SXSW 2005 Recap and Review

Submitted by TheBaba on March 14, 2006 - 12:02am.

39 bands in 4 days from 7 countries at 21 venues with 3 Canadians and one ATL refugee, leading to a hangover that'll last until ACLfest

Greetings and salutations from the live music capital of the world . . . 2005's SXSW was one of the busiest ever. International music continues to be increasingly present at SXSW and this year also featured more official venues than ever before. This is a chronicle of the shows I saw, and my impressions of them (when I wasn't too blasted to remember). Enjoy!

[ Wednesday, March 16th ]

the saga begins . . .

SuperHeavyGoatAss (Metal - Austin Texas) @ Room 710
Good rockin' Texas metal on Arclight Records. Check out their new album 60,000 Years
Hognose (Metal - Austin Texas) @ Room 710
Another blues-y metal act on Arclight. More hair than SuperHeavyGoatAss. Worth checking out if you're into emerging metal in Austin.
BloodThirsty Lovers (Angst-y Rock - Memphis TN) @ Emo's Outside
Entertaining stage show from this Memphis duo. Good to help get a few beers down before the night shows started.
Whitey Houston (Hard Rock - Edmonton Alberta) @ whiskey bar
Hard rockin' bass/drum combo. The dancing girl with the maracas will draw you in and the distortion-infused sound will keep you there.
Chris Garneau (Rock Singer-Songwriter - New York NY) @ The Drink
In my not-so-humble opinion, being a singer-songwriter at SXSW is a tough gig. People are coming in and out of the venues, running around, grabbing drinks, telling their friends what act they're seeing next, etc. This kind of activity doesn't lend itself well to listening to the deeply emotional musings of an artist unless they're exceptionally good or someone you know. Chris Garneau was good, but not exceptionally so. Maybe if I saw him in a coffee shop as I was recovering from a breakup I would appreciate it more.
The Nice Ones (Rock - Montreal Quebec) @ Exodus
Slower rock, verging on the edge of pop at times. A bit of an abortive show, as they seemed to have some problems with their equipment. Lead singer Geneviève Blouin was a sexy dish (which never hurts in a band) but the Canadians with me found her vocal talent lacking.
The Glitterati (Rock - Leeds UK) @ Hard Rock Cafe
As much as I'd love to hate it, the Hard Rock Cafe on 6th Street in Austin is a really nice place to hear music. They clearly made an effort to make it a quality music venue. And the Hard Rock is an excellent medium-sized venue for a hard rockin' british band with a lot of spikey hair. Oh, and we picked up a Happy St. Patrick's Che flyer here, and its just too damn funny not to link.
Mody Lemon (Punk-ish Rock - Pittsburgh PA) @ Club DeVille
Only caught a couple of songs, but this blues-punk-rock act deserves more investigation.
The Apes (Indie Rock - Washington DC) @ Club DeVille
Young punksters with a deep sound and a captivating stage act. Definitely worth a closer look . . and, hey, their upcoming album is called Baba's Mountain. All hail the Babaverse!
The Wrens (Pop-ish Rock - Hoboken NJ) @ The Parish
We saw the Wrens at the Parish (or the Mercury for those of you that old and crusty), which is on my top-5 list of the best venues in Austin to hear live music. They put on a fascinating show that kept the capacity crowd rockin' until the end of the night. It was also reported to me that all, or at least many, of the women in the restroom at the Parish were somewhat intoxicated.

[ Thursday, March 17th ]

whomever decided that saint patrick's day should fall during sxsw is testing the limits of my liver . . .

