Our plan today is to head out of the city centre, get away from the masses, and go to a yearly party at Hotel San Jose. This party, referred to as South By San Jose, is a completely free event, no badge required. Its an ideal setting no matter whether you have a badge or not. Its always well attended and the promoter who curates the show has very good taste in music so there is always quality bands playing.
Before we get over there, we can fit in a quick visit to Cheer Up Charlies bar for a Brooklyn Vegan party. Its another ideal venue, with two stages, a large stage outside and a smaller stage inside. Its ideally laid out with plenty of tables so that you can get some rest and watch bands which is perfect.
First up is Lo Fi group from New York called LVL UP. There is a buzz about these guys in advance of the festival so I am glad we can fit them in. Its erratic and energetic and the 4 members of the band toss out influences in each and every song. You have Pavement & Dinosaur Jr..for sure and as 3 members often sing together, the blend of the voices and some wicked guitar work remind me of some great guitar bands from the 90's. These guys make some great subtle guitar noise and its a very blissful set of songs.
Inside we find a lovely young lady named Stef Chura. Her and her very solid guitar work lead a very fuzzed out 3 piece indie rock band. Her voice is subtle, and there is some attitude there but she plays with her voice to make these songs even more inviting. She is one to check out.
Outside is the reason we came to this event and its Hurray for the Riff Raff. This band have been around for sometime and have produced some fantastic American Folk Blues. The band has a new album out so the set featured a couple of new songs. Alynda Lee Segarra is the lead singer for the band and she has put together a very strong group of musicians. They flow through their folk blues set with ease and some of the songs will remind you of old classic blues while others have a little more contemporary feel. Either way, the band is professional and sound good and have much to offer.
Now its time to make the long walk over to South Congress and SXSJ, we get to the venue in time to see Savoy Motel. This 4 piece 70's style funk rock band are a quirky bunch. They rock their own way and they obviously enjoy what they play. They perform their upbeat funk party rock for a very happy crowd and its fun to watch. Up next is New York soul artist Nick Hakim. This guy is intriguing ..hard to pinpoint everything that's going on but his voice and fantastic guitar work produce some haunting, simple, and stunning soul songs. Its a layered, complicated sound and its like this guy is baring his soul to anyone that is listening and its a change of pace and a sunny outdoor stage makes it all work even better.
Next up is The Big Moon a lovely, fuzzy, summery 4 piece from London makes some big noise from the stage. The 4 very talented young ladies in The Big Moon have been around for a little while but I don't think they have made a lot of trips over to North America. Their grunge style suits their attitude and they whip through some very aggressive songs but add some solid voices and harmonies and a perfect mix is found.
A quick turn over on stage and the main reason we are here hits the stage and that is Lemon Twigs. Had missed these guys in Toronto, and here in Austin once already so now is our chance. These youngsters are unique. They are talented. They are many things, and sometimes are hard to describe They sound a bit retro, they dress in some outlandish outfits, and sing powerpop and there are immediate comparisons and some of the more simple ones include Beatles, and some say Harry Nilsson but a quick look in this bands background will also find a love for Hendrix, and The Who, and even MGMT. They are flamboyant and entertaining and they put on a "Show". Its never boring, and it sound wonderful and I wish I had of caught them in a small club show that occurred in Toronto.
Now its time to head back into the city centre, closer to our base, and go to the Aussie BBQ. The past couple of years we have witnessed some very very good shows here and today would be no different. First up, I get to see Alex Lahey again. The crowd has a lot of Aussies in it and the band that have been playing there all day are in amongst the crowd to watch Alex so that is a good sign. She whips through another great set of songs that are already my favorites so its easy to enjoy.
Next up is Kasey Chambers. This Aussie Country artist has had a lot of success in Australia with 6 top selling albums and constant touring but as even she admits, she has a lot to thank America for as her style of singing and playing, even her song writing is all seemingly based on the American country style. She sings classic country songs about heartbreak and death, depression and relationships and she sings rather well. If you like the classic country sound..this young lady is great at it.
