As the temperature rises, the margaritas flow more freely and Austinites and visitors descend further into the madness of SXSW, it's sometimes hard to keep your head in this overwhelming musical maelstrom... and yet, thankfully everyone does! Day 3 for me entails hosting and introducing acts onstage at the second 'Showcasing Scotland' event in Latitude 30, aka 'The British Music Embassy'. Known to allcomers as the hub for the UK entourage of around 170 bands, it's in a fantastically placed, central location and always abuzz with musicians and punters. 'Creative Scotland' www.creativescotland.com and PPL www.ppluk.com are behind this afternoon line-up, and what a line-up it is! Showing how SXSW is diversifying more and more each year, almost all facets of modern music are now represented at the festival, with a growing emphasis on electronica, hip-hop and dubstep.
Before I wander across town in the baking heat, I have a quick interview to do with one of THE buzz bands of the festival and also a trio close to home for me - 'Chvrches'. Sitting quietly in their air-conditioned hotel, Lauren, Iain and Doc are polite, measured, focused and perhaps a little shell-shocked by the attention they're receiving. This week alone they've played a large smattering of shows including 'The Fader Fort', 'The Hype Hotel' and the 'Spin Magazine Party'... pretty much the hottest tickets in town. Just before I meet them, they've talked to The Guardian about their presence at SXSW and are in aimiable form. It's lovely to catch up with them, as it's been a good few months since they played a LIVE session for me on BBC Radio Scotland www.bbc.co.uk/vicgalloway What a year they're having so far, and they're taking it all in their step. I cannot wait for the album too!
It's soon time to jump onstage and introduce some of Scotland and indeed the world's most cutting-edge electronica, but before that we have a surprise for guests... 'Silibil n' Brains'! Yes, the Dundee hip-hop duo and music industry con-men take play 2 tracks and then indulge in an hilarious, brutal rap battle when they insult each other within an inch of their lives! The audience laugh along and soon a 4 minute chunk of the documentary 'The Great Hip-Hop Hoax' is shown on a screen at the back of the venue, enticing viewers and whetting appetites for the full-length version of Jeanie Finlay's incredible film. It's a brilliant way to start the show, which incidentally is packed to the gunnels with a free bar and tex-mex food on offer... we treat our audiences nice!
With more hype-man action from me and a worthy attempt at trying to gee-up the hungover crowd (it is only 2pm after all), the frankly incredible 'Young Fathers' moodily take to the stage, bringing with them a fine set of tribal, psychedelic, electronica, soul, dub and hip-hop... Thankfully the initially cautious crowd liven up and give them a great reception. There's a definite buzz within the venue now and some suitably impressed industry types as well. It looks like Anticon Records www.anticon.com may have found their next success story... in Edinburgh!
The afternoon then rocks along with a selection of the finest DJ's, curators and tastemakers in the world right now in the form of 'JD Twitch' from Optimo www.optimo.co.uk 'Jackmaster' from NMBRS www.nmbrs.net and 'Rustie' www.twitter.com/rustie who has recorded and released stuff via Warp, LuckyMe, Wireblock, NMBRS and others. What I like about each DJ is their eclecticism and open-mindedness... Jackmaster definitely has the funk whilst throwing in some house, electro, grime and 1980's soul, whilst Twitch (who is an absolute legend and lovely fellow!) subverts, warps, mutates and manipulates everything from bagpipe drones to Slayer in his hour-long mix... for a record-collector and crate-digger like myself it's a real lesson, and a journey through sound with a particularly interesting guide at the helm. But it's when Rustie hits the decks that the place really explodes! Dropping his own tunes from the tremendous 'Glass Swords' album into the mix alongside bangers from Hudson Mohawk and tasty pieces of southern hip-hop, his wonky, dubstep-y, aqua-crunk-y(!!!), glitchy uber-production and whip-cracking beats ignite the place, which is some feat considering it's only 5pm in the afternoon! Although Twitch reckons his own set was one of the weirdest gigs he's ever done... There is no doubt that the afternoon of electronica is a genuine success, showing Scotland, the UK and SXSW in a new light, showing all music should sit side by side... if it's any good! My job is done and everyone at Creative Scotland is happy. Even the incredibly inebriated and extremely affable, dubstep-don 'Skream' is there having the time of his life... Nice!
