SXSW Music: The Line From Hell at The Belmont

Thursday slowed down a bit compared to Wednesday, as I only caught four bands during the evening — a couple of which I didn’t really see as I endured a ‘line from hell’ that never seemed to want to move. I started my evening out at the turntable.fm party waiting to catch Araabmuzik publicly assault an MPC drum machine. I’ve seen YouTube videos of Araabmuzik and still can’t stop listening to his 2011 release Electronic Dream. This is one of those shows where you can tell he’s actually doing something on stage as his hands move like lightning, striking one pad and then another on the MPC to recreate the tracks right there in the room. Compared to others that just drop beats from their Mac Books, it’s a more visually interesting show for a guy like me who goes to EDM shows and does some people-watching while enjoying the tunes.

The ‘line from hell’ I mentioned was at The Belmont. The venue was already at capacity when I arrived in an attempt to catch Titus Andronicus. It seemed that their fans had already packed in, and those lining up behind me were there for the iconic pioneers from Jesus and Mary Chain and a possible surprise act after their set. I heard Titus Andronicus take the stage, play their set, and then realized that not a soul was leaving the venue. This made all lines into the venue snarl up like some kind of hellish traffic jam. I saw fans reduced to tears as I heard the Scottish alternative legends begin their set. These were the kind of fans who would scale walls, trees, building roof tops, and find their way into secured parking garages for just a peek at the act. As a fellow line member commented, it was amazing that there was such a crowd for what all intents and purposes was a nostalgia show.

This was true, but it’s hard to deign the groups pull. I saw all manner of artist and industry types get a look of panic, relief, and disgust as the line continued with no end in sight. As most began to give up hope of catching a glimpse of the group, suddenly I found myself being allowed beyond the stern door man and making my way into the packed venue to catch their final two songs. Even with The Belmont offering a roof top view of their small stage, it wasn’t enough for me to ever find a vantage point to see much of the performance. The closest I came was a camera view-finder for the production company that was covering the show.

By the time their set ended there was a mass exodus from the venue. It nearly “last call” time for Austin at about 2AM. I wasn’t even sure if Austin natives, The Octopus Project, would get a chance to play in their “Secret Guest” slot on the bill. Thankfully the quirky group did, and I was pleasantly surprised. The group’s tunes are composed of instrumental tracks that include all manner of effects pedals and the thing that hooked me from the start: a Theremin. Mixing bits of spaz-rock, punk, and all manner of things in between, the group splits instrumental duties often when shuffling between songs.

Hats off to all the house folks at work for this show. Having witnessed a group being cut off mid-set once the 2AM “last call” time one year ago, was met the Belmont collected all the drinks from the small group that remained for Te Octopus Project and even let the band, seemingly to their own surprise play what I guess constituted as an encore after the small but dedicated group that was their audience demanded it after the group blazed through what felt to be about a quick 45 min set. The group was the perfect ending to an evening that was equal parts relaxing after the day one sprint the day before, and the frustrations that day two brought.

By John Coovert

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