SXSW (Friday): Beach House, Mi Ami, P.O.S., Silver Apples
Various; Austin, TX

After waiting for an hour to see The Sonics, Emo’s ended up filling to capacity long before my queue moved an inch. As a part of my contingency plan, I headed to Cedar Creek Courtyard to see {Beach House}, thus ensuring that all my disappointment about missing The Sonics would be increased tenfold by Beach House’s aching dreariness. Right off the bat, they aimed for the Charlie Browns by opening with “Gila,” which succeeded in not only amplifying my dismay about The Sonics, but also about the general direction of my life as a whole. Should I just stop kidding myself about getting a job and go to grad school? Have I let anyone down recently, and if so will they come seeking retribution? How many years did I shave off my life this week by living on a diet based solely on sausages and beer? But as the show went on, my worries went by the wayside, and Beach House actually got pretty upbeat. Victoria Legrand’s normally shaky voice/synth combo stiffened up a bit, and Alex Scally’s guitar went down a tick on the eeriness scale. It also helped that their live mix isn’t nearly as low as on their records. Coupled with a clever selection of tunes mainly from their self-titled debut with a few Devotion highlights sprinkled in, Beach House turned what I thought would be a sulky frown parade into an impressive live performance.

I swung on over to the Touch and Go/Quarterstick showcase at the Flamingo Cantina for D.C. to San Fran transplants {Mi Ami}. Although they appear to be a standard punk power trio set piece of guitar, bass, and drums, in reality Mi Ami is a one-man show. Daniel Martin-McCormick (a member of Black Eyes along with Mi Ami’s bassist) dazzles with lightning-quick transitions from reverb-drenched dubbery to Bad Brains-style shrieking and shredding. His astounding falsetto makes Trail of Dead’s Keely sound like Tom Waits, while his fretwork ate through my ears like termite through a Dixie cup. The drums and bass competently kept pace with Martin-McCormick, but it would be all the same if they weren’t there in the first place. This is Danny-boy’s show, and he fucking punishes it.

I’m fairly ignorant to the ways of live hip-hop, so last night I sought to educate myself by going to see Minneapolis’ {P.O.S.} at the Independent Label Group showcase. I like his new record Never Better, even if I haven’t properly digested it yet. Still, walking into the show I felt like I knew his work well enough to know what to expect. The show that transpired was 10 times as raucous as the one I had envisioned. First of all, I don’t think even P.O.S. had expected such a huge turnout of devoted fans who sang along every word. P.O.S. would crank them out quick and hard and the crowd would send him the same rhymes flying right back at him. P.O.S. wisely used the dedicated company of fans to his advantage, spellbinding the audience with countless hand-wagging instigations and by dropping line after line out of his rhymes only to hear the crowd fill in the blanks. Besides being a master showman, P.O.S. keeps his raps on task with solid beats and intricate rhymes. Damn, I need to get my ass to more hip-hop shows.

As far as I’m concerned, Europe receives too much credit for their part in pioneering electronic music. Granted, from Kraftwerk to Eno, the continent did have a lion’s share of trailblazers, but before any of them had so much as smelled a synthesizer, Americans like {Silver Apples} were fashioning a whole new breed of electronic experimentation as early as 1967. Last night, Silver Apples’ inimitable Simeon, who came out of retirement in 1996, played a set for the Ponderosa Stomp Revue at the Continental. Classics like “Misty Mountain,” “Lovefingers,” and “Little Things” sounded just as bizarre in 2009 as I’m sure they did in the ’60s, as Simeon coaxed the most unusual pulsations out of three simple boxes and a tiny synthesizer. In the ’60s, Simeon cleverly dubbed his cadre of self-made electronic instruments “The Simeon,” and I had always imagined it as a gigantic series of colorful tubes, not unlike a hamster habitat or the internet. Instead, there were just three little boxes and this strange, skinny man singing Tolkien-esque lyrics while a hundred or so drunks looked really confused. I wouldn’t classify his performance as particularly exciting (knob-twiddling and button-pushing electronica shows rarely are), but as a big Silver Apples fan I couldn’t help but just geek the fuck out when he played “A Pox on You” or closed with “Oscillations.” Although four decades have passed, Simeon’s voice and prowess at electronic canoodling has not suffered one bit. He sounded identical last night as he did on Silver Apples’ self-titled or Contact, and even though a little bit of improvisation here or there would have been a welcome change to the same old groove, it’s still a joy just to see how Simeon actually made those sounds so many years ago.

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