With a quick pit-stop for some blackened-fish and spicy coldslaw tacos and a sangria margarita, Stuart Thomas from Creative Scotland www.twitter.com/stuartthmas and my friend Peej www.twitter.com/dearscotland hit the town for the evening showcases. It's a hard thing to put into mere words, in order to convey the carnival carnage that takes place every night at SXSW on 6th Street. It's like rock'n'roll mardi-gras with every colour, creed and culture coming together to party and soak up the thousands of artists playing their hearts out in bars, clubs and on the street itself. Buskers and street-performers line the road, whilst the balmy temperature ensure most people are in a state of relative undress, and loosened up on local brew 'Lone Star'. The cacophony of sound as every venue's music seeps out, blurs into one... I've said it before, but it is utter sensory overload!
First stop sees us taking in a balls-out set from Sheffield punk-blues two-piece 'Wet Nuns'... one of the finest band names around, I'd have to say! They rock out with their metaphorical cock out, with frontman and guitarist Rob leaping through the bar window at BD Riley's onto the street to the joy of the passing pedestrians. Phew, I needed some REAL rock'n'roll! With a failed attempt to see NYC band and Fence Record www.fencerecords.com signings The Shivers, we cut across to East 6th Street across the highway and out of the more commercial centre of downtown Austin to what could be refered to as... Hipster-ville! I'm joking a little, but the moustache and cut-off shorts count is pretty high, as are the fixed gear bikes and espadrilles! The music however is utterly fantastic...
We arrive at the 'Hotel Vegas' venue for a snappy, bubblegum-grunge set by LA girls 'Bleached' (whose record I LOVE just now - think of Ramones, Shop Assistants and Breeders all slugging it out!) and then the wirey, melodic, off-centre indie-rock of 'Mac Demarco' and band, who cover Dave Brubeck's 'Take 5' on guitars! Nothing prepares us for the blitzkrieg rock'n'roll of 'Thee Oh Sees' however. In my humble opinion John Dwyer's high-octane, 1960's psyche-meets-punk-rock combo are THE BEST ROCK'N'ROLL BAND ON THE PLANET... Don't believe me? Well catch them live and see for yourself in the UK in May. With stage-diving, crowd-surfing and wyld-man dancing all around, this sublime set of garage-scuzz is simply phenomenal! It'll take a lot to top that...
Having watched these 3 acts in quick succession on the outdoor stage, I head inside 2 separate venues within the Hotel Vegas complex for young, Memphis garage punks 'Ex-Cult' who remind me of early Dischord records www.dischord.com acts and have a relatively small crowd slamming in no time. With a brief sojourn to see 'Delicate Steve' with the boys from Glenrothes indie-tykes 'Tango in the Attic' http://www.facebook.com/tangointheattic (excellent band and lovely guys!), we leave the hotel and hobble down the road to catch a slinky, slick, lush, emotive set from 'Toro Y Moi' at 'The North Door'... Having seen Chaz Bundick go from hipster-fave and a one-man show 3 years ago at SXSW, he now has a full band and a sense of serious professionalism within the musicianship and atrrangements. It suits him too! It's a good way to finish the night with one more margarita in hand, before the walk home and some much-needed sleep...
All in all, it's been a superb day immersed in ground-breaking music, blistering weather, great food, drinks and banter... I cannot complain! Everyone's SXSW is different, as there is so much on offer. You can see the big names, the ultimate buzz-bands or a mixture of the two. Or you can underline a few key names you want to see and fill in the gaps with some random, unexpected treats. I did a bit of all of the aforementioned and will do so again tonight.
SXSW is like nothing else on earth and there's one more night to go... Hasta Manana!
Words by Vic Galloway