I had been looking forward to this conference for weeks now and was so happy the time had finally come!! I was afraid that I would have some problems getting off from working my real job, but luckily, at least the first few days I was able to finagle off!! The first day started off like a breeze. Easy to get downtown, easy to find parking, & easy to make my way over to my favorite SXSW stage, the Radio Day Stage in the Austin Convention Center. I had some music to see, PEOPLE!! And I had decided to spend my whole afternoon at this Day Stage because of the incredible line-up of artists. Since I had allowed myself so much time to get downtown, I actually arrived early, so I got to see a band I hadn’t even planned on seeing. They were called Cuarteto de Nos and were from Uruguay. Either they (or the band before them) started late because when I walked in after 1pm, they were still setting up and they should already have been playing. They started so late, in fact, that they were only able to play about 4 songs in their set. That was fine with me, since I was very anxious to hear Bajofondo (the next band). But I’m getting ahead of myself. This band, Cuarteto de Nos, was actually pretty good. They were a 4 piece rock band. But the thing that sort of gave them their edge was the way their lead singer sort of “rapped” out the lyrics. It was sort of weird and different, but cool at the same time. I enjoyed them.
But again, I was really looking forward to Bajofondo. I had recently replaced a CD I had by them that I had accidentally deleted out of my iTunes library, so they were pretty forefront in my mind. They’re from Rio de Plata in South America and their music can best be described as Electronic Tango, with some heavy hip-hop & rock influences. Since the first band started so late and the stage set-up for Bajofondo was so intense, it took about 40 minutes before they were set up to play. I overheard one of the stage guys say they would only have time for a couple of songs and I began to feel so disappointed. The band members didn’t seem phased, so I hoped that they would be able to play longer than that. When they finally hit the stage it was with a BANG!! Wow!! It was this in-your-face, incredible music. I immediately was enthralled and had to capture some video footage:
There were 8 performers on the stage and each one of them gave it their ALL!! They had great energy and a great connection with the audience. We were all caught up in their web of fun! It was FANTASTIC!!! They definitely did more than a couple of songs, which pushed the show back even more, but at this point with THIS band, nobody cared! This guy sitting in front of me who had chatted me up a bit, turned around after they were done and asked, “It was worth the wait, no?” Oh HELL YEAH it was. lol
They were so great, in fact, that I kind of felt sorry for the band that had to follow them. The band, Boy, were performing as a trio (for SXSW only) because they couldn’t get all of their band members over from Germany. They’re based out of Hamburg, but I believe one of the females that front the band is from Switzerland and the rest are of German descent. Their music was in stark contrast to the Electronic Tango of Bajofondo. They played a more mellow, pop-inspired rock. The young lady that sang the lead vocals had a very lovely voice and a very charming stage presence. She seemed to be very shy, but warm towards the audience. She definitely showed a sense of humor, especially when referring to their male bassist. I appreciated the simplicity and beauty of their music.
The next artist to perform at this stage was Jake Bugg from Nottingham, England. Oh, Jake Bugg, why won’t you smile? More to follow on that. I had started seeing this name getting tossed around a little before SXSW began. In fact, one of my friends had suggested that I check him out, so I did. I went on his website and listened to a couple of songs, but I wasn’t convinced. However, when I saw he would be playing at SXSW, I decided, well, maybe he puts on a great live show. Let’s check it out.
