SXSW 2009 (Day 1, plus some)

While I got started early in my preparation for SXSW this year, I still ran out of time. I found in the preparation I did, was that nothing was really jumping out at me as a must see. Since 2008 saw my first SXSW in 13 years, and the whole event had changed so dramatically since then, I kept with the Zen approach to SXSW: If I’m meant to see a band, I will see them. With all the preparation, it’s really just a guide to help make game time decisions. Plus, it’s all subject to change at the last minute and if you arrive at one venue to see a certain band and they’re not there or another has taken that slot, you gotta learn to move on to another show, and let it go. For any given slot, I had about 10 bands, with some slots not really having anyone rise up and shout at me “See us!”

On my flight from DC, I had the 390 or so remaining mp3s to listen to one last time and narrow it down further. Between that and taking a realistic look at distance between venues and reasonably getting from one to the other, I started the balancing act of who might take the lead. I fell asleep in the “S” bands, about 20 minutes before prep for landing.

I arrived in Austin in the early afternoon. I was happy to leave the dreary weather of DC for the bright blue sunny skies of Austin. I have been going non-stop since the beginning of the year, so it was nice to get away. This time around, I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn, pretty much right at Red River and 6th St. I was so exhausted, I just relaxed in the hotel until it was time for the annual Postcard from Hell meetup at Serrano’s. Last year was my second SXSW, but the first meeting up with a bunch of Postcarders.

After dinner, drinks and the hellos, most of us were off to Beerland for 3 of the 4 bands from This is American Music: Glossary, Two Cow Garage and Grand Champeen. It’s always great to see these bands. We missed The Drams of course, but still a great night. Instead of the rotating of band members on stage, all three bands just played their own sets straight on, with a few guests here and there.

Two Cow Garage

Official Day 1:

Got up early for breakfast (free, thanks to roommate, Francesca)
I walked over to Fader Fort to get the wristband since I could see the location from our room on the 17th floor. While walking over there, I managed to meet two guys from DC, too funny. Even funnier is the fact that I would never use the Fader Fort wristband. To top it off, said wristband fell off my wrist not once but twice. The 2nd time, I couldn’t get it back on, so I ditched it.

I went back over toward the convention center on my way to Latitude 30 for the Belfast-Nashville party. It was early, but I wanted to make sure I was in and could see Bap Kennedy for the very very short set he was going to play. I didn’t know until I got there when he’d play. A slight detour to go inside the convention center to meet up with Francesca and get her sorted with my wristband option on my badge.

Stood outside the Belfast-Nashville party and chatted with a local, Tim, for a bit. A bunch of Postcarders started arriving and they let us in. The British Music Embassy parties were my favorites of last year. Free drink, free good food and great music. Oh and real toilets and great air conditioning help too! I saw Keegan Dewitt, The Lost Brothers, Ten from Tennessee, Bap Kennedy and Roman Candle.

Bap Kennedy

moved on from there to the IODA party at Emo’s Annex. This is where I saw Frightened Rabbit last year, on the first official afternoon and was taken away. This year, when a few of us got there, there was some horrific sound on stage that was supposed to be a band. definitely not my cuppa.

Soon, Blind Pilot took the stage and despite some sound issues, a bunch of us really were into it. I had them on my list a couple times, and made note to try and see them again. They seemed like a great bunch of people, with great songs, a great sound. I was loving the banjo. However, the thing about these day time parties outside is that it’s rushed and hot.

Next up on same stage was We Were Promised Jetpacks. I confess to being a Frightened Rabbit fangirl and these guys were on my radar because of numerous mentions from the FR boys in interviews, etc. I’ve just been on a huge Scottish music kick anyway, so why not another? I keep saying, the music coming out of Scotland right now, is like it’s 1992 all over again, except I’m not relying on the UK mags and 120 minutes and WLFR to keep me in the loop. Anyhow, I really liked We Were Promised Jetpacks, they have the bit of raw energy like FR, but don’t quite hit me in the gut like FR. I also made a note of trying to see them again.

