, that their equipment hadn't arrived at the venue yet. There was a brief delay, but it all worked out just fine—they played a bunch of stuff off the new record, and it sounds really great: bigger, crunchier, more obviously melodic. They're doing an in-store at Waterloo Records at 4pm today, where they'll also be selling vinyl copies of the album, a full two weeks before it comes out. So, you know, if you're here…

Best Salsa: Iron Cactus
Yes, it's the place where everyone goes to have their silly business meetings, and no, it's not exactly a hidden gem. But man, their salsa is wonderful—incredibly fresh and pleasantly fruity, with just the right amount of heat. Also worth noting, they serve a sangria margarita that some of our dining companions were extremely excited about.

Most Valuable Piece of Drinking-Related Advice
"Always Shiner, never Lone Star."

Legend Not Nearly Enough People Cared About Seeing
Closing out two days worth of shows that were organized by Paste Magazine, J. Mascis played a solo set, comprised mostly of songs from his very, very good new acoustic album, Several Shades of Why. The venue was huge, with a few different rooms, and as his scheduled set-time came and went, I wondered what was going on. Turns out I was in the wrong room, a fact I discovered when I heard a faint sound coming from the other side of the space—not Mascis' easily recognizable singing voice, but his even more recognizable guitar playing. He was in fine form, wailing away on an acoustic guitar that never really sounded anything like an acoustic guitar at all. He was plugged in and legit shredding, sitting down with his long gray hair forever hiding his face, like a kid playing alone in his room. At a time when there is precious little setting indie rock bands apart from one another it's exceedingly nice to be reminded of one of our true originals, even if there was no line around the block.

Most Perplexing Moment: Wise Blood at The Windish Agency House On his bandcamp page, one-man sample manipulator Chris Laufman, aka Wise Blood, showcases his work within a pastiche of classic-rock bits and pieces, layering woozy synths on top for a Girl Talk-meets-Panda Bear meld. Not the case in a live setting. This kid — a tiny firecracker with blond hair and a possible Napoleon complex — raps with deliberate intensity (Eminem is the go-to reference), while a drummer and a laptop button-pusher provide minimal backing. He has Eminem’s short-fused/heart-on-his-sleeve bite, beating himself up for being in a bad mood, repeatedly apologizing for not performing well, sitting down on the stairs leading up to the stage as if to prove his point during the course of the set. I’m not sure whether this performance was an anomaly or the norm, but it was by far one of the most intriguing performances of the day — definitely not one to apologize for.

Most Pleasant Surprise: The Lover’s Ball showcase at the Dean Fredrick Gallery
On the other side of the highway, the roads get dustier and the shows take on a shant-ier, pop-up unprofessionalism (this obviously excludes the Fader Fort). Here’s where a showcase called “The Lover’s Ball,” curated by a band called Lovett, whose ring leader runs the North Carolina-based Lover’s Label set up shop for the day. Think DIY in the best way possible: everyone knows everyone, free beer, bands who embrace all types of dancing and enlist the help of the audience by passing out an assortment of whistles and shakers. Lovett sounds like Jim James fronting a Drink Up Buttercup high on life; Eyes Lips Eyes features a spaghetti-haired David Lee Roth character fronting a post-rock dance party. Unpretentious and life affirming, yes, but also just really, really fun.

Best Lyric Heard All Day: Noah & the Whale at Stubb’s
Despite mild-mannered folk-pop outfit Noah & the Whale's tendency to suck a lot of the life out of their live show, hearing the line, “The way your hair is always neat/and your skirts fall below your knees/and your love is so pure and so clean/Oh well, it comforts me, it comforts me" from their song "Rocks and Daggers" was one of the most unassuming, precious moments of the day (which, it's worth reiterating, also included a set by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart).

Best Discovery Unrelated to Music: Frozen Coconut Margaritas
Who knew? So sweet, so refreshing.

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