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SXSW 2008 – Day Two Recap

March 13th, 2008 Posted in Music, sxsw 2008

Today was the day for the much anticipated NPR day show lineup: The Shout Out Louds, Jens Lekman, AA Bondy, Yeasayer, Bon Iver and Vampire Weekend.  The show was at the Parish located in the heart of 6th Street in downtown Austin.  The Parish is an upstairs venue with the stage in the back of the building.  I saw Sia there for the first time back in 2006, great venue with a great sound system.

We were up and ready to go in a record time this morning at 11:20am.  This is the first time I think we have gotten out of the hotel before 1pm in the last 2 years.  The fact that we all were excited to see the show we wanted to make sure we got there at a decent time.  Knowing the lineup, this was going to be a popular event.  After grabbing a quick bite for breakfast/lunch we headed over to the Parish were we were greeted by a 200+ person line waiting to get in.  At first we thought they had not opened the doors yet, but we were wrong. Over the next hour the line slowly crawled forward as they let 5 here, 10 there into the venue.

We got in just as Jens Lekman was starting his set and missed out on The Shout Out Louds.  Jens was a beautiful set that had a narrative story provided by Jens between songs.  He talked about leaving his hometown and how exiting and new it was to finally explore the world.  He had a backing violinist and cellist as well as a percussionist playing hand drums.  It was a short set (as all were) but what we did get was amazing and I wanted to see more.

After Jens left the stage AA Bondy began to set up.  The NPR hosts never mentioned the act order which was a little frustrating. There were postings online but they were different from the printed version (which did not have AA Bondy) so there was a lot of discussion between sets on who was up next.  AA brought a classic blues/folk sound with harmonic and acoustic guitar.  His lyrics were tight, rich and told a story that was interesting to follow.  My favorite was his tale of a vampire, which was fitting with Vampire Weekend wrapping up the show. I also really liked “Vice Rag” which you can hear on his MySpace page I linked above.

Next up was Yeasayer from Brooklyn.  They had an elaborate rig with synths, samplers, guitars, bass and drums.  Its hard to describe their sound but they had complex harmonies and an almost dance oriented rhythm that kept you moving the whole time.  This is the kind of band that you want to see and experience.  By the time their set ended they were just starting to really dig into the crowd and its a shame that the set length was so short.  I would gladly catch them again this round at SXSW (which may or may not happen).

Once Yeasayer broke down their complex rig, Bon Iver set up and kicked off a fantastic set.  At first the sound was mellow and beautiful with complex three part harmonies.  The set built up the energy and ended with a finale that just left you begging for more.  I very very happy to catch them and you should take a listen to their music online.

The last act of the NPR day show was the buzzed about Vampire Weekend.  As I mentioned in my earlier post I was disappointed with their SNL appearance.  After watching them live I am a little more impressed but I have to admit I am no longer swept up in the buzz.  They are very musically skilled and the execute their style to a T.  The issue for me is that their style is a very distilled bubble gum pop but not done in a tongue and cheek way or a overly (yet yummy) sweet twee way, ala the Cardigans.  If you are into their sound, then you should see them because they are a solid stage show, it just didn’t float my boat.

After a bite to eat at the legendary Hut’s Burgers and a quick nap we trekked over to Austin Music Hall to catch the NPR showcase.  One of the cooler things about coming back to Austin every year is seeing the changes that happen to any major metropolitan area. In this case the massive amount of construction and additions going on around the music hall.  In fact, the music hall itself was completely overhauled and this rebuilding explains why it was not a venue last year.

The NPR showcase featured The Whigs, Yo La Tengo and My Morning Jacket.  I was looking forward to Yo La since my ex-coworker introduced me to them two years ago. We rolled into the venue about 15 minutes after the Whigs set kicked off.  Niki and I were both impressed by their sound and their energy.  The topic of energy probably appears to be a theme in this and the last post, but for live shows how they present themselves can drastically change a viewers opinion.

Once the Whigs whipped the audience up, a 20 minute changeover occurred and then Yo La Tengo took the stage. For the first few minutes you could have replaced Yo La with Sonic Youth due to their frenetic and noise ridden intro.  It was not what I was expecting, in a good way.  From their they switched sonic styles for what seemed to be each song.  The finale started quiet and was masterfully built upon until a sonic wall was ripping through the sound system.  With gear feedbacking they wished us well and left the stage. At that point the energy level was so high it was going to be interesting to see what My Morning Jacket would bring.

Niki had heard for years that My Morning Jacket put on an amazing show and they did not disappoint.  They have obviously been playing the festival circuit because not only was the band note for note in perfect sync, but the light show was dead on too.  It was a full blown two hour (yes 2 hours) rock show extravaganza.  They weaved through stadium rock songs, to souther country, to psychedelic, to rock ballads. This band was meant to be seen on a large stage.

On the way home Niki and I talked about what it must have been like to see My Morning Jacket coming up the ranks.  In fact, any large stadium band that puts on such a tight show would be fascinating to see where they came from to get to there.

Well, we are beat, sore to the bone and therefore it is time to call it a night.  Nothing like standing on concrete for 14 hours. woot!

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