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  1. Photo

    | 4 notes
    "keep Austin weird" is the slogan around here, and you can rent weird too.

    "keep Austin weird" is the slogan around here, and you can rent weird too.

  2. How to choose which artists to see at sxsw: the 5 main strategies

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    With over 2000 artists playing sxsw this year, the hardest thing is choosing who to see. These are the 5 main strategies:

    1. See the big names/headliners
    The kind of artists you will see:
    the Foo Fighters
    Duran Duran
    Pros:
    Getting up close to your heroes in a small venue
    Boasting about it to your friends later
    Cons:
    Queuing up for hours to get in
    Queuing up for hours to be told it is full and you are not getting in

    2. See the artists you already know
    The kind of artists you will see:
    The Bravery
    The Friendly Fires
    Pros:
    You know you like the music!
    You can sing along to the songs
    Cons:
    You’ve seen them before
    You could easily see them when they play your hometown again


    3. See the artists the critics recommend
    The kind of artists you will see:
    Anna Calvi
    Das Racist
    Pros:
    Being on-trend
    Seeing new artists before your friends do
    Cons:
    Finding you don’t like the music
    Queuing for ages as everyone has read the same recommendations


    4. Get recommendations from friends/strangers on the bus
    The kind of artists you will see:
    Geographer
    the Casio Kids
    Pros:
    Finding a new artist that you love
    No queuing
    Cons:
    Finding you hate the music

    5. Choose artists with an interesting name
    The kind of artists you will see:
    Tiger! Shit! Tiger! Tiger!
    Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs
    Pros:
    Finding a new artist
    Cons:
    The name is the only interesting thing about them

    - Lisa van Gelder

  3. Gallery

    I couldn’t get into Odd Future’s Thrasher show at SXSW and neither could these people

    - Rosie Swash

  4. Photo

    Red Eyed Fly, Red River St, Austin 

    Red Eyed Fly, Red River St, Austin 

  5. Video

    | 3 notes

    The Kills

    The Kills are sometimes dismissed for their illusions of rock and roll grandeur. Sometimes they’re dismissed for their lack of originality, with purists citing that Washington DC’s Royal Trux did the whole boy-girl, minimalist noise rock thing first. But you’ll rarely hear complaints about their live shows, for here are two people- guitar playing, drum machine-manning Jamie Hince and hellcat front woman Alison Mosshart- who have more than an idea of how to make a live show work.

    Hince broods and glares, Mosshart flicks her raven hair from side to side, arching and grimacing to the emission of the drum machine. She’s been known to wail and climb stage furniture and writhe underneath Hince as he looms over her, guitar in hand. But none of that occurred tonight, despite the visible appetite fro such shenanigans from the crowd. Mosshart has always elicited a certain excitement from her audience and any time she lifts her hair from her face or even faces the crowd full on, the people of Emo’s wave and scream their approval. They are chomping at the bit for what Mosshat is capable of but they are left disappointed. From the initial rush of adulation when the Kills take to the stage, you can feel the interest drooping as it becomes apparent they really are going to stick to mostly new songs, only to be momentarily revived when they recognise the likes of 2008’s Sour Cherry. At one point Mosshart says: “you’re a good crowd… a good crowd,” and not only is she right but she really seems to mean it. Perhaps this is why Hince apologises for mainly playing new material, shortly before announcing the last song will be, yep, a new one, a slow burner of acidic riffs and plodding beat called Pots and Pans.

    Halfway through the set two men to my left bicker about whether to stay or go to see TV On The Radio. Eventually they decide to split, and the man who stays bids goodbye to his buddy with a rueful wave of the devil horns. He probably would have appreciated the opportunity to wave those horns with real passion at some point during the gig. Then again, SXSW is a “showcase” event, and why not play songs from an album out next month, even if the crowd want the original hits. There’s a Kills lyrics which simply goes “howling at the future”, and it manages to capture the Kills’ quiet roar of 1-2-3 rock so well. Their music has always been a unremitting up yours to fashion and trends, so we shouldn’t expect them to go playing to the crowd’s expectations just yet. 

