The second day of SXSW was marked with euphoric highs and one, catastrophic low. Thankfully, there were many more highs than that one low, causing my brain to drift back towards the goodness of the day before rather than the terrible event that occurred a little bit after I left the main hub of shows.
For those unaware, at around 1:00-1:20am CST, a drunk driver plowed through barricades on blocked Red River St, running into many pedestrians, killing two and injuring 23 others. I had been in that area very close to when it happened. I either left 10 minutes before or after the accident. But just the fact that I opted to leave when I did rather than another time will stay with me for a while. Positive thoughts go out to all the friends and family that was affected.
But let’s get to the good parts of the day, yeah?
I started off the day going to the St. Vincent NPR interview panel, where Ann Powers interviewed Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent. They talked about her new album, what’s sexy about her music, and delved into some geeky, techy stuff that seemed to get Clark really excited.
The whole talk was just wonderful- Clark seems like such a cool person and an extremely smart one at that. She talked about how when she was younger she took a song by Madonna and transposed the entire thing, then wrote it in another key and played it back, just to see what it would sound like. It’s this kind of musical genius that isn’t really highlighted too often in music these days. Really inspiring and entertaining as well.
After I headed out to lunch with a few of my promoter friends as well as the general manager of Wake Forest’s radio station, who was traveling with the promoters. It was really cool to chat with other radio people and get the perspectives of other stations.
After a quick lunch, I scurried back over to the Convention Center for the “Did the Internet Kill the Album Review” panel, curated by Connecticut music blogger Anthony Fantano, along with Dead End Hip Hop reviewer Myke C-Town, Dan Gill from Force Field PR, and a rep from Man Bite Dog records, a hip hop label. The talk was mostly just the panelists listing off reviews that have hurt or improved artist’s careers.
Another topic that was brought up was that today, due to Spotify, Pandora, etc, people are more accustomed to listen to individual tracks rather than sit through an entire album, possibly negating the impact of an album review, since they’re just picking one piece of a bigger whole. They all gave their opinions on this, and most of them say they put in focus tracks in the review, just so people can know what to get into before listening to the entire thing. It was a really entertaining panel and it’s probably been my favorite so far.
After the panel, I headed over to Stubbs for the NPR showcase. It said the doors would open at around 7pm, but they didn’t until about 7:30pm. All the while there was a giant line. Thankfully I had priority access thanks to the badge. One extremely lucky thing that happened was that I hid my nice water bottle underneath a trashcan after I was denied bringing it in by Stubbs security and it was still there after I left the venue almost five hours later. That’s a personal victory story right there.
The first band to go on was noise-punks Perfect Pussy, a band that I’ve been wanting to see live for a while now. I thought that performing on a bigger, festival like stage would make their set a bit tamer or make them nervous, but the set was absolutely killer and I’m so glad I finally got to see them.
Second band on was English post-punk band Eagulls, and they brought the hard-hitting jams taking much influence from the early darker post-punk bands. The band wasn’t too animated, but it was a pretty good show nonetheless.
At this point, I hadn’t eaten since 1:30pm, so I headed over to get some barbeque and watch Kelis from afar. This was Kelis’ first live show since 2010 and she came out in force: she was accompanied by a full band, complete with horns, backup singers, a drummer, keys, guitar, bass, etc. It was a pretty soulful affair as I ate my pulled pork.
Now, the act that I had been waiting for, St. Vincent, came out and absolutely ripped it open. The performance was over an hour long and I didn’t even notice. She mostly played songs off of her newest album, some songs off of “Strange Mercy” and one song off of her second album. The whole set was beautifully choreographed and expertly performed. St. Vincent acts like a cyborg on stage; every movement looks programmed and precise. Sometimes she improvised on the usual melodies in songs, which was really cool. Overall, the whole performance was the best I’ve seen so far at the festival. Probably one of the best shows I’ve ever been to period.
If you get the chance, see St. Vincent!