If the big takeaway from Tuesday at SXSW was pacing (Read my Tuesday recap here), then the takeaway for Wednesday was caffeine and water (though not necessarily together) are a necessity. Though new sound laws in Austin meant the festival was wrapping earlier than past years, the combination of heat, lots of walking and long days in the sun meant that the free beer wasn’t enough to get through the day–let alone the week–without getting groggy. I had a big Wednesday planned featuring Tegan and Sara with Paramore at the Warner Sound Showcase, Lord Huron and Family of the Year at ACL Live’s Moody Theater and then a whole slew of artists at Cheer Up Charlies, so coffee and frequent water breaks were a must.
Cheer Up Charlies is one of the eastern venues that have become a newer SXSW hotspot in the last couple of years. It used to be that everything was centered on 6th Street and Red River, but now it is starting to get just as busy across the interstate — though you had to brave traffic, which could prove quite hazardous. I saw far more pedestrian/car accidents than I cared to admint. But enough about traffic — on to the music! Cheer Up Charlies was the place to be – the tiny bar looked like it could barely hold a band inside, so they worked around their small venue size and added two backyard stages in addition to their tiny indoor space. This made for some fun hopping around all in one place. Inside, I found smaller indie rock acts such as the Lonely Wild that tended to rely on lush harmonies. Outside, I found some more alternative rock from Dan Croll and also the very young Kitten. Kitten was fun to watch as their frontwoman had a bit of throwback look to her. She stood barefoot on stage in a bodysuit, held the microphone close as she leaned over and swayed and sang like she had been doing this for years rather than a few months. Hopefully these guys don’t fall prey to some of the troubles that often break up such young groups because they have a lot of potential. I also enjoyed the ensemble R&B/rock mix of Zak Waters, which got quite a few people dancing despite the heat.
Next up was an adventure to some other bars slightly off the beaten trail. I wound up at the tiny Clive Bar for The Neighbourhood. The Neighbourhood’s “Sweater Weather” had been getting quite a lot of radio play back home, so I was excited to see how their live sound matched up. They were pretty traditional alternative rockers — all decked out in leather jackets and tattoos, but their sound has a softer touch than what their hardened image might exude.
I made my way back to the busy Red River Street to catch Snowmine and Papa next. Fun note about Papa — there were scary skeleton Pope/Papa posters plastered all over Austin that I couldn’t quite figure out how those images matched up with these alternative rockers. Turns out they were not connected and their is some hard metal European act called Papa that wasn’t even playing the festival that had put up those posters. That Papa is not my cup of tea, so be cautious when Googling for Papa that you find the right one. These guys were very laid back and provided a nice afternoon reprieve.
Speaking of European acts, there was one Swedish/German duo that I was quite excited to see: Boy. Don’t let the band name fool you: Boy is actually made up of two very talented ladies singing lovely acoustic songs that are bright and sunny and quite possibly this Summer’s required soundtrack. SXSW was some of their first US performances, but I look forward to them visiting the States many more times in the future.
Across town, The Wild Seeds were leading a troop of Austin musicians in a Brent Gulke Tribute. I admit, I mostly went to see Britt Daniel from Spoon, but the performance was a truly unique experience. In between songs, the performers shared what Gulke meant to the them and it was a really emotional and moving experience. The man was not only an integral part in making SXSW happen year after year, but he was also a major player in the Austin music scene, which is a pretty big deal when you realize that means this guy helped maintain Austin’s title as the live music capital of the world.
In search of a good place to enjoy music and charge my phone, I find myself at the Moody Theater where Family of the Year and Lord Huron were getting ready to perform. Both bands had folksy indie rock sounds going on and relied heavily on acoustic guitars. It was a perfectly low key and enjoyable break before some of my later acts. I especially loved Family of the Year’s harmonies and piano melodies.
I ended my night at the very packed Warner Sound Showcase by Nikon over at the Belmont. I barely had room to breathe in this over capacity venue and thought about bailing almost minutes after arriving, but then Twenty One Pilots came out to perform. OMG. I had never heard of these guys before, but what a live show! SXSW is filled with thousands of good acts, but with so much good, everything blends after awhile. Not Twenty One Pilots…They stood out and were one of the most memorable performers I saw during my week in Austin. It’s just two guys with a piano and a drum set, but they’re doing flips, climbing rafters, jumping into the crowd, getting people to rap and so much more. For a group that was only opening, it felt like they were headlining so as much as I love Tegan and Sara and Paramore, , they almost seemed a little dull after Twenty One Pilots. Though it was really nice to see Paramore again after their very long break and their new songs sounded flawless live. All in all, Wednesday was a major success not just because I caught some of my must-see acts, but because I discovered a new act that was truly phenomenal…and that’s a big part of what SXSW is all about.