SXSW: Day Two

one day behind me, a groggy morning quickly melted away with the prospect of
day shows. Although not part of the "official" SXSW schedule of events, the
day shows are a typical way for locals to enjoy music that they otherwise
wouldn't be able to see. Also, it's a way to fit in some of the bands whose
official showcase appearances conflict with others in the evening. The first
stop for me was Emo's, where I caught sets by Field Music and Dengue Fever.
Arriving primarily to see Dengue Fever, I found Field Music to be a bit of a
revelation. A three-piece pop outfit from Sunderland, these guys made pop more
lush than should be possible with their limited membership. The drummer
functioned as lead singer, with the synth/organist and bass player backing him
up with some tight harmonies along the way. They fell somewhere between Ben
Folds and XTC but outdid both in terms of melodic infectiousness. Truly a case
where, when their set ended, I was craving much more. Dengue Fever helped me
get over it, though, with their intoxicating resurrection and update of
Cambodian psych rock. Chhon Nimol's voice is a stunning instrument live—one
that she shows off with some impressive vocal runs. Their sound is so full
(not too full) with bass, guitar, and drums being nicely aided by the more
unusual elements of Farfisa and saxophone. The band was tight and surprisingly
lively for a 2 pm slot the day after a fairly late performance, and the
audience was definitely digging it, dancing far more than anyone should be
expected to at that hour.

there, the Whiskey Bar was hosting a local Austin act called Cue. Operating in
a decidedly post-rock mode in the vein of Rachel's or Godspeed, the band built
exquisitely layered instrumentals with an undeniably cinematic bent. As if to
confirm this, the band offered an inspired re-working of Angelo Badalamenti's
"Falling" from Twin Peaks. Replacing Julee Cruise's voice, Cue used violin,
which functioned in a similarly ethereal, mysterious way. Their originals were
just as sweeping and beautiful, and the drummer stood out with his ability to
juggle time-signature and other rhythmic shifts with the appearance of minimal

After a brief respite, the prospects of the evening were slightly
underwhelming. Without a sense of direction, my pal Kevin suggested that I
might check out Guillemots at Eternal. Arriving at approximately 8 pm, I
didn't get in until the band was at the very end of their set, which didn't
seem too impressive to my ears. However, while in line, I had learned that the
club would be the site of a surprise appearance by the Flaming Lips that was
to be recorded for later broadcast on BBC1. Unable to pass up the opportunity
to see them in such an intimate setting, I decided to stick it out until they
arrived. This meant standing through a performance by the well-meaning but
instantly forgettable Spinto Band. They aped The Beatles in their performance
(shaking their mop-top heads and singing duos clustered around a single mic),
but the music, while poppy, was decidedly more indie rock. Their backing
vocals and harmonies were rough approximations, and there was nary a hook to
be found. Boy Kill Boy hit the stage after with an overdriven synth-rock
sound. While they were a bit more palatable, their sound was a bit too
predictable after only a couple of songs to keep me interested.

Flaming Lips finally hit the stage, the place was packed to capacity. Wayne
incited the audience to make as much noise as possible during the show, as it
would enhance the recording. They smartly worked the audience into a frenzy by
kicking off with a cover of "Bohemian Rhapsody." The room quickly filled with
large bouncing balloons and confetti, which are by now to be expected. The
line-up was more basic rock band than I had seen them do in years, with live
drums, bass, guitar, and keyboards in effect. The new originals from the
forthcoming At War with the Mystics, like "Free Radical" and "Yeahyeahyeah
Song," played out amazingly well live, and the already-leaked nature of the
album was belied by the boisterous audience sing-along. Wayne was, as always,
a gracious master of ceremonies, making the whole affair thoroughly enjoyable
and setting the bar high for any subsequent performers.

I took the opportunity to hustle down to Fox & Hound for a late set by the
Brazilian Girls. Unfortunately, things were running way behind schedule (rare
for SXSW, which is normally run with breathtaking precision). I stood through
a significant portion of Particle's set, which reminded me how incredibly
boring and self-indulgent I find most jam-based music. With them wearing on my
nerves and me already being sorta exhausted, by the time Brazilian Girls
finally hit the stage (close to 2am), I was too disinterested to appreciate
their soothingly jazzy, down-tempo stylings. I decided to pack it in only a
couple of songs into their set, content that my night wasn't ending with the
wankery of Particle. With the high of the Flaming Lips still coursing through
my body, I couldn't help but feel that SXSW was only getting better by the

(Day One)
(Day Two)
(Day Three)
(Day Four)