Up next though is the main reason we hit this event and that is to see Rolling Blackouts Coast Fever. This new signing to SubPop are gathering steam and are yet another buzz band that are a must see this visit. This five piece beach punk pop band are great. They are a pure rock band. They do a lot of things well, they will wrap you up in a wave of remarkable guitar work while 4 of the 5 members share the vocal duties. Some songs like "Julies Place" will remind you of summer while others are bleak like winter but no matter what song they are playing, they sound fantastic. Its a riff friendly zone, with great percussion and great song writing, this band lacks nothing. It is well on its way to becoming a much bigger band and I believe we will see them making the journey from Melbourne to Toronto very soon. In fact, I believe they are playing a European tour shortly so be prepared.
After a quick dinner, its off to the Blackheart Bar and the Transgressive Label Party. Having wanted to see a number of Transgressive bands here in Austin, no better way to do it then to be here. First up is Odetta Hartman. Odetta on Violin and her partner mixing up some serious samples and beats, this is an interesting start to the evening. She sings when she feels its needed, plays an instrument when she feels it..and the samples behind her can be upbeat at times and include bird call samples. Its emotive and fun, a real departure from what we have seen this week. Its a great blend of pop, soul, electronic indie ...all over the place and a fun start.
Up next is Marika Hackman Tonight, Marika is performing with a full back up band. The back up band tonight is The Big Moon. This is a very good combo. We enjoyed The Big Moon this afternoon, but the combination with these gals and Marika is fantastic. Marika writes some very clever songs and she is quite competent guitarist and her songs are well written. Marika seems to have a dark side as some songs are rather brooding and others more light but it never seems simple. It is a set that goes all over the place but its performed well and its clear these ladies are all very talented.
Sadly, Johnny Flynn who was to be the next performer couldn't make the trip over seas so its another band we had seen in previous years and its PartyBaby. These guys are the same...upbeat funky and try to get the crowd involved but its not quite working for me but others seem to be enjoying them.
Hippo Campus are up next. This young American 4 piece band have already built up a reputation as a solid live act. Big riffs and playful songs and great voices all come together in a great package. Its polished, and upbeat and its fun to watch. These youngsters sing stadium size songs but its early in their career. Some of their newer songs seem to be a little more complex and they involve a little more noise and a little more of an edge but its still quite easy to listen to and I rather enjoyed their set. Its indie pop and its done well.
Blaenavon is the next band and these three guys are intense. They play big, loud, indie rock. ITs very good. For a three piece, they make the same amount of noise as a much bigger band. They are not afraid to mix things up, they freely drift from grunge to indie rock with easy precision. They make some quick changes in tempo that seem harsh but it works. The songs are blissful, free spirited and complicated but done with ease. It is great rock and roll.
The final band is another buzz band, one that has intrigued me for sometime, and its time for Let's Eat Grandma. These two, very young ladies, have been talked about for a while now..their sound is hard to describe and I was very interested to see how they could pull it off. Having watched these two young ladies roam around various venues over the past day or so, there was even more interest in seeing how they would do. Sadly, as happens at SXSW, technical issues strike. there is a considerable delay as techs try to sort out the problem the two young ladies are having with their back ground sampling loops on their equipment and considering how much they rely on technology to create what they do, they need to get it fixed.
It takes awhile but when they begin, theatrical stage movements and all, its mesmerizing. They play instruments and sing at a level I did not expect. They seem to be old souls in the bodies of youngsters. It really is quite fascinating whey you see how they perform, how their songs are built and performed. It is rather magical. Ethereal and dream like, their voices are stunning. What songs they are able to complete in the time they have left represent a few different moods and even though they play for about 20 minutes, its enough for me. If you have an open mind and are willing to give these two young ladies a chance, its a sweet show and well worth your time.
It's 2am, and its time to get some rest!