SXSW (Wednesday): Spaceland Throw Down Party
Maggie Mae’ s; Austin, TX

Austin! City of the living! Home to the biggest and most expensive block party in human history, South by Southwest! Like a timid but well-mannered sheep-herding pig seeking his fortune in the city, I have traveled to this town to be moved by music and to marvel at the bold and dangerous new heights hipsters have taken skinniness (Are Oreos not ironic enough for you to eat, people?).

- {Spaceland Throw Down Party @ Maggie Mae’s}

After missing my downtown stop and riding on the bus for two needless hours, I arrived at the Austin Convention Center at high noon. I got my wristband, went to the toilet, walked up the street, and went into the first bar I found. Unwittingly, I had stumbled into the Spaceland SXSW Party at Maggie Mae’s, a free show with three separate stages featuring almost two-dozen bands. Fraught with indecision as to which band to watch, I decided to make up a rule I shall follow for the rest of SXSW: When confronted with several bands playing at the same time, always go for the loudest one.
My decision paid off. When I got there, {Lovvers} were at the ass end of their set, but I saw enough to enjoy them. A spindly brood of British roustabouts, they grinned and screeched their way through some decidedly simple fuzz-punk. These spazzy Nottinghammers couldn’t be happier to do exactly that, though. The guitarist looked like every riff he pounded out won him the lottery, and the lead singer stomped and swayed through the meager crowd like a pre-pubescent David Lee Roth. I wish I had the chance to catch them in their entirety later, but alas, it appears Wednesday was their sole day of operation. Oh well. Semper fuzz, fellas!

{The Mae Shi}, on the other hand, are painting SXSW red with five official shows this week and a slew of unofficial ones. Their bassist told me they were playing four shows on Thursday alone, and even if he was exaggerating, it’s still a miracle of modern science that such a ruthlessly energetic band can possess so much stamina. According to their guitarist, their tireless work ethic preps them for such impressive feats of endurance, but nowhere is their Herculean effort more apparent than their songs. While Lovvers (and many other punk bands) are as comparably hyper and self-aware, The Mae Shi separate themselves from the pack with an onslaught of calculated synth-and-shout and hilarious hijinks. In what I assume is one of their live hallmarks, they covered the entire crowd in a multi-colored parachute and played under themselves in the pit. With a Mae Shiite within arm’s reach of everyone and the parachute rippling above, I began to think that maybe I shouldn’t have begun my SXSW experience with The Mae Shi. Maybe everything else will be kind of crap after this.

Following The Mae Shi’s transcendence was {Future of the Left}, a hardcore band formed in the ashes of Wales’ beloved mclusky. I didn’t actually know for fact that Falco and Jack Egglestone were in the band until my British friend Tom confirmed it, but it’s impossible to mistake Falco’s phlegmy howl and manic sense of humor. The songs were mostly straightforward, with rhythms provided by what appeared to be a Tourettes-addled drummer and Kelson Mathias’ hypersexual bass barrage. Future on the Left are far more aggressive than mclusky ever were, but with that extra aggression, the music has become more straightforward and less of a joy to listen to. They’re still funny as hell on stage, though, with Malthias closing out the set by stealing two girls’ purses and swinging them on his massive biceps, then immediately dropping to the ground for a set of press ups.

{Marnie Stern} followed the masculine overload of Future on the Left, and I was a very excited panda, indeed. I loved This Is It and I Am It and I am He and You Are He and We Are All Together etc etc and couldn’t wait to see her bust out some genuinely melodic fingertapping in person. Unfortunately, technical difficulties abbreviated and marred Marnie’s set. Maggie Mae’s was having trouble with blowing out the vocals for all the previous bands, but none had it worse than Marnie Stern. When they thought they finally fixed the vox, they would drop back out again, and Marnie’s hopelessly muddled licks and an overabundance of percussion didn’t help matters either. In Maggie Mae’s slight defense, I thought Marnie could have chosen a better set list in the first place, but that’s a small criticism following such shoddy soundsmithing. I hope I get to see Marnie again in more enjoyable circumstances.

The last band I saw at Maggie’s was {Vivian Girls}, about whom I have little to say. All the trappings of Breeders-esque punkswomanship but with a fraction of the depth and intrigue. Granted, I may have still been under The Mae Shi’s spell, but I found Vivian Girls to be little more than tolerable.
After Maggie’s, I decided to follow the lead of two strapping limey punters name Tom and Mark. I do so very dislike attending shows on my lonesome, so I was pleased as fine pickle wine to make new amigos, especially ones with a considerably tighter battle plan than I had. I was planning on just hunkering down at some showcase or another and drinking myself into a shallow oblivion, so it was nice to tag along with a pair of spirit guides who had actually done their homework.

Most Read