Music Festivals

SXSW: Thee Oh Sees, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and Hunting Down Roky Erickson

​Austin continues to be a land of great things, even during the madness of South by Southwest with a bazillion bands blasting their music at the same time.

Austin's so great that the madness isn't even madness. For instance, a massive line of hundreds of people waiting for a wristband from The Fader Fort was handled patiently and calmly by the locals. We're from Miami, so we skipped the line. (Sorry, guys.) Pork buns from East Side Kings, chocolate eclair ice cream, and booze were free downtown upon our arrival from the airport. They were free for those willing to wait, patiently and calmly.

Everyone on bikes, eating organic, working together, listening to music. Austin is awesome.

Tuesday night around town seemed quiet. But the Panache folks who brought the Bruise Cruise to SoFla, raised the volume at Scoot Inn. San Francisco's psychedelic Bare Wires look and sound cool with their bellbottoms and tie dye. Thee Oh Sees really got a sort of bored-looking crowd moving around and Grave Babies was under appreciated. The Black Lips were in the crowd hanging out with a bunch of locals. Probably the best thing yelled out at the end of the night, "Your name is hard to spell online." Oh, the internet. 

Maybe it's the shitty economy, but a lot of the music being played around here sounds all inspirational. It's like the more miserable we are, the happier the songs we make. We blame unemployment and Arcade Fire. Givers from Lafayette, Louisiana were notably upbeat at Mohawk on Wednesday. The band included too many people. But the sound was rich and strong, fun and good. There was some harmonizing and the lady of the band impressively sang while playing the drums. 

A pulled pork sandwich away and we were at the eMusic showcase at Beauty Bar. The door guy told us not to bother, because the place had been filled to capacity for two hours. But we waited on a short line and finally got in to hear more inspirational music with the Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Though young and talented, they seemed sort of bored or nervous and sounded like something I would have hated in the '90s. This guy Jamie Panzer was selling t-shirts that said, "My girlfriend went to SXSW and all I got was this stupid chlamydia." He said Jeff the Brotherhood, who we missed, was awesome. We're taking his word on it and trying to see them later this week. 

A walk across town to Trailer Space brought us to the Burger Records party with dirty rock 'n' roll and free PBRs. It was like being at home. The record store was about 1,000 degrees inside, but it was worth dealing with the heat to hear the guy from Mean Jeans say, "This is called 'I'm a Pile,' as in a pile of crap." Guys were playing video games while the party raged. 

Vortex, a new space in East Austin was showcasing mostly bands from San Francisco. It has a great big outside area and a cosy interior. X-rays sounded really good. They were like Leonard Cohen if Leonard Cohen made dance music. Spiro Agnew played outside, like an electronic glammed-out Rush. It was interesting and different from anything that we've heard live before. Vortex had a pile of hula hoops and kids and women took to the field hula hooping to the music. 

The end of the night brought us to Shangri-La where Davila 666 performed a really radical and fun show, complete with audience participation: a girl in the front on tambourine, and our three-dollar drink got poured all over the crowd. There's no other way to say it: Puerto Ricans know how to party.  

South by Southwest has just begun. And now we're off to hunt down Austin's own Roky Erickson.

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Liz Tracy has written for publications such as the New York Times, the Atlantic, Refinery29, W, Glamour, and, of course, Miami New Times. She was New Times Broward-Palm Beach's music editor for three years. Now she plays one mean monster with her 2-year-old son and obsessively watches British mysteries.
Contact: Liz Tracy