The two things I didn’t know, but found out this day were that #1) This KID is only 19 years old & #2) This sourpuss NEVER smiles. It was kind of annoying. I only caught him crack a quarter of a smile for half a second when he watched his drummer come onto the stage. Otherwise he was Mr. Serious. It was weird, because really, the only band member (there are three of ’em) that seemed to be having any kind of fun and DID smile on occasion was the drummer. Cheers to you, mate! As for Mr. Bugg’s music, well, to me he’s more a product of the hype machine, that is the music industry, than a true talent. Sure, he’s a decent guitarist. And sure his music is ok for a 19-year-old, but it didn’t WOW me. And I certainly didn’t care too much for his extremely nasally vocals. Maybe it’s that and his Justin Bieber haircut that have the girls wild for him, but neither quality really floated my boat. It wasn’t until close to the end of his set that I finally heard a song that stood out to me. It had some swing to it and made me tap my foot…always a good indicator of my interest. I’ll let you all be the judge:
Because the set times were still a little thrown off because of the late start on this stage, I wasn’t too sure I would get to see much of Devendra Banhart. I’m not really a fan of this hippy-dippy artist, but I thought he would at least be entertaining. And I was so right. What surprised me was when this hot guy walked out in a super fashionable outfit. I was like, who’s that?? The last time I had seen a picture of Devendra he looked like THIS:
But the guy that walked out on stage looked like THIS:
I was like, WOW, Mr. Banhart cleans up very nice, indeed! So I was excited to see what he had in store, although I couldn’t stay for long, as I had to start my volunteer shift. He was definitely very loose with his set. It felt like a coffee shop performance as opposed to an official SXSW stage show. It was actually really cool. It’s obvious he has a very communal relationship with his fans. He draws you right on in to his special world and makes you feel at home. He had a great sense of humor within his songs, always focused on the audience. At one point, he started to sing a song, forgot the lyrics, stopped and started a new song, then stopped and said ‘Oh, I remember the words now’ and went back to the original song. So quirky, so cute, I loved it! But I only was able to stay for three songs. I can’t say that I became a fan of his music as much as I became a fan of just HIM and his great personality. I would be very much interested in seeing him perform a full show just to get a larger peek into his world.
As I had last year, I planned to work my volunteer shifts at Stubb’s because I loved the line-up they had in store there and also because I loved the people who worked out there. It’s always a good time at Stubb’s and this year was no exception. It was great to see some familiar faces from years prior, which made it that much easier to work. I knew how to handle the crowds of people and it was fun at the same time. It was a night of celebrity sightings down at Stubb’s from Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers) to Jared Leto (30 Seconds To Mars) to Adrian Grenier (Entourage) to Britt Daniels (Spoon) to David Fricke (Rolling Stone writer). The only ones that I actually saw (Owen Wilson) and interacted with (David Fricke) either walked right past me or right up to me. Apparently Owen was a real douche and as he walked out of Stubb’s a guy asked him for a picture and Owen responded, “No, I’m good”. Nice. David Fricke, on the other hand, was very chill. I’m a long-time Rolling Stone subscriber and he has written for that magazine for longer than I’ve subscribed to it (over 20 years), so that tells you what kind of rock star I think he is. I knew who he was the minute he approached me to find out if there was any possibility of him getting in to see Cafe Tacuba. When I honestly told him, ‘probably not’, he simply said, ‘Oh, well’ and walked away with a smile. He was super cool! I saw Britt Daniels walk very quickly past the venue while carrying his guitar. I yelled out ‘Britt, Britt!’, but he either didn’t hear me or was in too much of a hurry to acknowledge me. Either way I was happy to spot him. The other two guys were spotted and photographed with some of the girls I worked with, but they were both missed opportunities for me. Not. Meant. To. Be. Although, I would have loved to have seen both of those guys!! One of the main reasons I wanted to work at Stubb’s on this particular night was because the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were performing. I wanted to be able to take my break (around 25 minutes) while they were on stage. And I got my wish. In fact, I got even better when I went in during the time they played both “Zero” AND my favorite song, “Maps”:
I was more than satisfied and extremely happy. I couldn’t believe that Karen O. had dyed her hair blonde. She is so crazy awesome! I love that band!! They sounded great and she was wild & fun, as she always is on stage. Even though I still had to work a couple more hours after they performed, I absolutely ended my night on a high note. The rest of the line-up that I got to hear, but not see included Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Cafe Tacuba, & Alt-J. This first day of SXSW was hands-down my favorite day of all! I got to hear a ton of music and just had a BLAST with everyone I encountered!! Good times!!