    - Rosie Swash

  6. Nite Jewel

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    March 17 2011

    SXSW is heavy going on the senses and nowhere is this more obvious than Austin’s 6th street, where a woman in fairy wings  carrying a backpack of beer elbows you out the way to get to the pizza place, but you can’t hear whether she apologises or not because the music from the nearest bar is so loud. For example. 

    And it also serves up its daily quota of contrasts, hence the bluesy, hooting rock of LA’s Sweaters ends moments before the slightly more introverted, soft-rock of LA’s Nite Jewel begins. Nite Jewel’s Romana Gonzales cuts a diminutive figure simply because she is very diminutive, so bad news Mr Tall Guy who stands in front of me at every gig, your work has already been done. But she swings her arms and sways and drifts across the stage in such a way as to fill it, turning to the people watching from the street and dancing for them when she realises her audience are behind and in front. 

    It’s also impressive to see a musician who began by fumbling around with a four track at home and producing shimmery dream-pop that sounded like it had been lost in 1984 and only recently rediscovered evolve and expand into a fully functioning band, heartily perfuming four piece band. Unfortunately, Nite Jewel is just one of those bands who gets lost in the melee of SXSW, the nuances and effects of Gonzalez’ music overshadowed by the hollering of 6th street. 

    - Rosie Swash

  7. Chapel Club

    "Can the drummer get some vocals in his monitors please?" A variation of possibly the most uttered phrase you’ll ever hear a singer say on stage, and yet Lewis Bowman, Chapel’s Clubs enigmatic voclaist, says it with such charm. Bowman is certainly the secret weapon in the indie five-piece’s arsenal; he has that undefinable but all desirable "thing" that a frontman or woman really needs to enchant their audience. His demeanour is earnest without ever veering too close to pious, his distinctive visage both attractive and strange, his gilded voice both silky and sonorous, something akin to Bernard Sumner- if he could really sing- and Morrissey- without the self-important, flick of the wrist quality. 

    The likes of Bodies and the Dream a Little Dream of Me sampling Surfacing stand out for their heartstring pulling qualities, all surging chords, doleful medley and chugging drums, tapping into the London-based quintet’s ability to achieve the rain-washed, all encompassing sound of Echo and the Bunneymen. But more often than not Chapel Club’s songs hint at something dazzling without ever knocking you off your feet. What the band do have is presence, which is important, and the fact that they’ve been playing together for a handful of years rather than a handful of months, like some bands who’ve made the pilgrimage to SXSW, is evident in the technical smoothness of the show and musical proficiency of the songs. 

    Only one album in, the mildly received Palace, there’s more than the suggestion of potential in what this band do, and you can’t help but feel- hope, perhaps?- that they’re just a heartbeat away from writing that stop-you-in-your tracks hook or killer chorus. Until then, it’s over to Bowman: "Seems too early in the day to be emoting to this degree…oh, he needs some more vocal I’m afraid" 

    - Rosie Swash

  8. Photo

    Still Corners
March 17 2011 Dot Com Dat Stage
The term showcase is used in abundance at SXSW, but rarely has it felt so pertinent as at this gig. A fledgling, indie-pop five piece from London, England, Still Corners play to a grey, smallish conference room with carpets on the wall and a few handfuls of people in it. Showcase has that tedious ring of sobriety, humourlessness and purpose, which is surely more than this band, any band*, deserves.
Perhaps the emptiness of the auditorium has brought out the maternal in me- they brought their own projector and everything!- but it only serves to give resonance to their haunting, pastel indie, which blends shades of late-80s era indie with 60s Spector-style effects. Their offering of their own little dream-pop world in a dark corner of the Austin Convention Centre comes with its own pseudo- psychedelic slideshow, and singer Rachel Goswell’s voice has more than an echo of the late Trish Keenan in her heyday. 
“Newspapers matter not to me, yeah!” sings Eddie Vedder, somehow making the improbable choice of Pearl Jam to warm up a band who sound a bit like Broadcast seems less ridiculous. If they follow Vedder’s advice- and let’s face it, who doesn’t deal with a conundrum with the words “what would Eddie Vedder do?”- they’ll forget that many chose to stay outside in the relative warmth, no doubt enjoying free alcohol-infused energy drinks, and enjoy playing their music for music’s sake. Because i certainly enjoyed it. 
*except the Black Eyed Peas.
- Rosie Swash

