SXSW Diary: Day One



As if there wasn’t enough mayhem at South by Southwest, the first day brought an additional excuse for revelry: St. Patrick’s Day.  This manifested itself in different ways, most involving green clad patrons streaming into bars before noon.  A convertible streaked down 7th Street with an Irish flag waving behind it.  The most effective, however, had to be Sharon Jones, the soul singer, wore a green sequin dress that must have taken her an hour to get into.  In Austin you quickly get used to the unusual.   

At the Brooklyn Vegan showcase, Here We Go Magic put on an expansive and forceful set-much more visceral than their self-titled debut record.  Songs began with rhythmic themes and Luke Temple’s chirpy vocals (at times he sounded like he could have been covering Devo).  As they progressed, additional guitar lines combined with keyboards and backing vocals, creating dense insistent textures that delighted vegans and omnivores alike.   




Broken Bells, the duo of James Mercer (the Shins) and Brian Burton (Danger Mouse), has been hailed enough that backlash has already begun in certain quarters.  This show, part of the NPR showcase, at the outdoor stage at Stubb’s proved the strength of the band’s premise and promise.  Carefully constructed songs combined thrilling beats (as you’d expect from Danger Mouse) with downbeat minor chords.  The duo played with an additional five-piece band, and played rich downcast music felt surprisingly good.




The Veils, a London quartet, played a straightforward late-night set at Elysium.  The band’s best moments were three minute guitar-driven songs like “The Letter,” with Finn Andrews determined, damaged vocals.  Forceful hooks and aggressive tempos alternated with moments of regret and recrimination.  The Veils delivered power chords with furious economy.  At SXSW, where the ambient noise can be deafening, the Veils are a reminder that a set that clears your head can be exactly what’s needed.