Karen Abrams (Singer-Songwriter - Austin Texas) @ Artz Rib House
Playing some of her own music and some traditional numbers, the singer-songwriter thing does play better in a restaurant.
Ske (Alternative Pop - Reykjavik Iceland) @ The Drink
Entertaining and engaging, the experimental pop act Ske kept us fascinated through their whole show, which was lucky because we got to hear their most excellent song T-Rex at the end. All I can say is, "T-Rex is gonna tear this place down." Plus, you gotta love a pop band that releases an album called Life, Death, Happiness & Stuff.
Ulrich Schnauss (Electronica - Berlin Germany) @ Blender Bar at the Ritz
Ulrich Schnauss is a name that just screams "I am German and I make music on my computer," and Schnauss certainly delivers on that promise. Deeply layered and think electronica, Schnauss takes a bit of time to develop his beat. It was good to see Electronica appearing at more of the mainstream venues this year.
ST 37 (Spacerock/Psychedelic - Austin Texas) @ Blender Balcony at the Ritz
Billed as "Texas Space Rock Legends ST 37," these local boys put on a hard rock show that kept your head thrashing around. The black-box-ish-ness of the Blender Balcony added a level of off-the-beaten-path that definitely enhanced ST 37's "out there" feel.
Robyn Hitchcock (Alternative Rock - London UK) @ Blender Balcony at the Ritz
I was always more of a Nick Cave freak in my troubled youth, but Robyn Hitchcock rated up there too. This was just Robyn Hitchcock, no Egyptians. An excellent acoustic set, but he did not play My Favourite Buildings.
Grand Champeen (Alternative Hard Rock - Austin Texas) @ Room 710
More local boys making appearances at SXSW. In all, over 200 Austin-area acts were showcased at this year's SXSW and many more played at day shows and "unofficial" venues. While I tend to shy away from local acts during SXSW - in order to hear more of the unique international acts - this year I included more local artists than usual for the benefits of my out-of-town guests. Grand Champeen continues to delight with their unique high-energy version of alternative rock.

[ Friday, March 18th ]

and yet we are still surviving . . .

Radio Four (Pop-ish Punk - Brooklyn NY) @ Emo's Outside
A good afternoon show where these Brooklyn boys were clearly sweating out last night's parties.
Spottiswoode and his Enemies (Folkish Rock - New York NY) @ Habana Calle 6
Dipping into rock, jazz, gospel and folk roots, this eclectic ensemble begged to be interesting but did not captivate us for long. They could be worth further investigation.
Titan Go King's (Punk - Tokyo Japan) @ Caribbean Lights
Self-described "3-girl P-punk pop band" Titan Go King's represents one of the best things about SXSW for me: I almost never have a good opportunity to see all-girl punk acts from Japan during the rest of the year. Everything you could ever want from tiny hyper-energetic japanese girls with big guitars, the Titan Go King's put on an excellent show.
The Mint Chicks (Pretentious Classic Punk - Auckland New Zealand) @ Blender Balcony at the Ritz
Angry, rowdy punk with a good sound from these requisitely self-important kiwis. A good show that was cut short due to a mild brawl that broke out after the owner of the Chick's loaned drum kit became dissatisfied with the treatment his equipment was receiving.
Non Phixion (Hip Hop - New York NY) @ Flamingo Cantina
Up-and-coming rappers from the east coast. With increasing diversity at the conference, hip hop is starting to get more of its well-deserved recognition at SXSW.
The Shapeshifters (Hip Hop - Los Angeles CA) @ Flamingo Cantina
"The underground hip hop show to see this year," at least according to the guy in line behind me outside the Flamingo Cantina. Let me make something very clear at the outset here: Shapeshifters have presence on the microphone. A wide-ranging ensemble act that runs the gamut from latino to honky, the Shapeshifters provide a dynamic and engaging show that aptly demonstrates how much better hip hop can be than the recycled shit you hear on the radio. Support quality music whenever you find it.
Kasabian (Brit Rock - London UK) @ Stubb's
Politically charged rock that faded a bit in the large size of the outdoor venue at Stubb's. Kasabian might have played a lot better at the Hard Rock, the Parish or Antone's.
Rezillos (Punk - Edinburgh UK) @ Elysium
Old-school British punk. Their true brilliance was no doubt lost in my profound level of intoxication.
Shonen Knife (Pop - Osaka Japan) @ Elysium
That's right, Shonen fucking Knife . . . damn I love this town. All-girl j-pop from before it was cool, man.

[ Saturday, March 19th ]

things are starting to get a little weird . . .