    Still Corners

    March 17 2011 Dot Com Dat Stage

    The term showcase is used in abundance at SXSW, but rarely has it felt so pertinent as at this gig. A fledgling, indie-pop five piece from London, England, Still Corners play to a grey, smallish conference room with carpets on the wall and a few handfuls of people in it. Showcase has that tedious ring of sobriety, humourlessness and purpose, which is surely more than this band, any band*, deserves.

    Perhaps the emptiness of the auditorium has brought out the maternal in me- they brought their own projector and everything!- but it only serves to give resonance to their haunting, pastel indie, which blends shades of late-80s era indie with 60s Spector-style effects. Their offering of their own little dream-pop world in a dark corner of the Austin Convention Centre comes with its own pseudo- psychedelic slideshow, and singer Rachel Goswell’s voice has more than an echo of the late Trish Keenan in her heyday. 

    Newspapers matter not to me, yeah!” sings Eddie Vedder, somehow making the improbable choice of Pearl Jam to warm up a band who sound a bit like Broadcast seems less ridiculous. If they follow Vedder’s advice- and let’s face it, who doesn’t deal with a conundrum with the words “what would Eddie Vedder do?”- they’ll forget that many chose to stay outside in the relative warmth, no doubt enjoying free alcohol-infused energy drinks, and enjoy playing their music for music’s sake. Because i certainly enjoyed it. 

    *except the Black Eyed Peas.

    - Rosie Swash

  9. Video

    Summer Camp

    March 17 2011 Red Eyed Fly

    Of all the UK bands to arrive in Austin on the wave of hype- James Blake, the Vaccines, Jamie Woon- retro-pop duo Summer Camp are probably the ones laughing all the way to the Pitchfork party. Not for them the dubious honour of the BBC’s Sound of 2011 Poll, a list which is made up of bands that music “experts” promise will be big in the coming year but which really comprises of acts who’ve been heavily and relentlessly promoted by whichever major label cares enough.

    Instead, the pair arrived on the scene in a smoke and mirrors fashion, drip feeding their nostalgic, high-school infused lo-fi to various blogs, who then went ape for their mysterious sound, despite no one knowing who was behind the music for, oh, months. Once the identities of electro-kid Jeremy Warmsley and blogger-turned-singer Elizabeth Sankey had been revealed, American tastemakers were already in love. 

    Such is the nature of their music that Summer Camp suit a close-up atmosphere, which the backroom of Red Eyed Fly provides. So too does their baby’s-first-casio sound work with the often rusty levels/acoustics/electricity which certain SXSW venues also provide, so their intimate, adolescent sound isn’t too ruffled by the fact their keyboard doesn’t actually emit sound. Against a backdrop of faded images showing prom dates and drive in movie theatres, lyrics such as “this boy dressed as Teen Wolf is pouring beer down a girl’s back” not only capture a certain American period of teen flick so beloved to the current 21-30 generation, but they seem to sum up much of the fraternal activity on the outside of Red Eyed Fly’s walls this very week. If this means anything to anyone in the room, it certainly isn’t the drunk man behind me bellowing about the website which has”40 million unique users a month, dude”. Still, that is the risk of SXSW; your sensitive, subtle, bedroom-made DIY pop may survive the ravages of a poor soundsystem but it can’t compete with the effects of a day’s worth of beer on the average punters’ brain. 

    - Rosie Swash

About

Rosie Swash is a music writer for the Guardian and Lisa van Gelder is a software developer working in the Guardian's technology department. Find our full coverage of SXSW 2011 at guardian.co.uk/sxsw

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