It’s here. It’s finally here. SXSW! While there have been unofficial showcases going on since late last week, Tuesday marked the beginning of official SXSW music showcases. For the rest of the week I’ll be playing “man on the street,” giving you a quick rundown of what I saw complete with lousy pictures from my phone. In the end, you’ll feel like you were there too…taking lousy pictures with your phone.
Tuesday tends to primarily be the main local showcase night and as such, I had a slate of local favorites to catch before spending much of the rest of the week on out-of-towners. There were a ton of potential shows to choose from, but you can only see one band at a time, so to start things off I headed over to the Dirty Dog Bar on 6th for Black Books.
This was my second time seeing Black Books play live and they only confirmed what I had theorized before: these guys sound as good live as they do in the studio. For a band with so much going on and such a massive sound, that’s something, especially during SXSW. While I missed the very beginning of their set, I was able to catch some of my favorites nonetheless, including the brilliant “Favourite Place.” My evening was off to a good start.
The next stop of the night was Cheer Up Charlie’s new location on Red River at the old site of the now-defunct Club de Ville. This was my first time at the new location and it’s a decent space. If they continue the tradition of booking the same great bands they used to, I can see myself adding Cheer Up Charlie’s to my regular Red River rotation.
There were two shows going on at Cheer Up Charlie’s – one outside and one inside – both sponsored by local collective No Play Music. The lineup as a whole was an amazing collection of local talent and with the fact that the show was also free (no badge or wristband required), the place was packed. When my friend George and I got there they were already in a “one person out, one person in” mode at the gate, but we were able to make it inside with plenty of time to get situated for Ume.
Watching Ume’s Lauren Larsen on stage is like taking a master class in how to front a rock band. She blends pitch perfect vocals with face melting guitar work and frantic stage gyrations in a way that elevates the music to a whole new level. I had never seen Ume live before SXSW last year and this is my first time seeing them since. While they’re a great studio band, you owe it to yourselves to see them play live, so catch them at one of their other showcases later this week.
Next up on the docket (still at Cheer Up Charlie’s) was one of my personal favorites, The Sour Notes.
As a band that has gone through a lot of lineup changes just in the past couple of years I never know what to expect when seeing them live, but luckily the current lineup has held more or less stable for a while now and every time I see them play they sound tighter. The Sour Notes played their standard short, but sweet set and peppered in with some old favorites were several new tracks from their forthcoming LP. As always, The Sour Notes put on a great show.
The final stop of the night for me was The Main II, this year’s reincarnation of the space that was once Emo’s inside. As I stepped inside that space for the first time in a couple years I was reminded that (nostalgia aside) it really was a lousy performance space and to make matters worse there was zero ventilation, raising the temp by a good 20 degrees. Still, the bands on display last night made the best of it and the sound was actually a great deal better than I remembered. First up on my final two acts of the evening was Quiet Company.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen these guys live. As a full-time touring band, they don’t play as many local shows as they used to, but when they do they still bring the fun. The band played a much different set than what I was used to and while I’m sure that was in part because of the departure of trombone player Cody Ackors (to pursue his personal education goals) there was just a lot of new stuff in the mix as well. As usual it all sounded amazing and I’m looking forward to what they have in store for the future.
The final band of my evening (still at The Main II) was Wild Child.
I had actually seen Wild Child once before as an opener for Quiet Company and back before the release of their second EP. At that time I wasn’t familiar with their work, but this time around I was more than happy to hear my favorites played live. Wild Child always look like they’re having a good time on stage, even when the sound check isn’t going well and when they play, you can’t help but absorb some of that enjoyment.
All told, it was a good evening and there’ll be more where that came from.