We Were Promised Jetpacks

after that, I moved on to try and see the Pains of Being Pure at Heart. the outside stage where they played was packed and crowded with no way to get in to actually see them. I ditched the idea, thinking I’d catch them again. So I caught a song or two from Tallest Man on Earth who was playing inside. I like his stuff well enough on recordings, but I wasn’t feeling it this day in the live setting. I also caught the end of Megafaun’s set, which little did I know, I’d do this at least once more before the week was out.

I thought I RSVP’d for the British Music Embassy Launch party, but apparently, I hadn’t. for some reason, it was the only party of the BME I didn’t rsvp for. I took this as a cue to take advantage of the time to take a break. I headed back to the hotel to dump out my bag of things I’d collected, rest my feet and prepare for the night’s festivities.

I started the 8pm hour with a young band from Oklahoma City, OK called Crocodile. As I walked into the Wave (one of the worst venues of SXSW), Slobberbone was on the downstairs PA. nice! Crocodile was upstairs on the rooftop. I really liked the mp3 on the sxsw site. and read some reviews about them. A keyboard driven pop trio with boy-girl vocals. I thought they were adorable. Adorable would eventually be a much used adjective this trip.


next up was Capsula. they were on my list last year. I don’t think I saw them, will have to check my notes. a garagey rock trio from Spain. despite sound issues, they tore through their set and commanded the stage. I thought some of the Postcard boys might like the bass player, who was wearing basically a tee shirt as a dress. On my way out, I caught the end of Thee Headliners set.

from here, I kind of jumped around a bit. I went and caught Two Dollar Bash for a little while, and then split some time between The Ugly Beats and Trainwreck Riders, but ultimately headed over to the Central Presbyterian Church a bit early to make certain I’d catch Camera Obscura at 12 am. This was my first year with a badge and when I arrived at the church, the line was down the block and there was also some confusion. Two badge holders were in front of me were also confused about the line set up, there were two lines: one for non-wristband/badges and one for wristband/badges. I decided to walk up to the door and ask, and I became the first person in the badge line.

See? it never hurts to ask and you can be nice about it!

I got inside to catch the end of Department of Eagles, St. Vincent’s set and of course, Camera Obscura! It was a bit odd to be sitting in a church pew watching bands. I was on my own, but started seeing friends arrive, which prompting tons of text messages from me, indicating things like “I just saw you walk past. I’m up front to the left, 4 pews back!” never would I imagine I’d be sending texts like that!

I wasn’t supposed to take pictures in the church, since I didn’t have an official photo tag on my camera, but I snapped one or two anyway:

Camera Obscura

the timing of Camera Obscura’s set unfortunately ran a bit over, and resulted in people leaving a little early to go catch the 1am slot somewhere else. Traceyanne Campbell watched people leave regularly and kept lamenting about it. I felt as if we should’ve let her know not to take it personal! I stayed ’til the end of their set. Afterward, I met up with Tom, Mike, and Bill inside the church, and we walked back to 6th St. together. None of us bothered to try and catch that last time slot somewhere else, so I walked down 6th toward the hotel, got some snacks for the room, while Mike & Bill grabbed a slice of pizza.

bands seen so far:
Grand Champeen
Two Cow Garage

Keegan DeWitt
The Lost Brothers
Ten from Tennessee
Bap Kennedy
Roman Candle
Blind Pilot
We Were Promised Jetpacks
Tallest Man on Earth (2 songs)
Megafaun (3 songs)
Thee Headliners (2 songs)
Two Dollar Bash (half a set)
The Ugly Beats (half a set)
Train Wreck Riders (3 songs)
Department of Eagles (2 songs)
St. Vincent
Camera Obscura

tally for Tuesday: 3
tally for Wednesday: 18 (11 full sets)

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