SXSW Music: Spin Live at Stubb’s

The Spin Day party, which this year seemed to be branded Spin Live, is always one of the stand out showcases of SXSW. It seems to get most of the most talked about buzz acts of the fest as well as some established acts for its day long lineup at Stubb’s. Thing is, its exclusive, and I’m not talking exclusive in the sense that you can RSVP on a web site to get in or gain access via a SXSW credential. One usually has to jump through some social media contest hoops to get in or have some other kind of “in”. Spin Live 2012 was one of the few stand outs in the year that many formerly unofficial parties and venues went officially SXSW that kept itself private/invite only.

The party gets underway early with free Stubb’s BBQ and in this years case free beer from Miller and some kind of water, Neuro water, that depending on which one you pick is supposed to help you have mental clarity, or run faster, or just be sexier for drinking the shampoo bottle shaped stuff. Being that I got a late start after a late night/early morning I caught only the trail end of Spoek Mathambo’s opening set on the main stage as I was still waking up to the day. The first act I really caught was DIONVOX on the inside stage. I would have totally overlooked the act had it not been for the main stage host indicating that the group looked like something directly off the set of Blade Runner. He wasn’t wrong…DIONVOX looks like a group you’d expect to see as background players in a sexy futuristic Sci-Fi film hitting theaters this summer. Their show is equal bits performance art as it is regular show. The group seemed to be suffering form some technical difficulties but making the best of it. The show is equal parts burlesque mixed with an electro style setup featuring a laptop with a dancer in addition to Dionvox who provides all the lyrics and serves as a bit of MC. There was also a really sexier dancer as I played eye hockey going from side of the stage to the other as both the dancer and Dionvox seemed to shed layers after each song.

To be sure no nudity was involved and the songs which matched the appearance drew me in and was quickly winning me over. I’d find out toward the end of the set that Dionvox won their spot via Pop Chips and given that they seemed to suffer, admirably through some seemingly heavy technical difficulties they won me over.

I had planed to stick around inside for Mr. MuthaFuckin eXquire after Dionvox but got tired of waiting after the set was running about 20 minutes late. It’d prove to be a miscalculation as I’d not make it back inside for the rest of the day due to the small space being seemingly filed to capacity perpetually as the afternoon carried on.

Chairlift was the next group I’d catch on the main stage after missing most of Escorts set. Chairlift was a group I had pretty much written off after I had a hard time getting into the video for their track Amanaemonesia. They live incarnation of the group would quickly change my mind and convert me to a fan. The groups set consisted most of material off of their January release Something and include tracks “Sidewalk Safari” and “Wrong Opinion”. Both tracks have an 80’s synth pop sensibility that is so catchy one you hear them its hard to not want to listen to them on non stop repeat. The same could be said for all of Something as I’d find out the days after SXSW wound down.

The Big Pink was up next. I had the opportunity to catch the group in support of their debut A Brief History of Love a few years back in Lawrence at the Bottleneck. I was pleasantly surprised by the group then and quickly counted myself as a fan. Their latest however had turned me off as the group had really seemed to go for a heavier dose of pop on their latest Future This which everything I had heard thus far left me wondering if they had left some of the darker edge of History behind for radio friendly fare. I was still willing to give the new material a live turn in order to truly judge.

I’m happy that I did, while the band certainly seems to be in higher spirits than the first time I caught them live the new material takes on a less polished edge than it seems to have recorded. I’ll have to give the January release to really get a full opinion on it but the live show worked wonders on changing my edging on sour taste for the band around.

Best Coast was next up on what I felt was an odd place on the bill. I don’t really count myself as a fan of Best Coast. While I gave 2010’s Crazy for You several listens as a guy I never totally came around on the album. That isn’t a slam on it, its good stuff it’s just not my flavor of soda. The ever-growing audience also seemed unprepared for Best Coast lo fi surf pop rock tunes after an afternoon of drinking. The now near capacity crowd seemed rather sedated throughout most of Best Coast set which included several new songs in the mix with several off of Crazy. Bethany Cosentino who I give marks to for donning a different look every time I’ve managed to catch her live voiced her frustration with the audiences timid response to Best Coast set asking everyone to suck her dick at one point after her and the only other permanent member of the band Bob Bruno passed around a bottle of Jim Daniels on stage and exchanged chugs.

Cosentino would redeem herself a night later at the Hype Hotel where she reveled on stage that her SX 2012 experience had been less than a pleasant one and thanked the crowd for giving her and the band a much warmer response than they received on this day at Stubb’s.

The headliner for Spin Live 2012 was Santigold. I was a fan of Santigold’s self titled 2008 debut, Santigold was also one of those SXSW 2012 acts that you seemingly couldn’t show up at a venue/showcase and not find her performing. Appearing in support of the anticipated May bow of Master of My Make-Believe I was happy to see a backing band and two dancers. The show was pretty elaborate by SXSW standards featuring costume changes in addition to furry like costumes by way of furry like costumes on stage.

The set music wise was tight and featured a good mix of familiar tracks that got the now capacity crowd moving and new material that was taken very kindly to. It’s hard to judge until the album hits but it seems that the new material will have more of a live feel with a band passed on the live presentation but that remains to be seen. Santigold put on a fun show at one point bringing about a dozen or show enthusiastic fans on stage to dance along with her and her dancers. Those types of things can easily turn into show ending cluster fucks so I was happy to see those chosen quickly leave stage at the end of the song and rejoin the crowd.

by John Coovert

Santigold photo by Scott Dudelson

The Big Pink photo and Best Coast photo by Erik Voake

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