SXSW 2010 (Music) Report: Day 2

SXSWBanner.jpgYou might be wondering... uh, what happened to my Day 1 report of SXSW 2010 Music? The answer is that the conference started Wednesday and I didn't get into town 'til Thursday. Hence, Day 2.

Anyway, I thought I'd give you a day-by-day report of my SXSW experiences. Not because it's relevant to kids' music (it's not, for the most part), but because I figure a lot of you readers (fans and musicians alike) are big music geeks and would find impressions of a weekend entirely focused on music of no small interest. But I'll give you some kids music equivalents for a few of the folks. Oh, and there are details on a contest giving away a kids' music CD. So here we go...

Our flight arrived in Austin about 1 or so, and after getting the rental car, we (that is, myself and Miss Mary Mack and Little Boy Blue, both on spring break) drove up to my mom's house. Because we were having dinner with friends and family, I decided to go pick up my badge and headed downtown in the meantime.

Badge pickup was easy (far easier than parking at 4 pm on a SXSW Thursday -- I found the last $10 spot at a surface lot about 8 blocks away from the Convention Center), so having already spent the $10 on parking, I decided to explore a bit. After visiting the trade show (which was kinda small, actually), I got my first taste of SXSW music at the Day Stage/"Blogger's Lounge," which despite being dimly lit and furnished with large beanbags, was still in a cavernous convention center. It was like being in your friend's basement, if your friend lived in an airplane hangar.
Anyway, the band playing on the stage was Dr. Dog, a band whose few songs I'd heard on disk never moved me. But live, they were pretty good. As Jeff commented to me during the show, "hometown heroes... never sounded as good on disk as they do live" (or words to that effect). Anyway, download their new single from their upcoming album Shame here.

After heading home (rush hour traffic on Mopac and 183 - woo!) and having dinner, I plunged back into downtown and wandered the streets of downtown Austin, which during SXSW are significantly blocked off. Thousands of people milled the streets, with lines snaking out some of the doors. I'd spent a lot of time planning out potential acts far in advance, and it didn't take me long to figure out that proximity of venues was a strong (and in many cases, deciding) point in favor of certain shows.

The first show I saw was the last part of the Besnard Lakes gig at Stubb's (site of a Ralph's World gig, incidentally, later this spring), which has a big outdoor stage and a sloping plain in front of it. I'd heard lots of good things about them and their latest album, but for whatever reason, the song or two I caught left me bored. Maybe if I'd caught them from the beginning...

I wandered down then to Club Deville, where I heard the last 3 or 4 songs of a band I couldn't identify. The five guys on stage had a bit of a Pavement vibe to them, but rocked much harder (and tighter). They also had one of the lyrics of the festival for me -- "We were workin' part time / All of the time." Turns out they were the Henry Clay People out of LA, who I enjoyed and who made me ask myself, "Why did I forget my earplugs?" (Don't worry, I found a couple pairs in my registration bag of schwag.) Anyway, this is a clip of them doing one of their songs at Club Deville...

After that was the real reason I was hanging out at Club Deville, The Lonely Forest, a quartet out of the Seattle area whose song "We Sing in Time" is the sole reason I attended and which you should immediately download. I guess I expected something a little, well, wimpier, but the band, still early in the week, thrashed furiously. (I love watching drummers play drums just this side of "Animal.") They've signed to the new major-label-affiliated boutique label of Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla, so I'm thinking their next album could be big. Think of them as the non-kids-music equivalent of The Hipwaders. (But a lot less sunny.)

Listen to their 2009 album We Sing the Body Electric! here. Here's them doing a song from another gig earlier that day.

Following the Lonely Forest's set, I dashed over to the Beauty Bar/Palm Door to see the Low Anthem, who had a very Tom Waits-like thing going on. The music was a little odd and hushed and while I think I probably would've enjoyed the set if I'd seen it from the beginning, coming over after the rush of the Lonely Forest set, it felt jarring to me.

I then walked a fair bit to Copa on Congress just north of Town Lake to see Atash, a global music ensemble based in Austin. I knew the violinist Roberto Riggio from a Longhorn Music Camp dating back to the Reagan presidency, so this was my one chance to see someone I actually knew play a SXSW gig. My chief recollection of the evening, besides that I liked the music (even though I don't necessarily listen to a lot of "world music") was that when I walked in as the band had just started playing, much of the audience was sitting down cross-legged on the floor. And by the time the set was over, lots of folks were actually dancing -- meaning, honest-to-goodness dancing rather than the shifting of weight from one foot to another and heads bouncing up and down that passed for dancing most of the weekend (myself included).

By then it was after midnight, but I pressed onward to the Bungalow to check out Man Man, whose live show Bill had described as "INSANE. But in a good way." I could go on and attempt to describe them, but, yeah:

There is absolutely no kids' music equivalent, but I tweeted at the time: "I think Man Man have the world's best (or worst) kids album in them." I stand by that...

Well, it was nearly 1 AM, but I wanted to see Tom Freund at St. David's Episcopal Church and its very nicely ordered set of chairs and wi-fi access in Bethel Hall. There was a delay getting started, which is a bad thing to have happen for a 1 AM set time, but Freund did cover for part of that time by plunking out a sweet little tune solo on ukulele. And then he brought in a full band, including a couple backup singers. If it hadn't been 1:30 AM, I'd've stayed longer, because the band really grooved. But that's a SXSW lesson, of course -- you can't see everything you want to, because eventually, everyone needs to sleep.

The kids' music artist most closely resembling Freund is, well, Tom Freund, of course. He put out a sweet little kids' disk, Hug Trees way back in 2007 (review), a relaxed shuffle through kids tunes new and original. And I happen to have a brand new copy for one lucky reader, courtesy of Tom himself. Just put your name and your e-mail address (it's visible only to me and won't be used for any other purpose than to notify the winner) in the comments below, and I'll pick a winner randomly by midnight east coast time Sunday night.

More stuff from the rest of the weekend to come...