Amplified Heat (Hard Blues Rock - Houston/Austin Texas) @ whiskey bar
Kickin' Texas blues-rock up a notch or two, Amplified Heat is a loud and present sound and like a siren's call they drew us out of Saturday's rainstorm to the whiskey bar. You've gotta give time to someone who claims Lightnin’ Hopkins as a influence.
Del Castillo (Latin Rock - Austin Texas) @ Town Lake Auditorium Shores
Delayed for the rain, this show was well worth waiting for. Headlining local venues for almost five years now, del Castillo is one of those perfect examples of the amazing fusion of cultures and musical styles that develop in Austin. With an energetic and exciting stage show, they are an act you want to catch live whenever possible.
John Butler Trio (Blues Rock - Freemantle Australia) @ Stubb's
We caught the John Butler Trio at the Drink last year, and again in the blues tent at ACLfest '04 and absolutely can't get enough of them. A brilliant blues act with astounding guitar performance by John Butler himself, the Trio was finally able to play to a venue in Austin that rates up with their talent. A capacity crowd at Stubb's was transfixed by their deep, rich sound. Buy their albums.
Man Man (Punk - Philidelphia PA) @ Club DeVille
Screaming, wailing, climbing punk. Unrefined and interesting, even a bit off-putting at first, Man Man probably merits further investigation.
Suns Owl (Metal - Tokyo Japan) @ Elysium
And so the madness of the Saturday whirlwind moves into full force . . . these hard metal japanese rockers were decent, but only held our attention for a couple of songs.
Eternia (Hip Hop - Toronto Ontario) @ Caribbean Lights
Ok, I think we definitely can say we're increasing musical diversity at SXSW when we've got a "one woman Hip Hop powerhouse" from Toronto on the bill.
Cartel de Santa (Hip Hop - Monterrey Mexico) @ Caribbean Lights
Representing for Mexico, Cartel de Santa was an excellent spanish hip hop show that kept an admirable sized crowd happy at the far end of 6th street.
Skeletons (Pop-y Rock - Oberlin OH) @ Copa
A standard-issue midwest pop act that wants to be more fascinating than they really are. Uninteresting and unengaging, I would have thought to expect more from Ghostly International.
Nine Black Alps (Brit Rock - Manchester UK) @ La Zona Rosa
Pretty much standard-issue brit rockers. This English rock night at La Zona Rosa was brought to us by MTV|2 (would you admit to that?), and their propaganda was everywhere.
Idlewild (Brit Rock - Edinburgh UK) @ La Zona Rosa
A bit more brit-rock-y than the Nine Black Alps, Idlewild gives you the absolute exact show you'd expect to see if your mate said to you, "Hey, lets go hear some angst-ridden British rock tonight."
Kinnie Starr (Pop-ish Folk-sy Hip Hop - Vancouver British Columbia) @ Fox and Hound
Yeah, that's right, by the time this point in the evening rolled around my normally hyper-efficient genre labeling engine had gotten completely drowned in Crown Royal. Another female Canadian MC that made a good impression this year, Starr drifted effortlessly from pop-folk to hip hop to trip hop and back again.
Adam Richman (Pop - New York NY) @ Buffalo Billiards
Mildly angst-ish indie pop artist Adam Richman provided a good show upstairs at Buffalo Billiards and proves that there are slightly less whine-infused things than Woody Allen that have come out of New York.
Brader's KLay (Progressive - Washington DC) @ Buffalo Billiards
Playing the in-between set at Buffalo Billiards, the vocal talents of Kristen Layton were captivatingly backed by the talent of the two Braders. Luckily I found their sampler on the bar when I went for my umpteenth Crown on the rocks for the night. Hope to see more of them here in Austin.
Matisyahu (Hasidic Reggae - Brooklyn NY) @ Buffalo Billiards
Yeah, that's right, I said Hasidic Reggae. And I'll go you one better and throw hip hop and beatbox into the mix. Matisyahu recorded a live album at Stubb's in February and literally packed the house at Buffalo Billiards for their SXSW showcase. Easily the most fascinating and entertaining show I saw at SXSW this year. I bought their album, you should too.