By Johnnie Craig. Photos by Dan Dennison.
Thursday, the day the Irish contingent start to make their presence felt.
This afternoon is the main event, The Full Irish Breakfast, Ireland’s cÃ©ad mile fÃ¡ilte (with a hundred thousand sausages ‘n’ rashers thrown in) to the world to come and sample our musical delights. The venue is BD Reilly’s, one of those quaint -olde worlde’ theme pubs in which groups of 18th-generation Irish Americans hold regular gatherings to quaff Guinness, bluff their way through GAA discussions and swap Hal Roach jokes. Osmotic Irishness abounds, the craic is indeed 90, and State has even donned a green t-shirt for the day – well, the locals appreciate that sort of thing.
The buzz created by our offering is impressive, though. It’s refreshing to see the attentions of the uninitiated being arrested by some excellent performances, most notably by Cathy Davey, Delorentos a yet another thoroughly memorable set from Fight Like Apes.
All the acts I spoke to had no end of praise for the venue itself, the sound quality and the fact that they performed next to the front windows which were opened out on to the street, allowing passers-by to poke their heads in and savour some of the flavours. In a street like 6th, where daytime heavy rock abounds from every nook, cranny and orifice, the distinctive sounds of these three acts are attracting a wide spectrum of interested spectators on the hunt for something less ordinary. As Fight Like Apes’ MayKay and Pockets writhe around on the pub floor, the facial expression of enraptured first-time viewers go some way to telling the story of this band’s impact. As for the reaction to the photo-shoot they did afterwards’¦ well, that’s a story for later.
And so to the evening’s musical shenanigans. After learning from Kieran McGuinness that Austin’s Zykos, who didn’t really impress me on Wednesday night, are friends of Delorentos, I thought I’d better investigate another local act to perhaps do the local scene more justice. Tragically, I chose hairy doom-metallists Mala Suerte, who do all that throat-shredding vocal screaming nonsense entirely without an iota of irony. Two remarkably identical songs in, I make my way through the throng of leather and dandruff to look elsewhere. I drop in on Glasgow’s The Dykeenies who cheeky-charm all with their banter about their hotel’s shower, their drummer’s haircut and how to perform a slow song. But their snappy pop, while perfectly performed, is just a little too unremarkable to be impressive. I cross the street in search of something better.
It comes in the shape of Reykjavik! who come, remarkably, from Reykjavik. Listening to their entirely non-glacial shouty, enthusiasm on record barely does them justice. Their ironic attempts to ingratiate themselves with the audience (proclaiming allegiance to America, stories of how they were raised by polar bears and how their mother is Bjork) are only part of the risible spectacle, it’s unadulterated madness, the like of which you’d want to see again and again. Brilliant stuff.
Next, there’s a lengthy wait to catch the ear-splitting extravagance of Fucked Up but the set, sadly, is practically over before we’ve even got in the door. Next, there’s a hopeless trek to catch ex-pat Dublin band Mike Got Spiked who are playing a non-SXSW-friendly biker venue called, worryingly enough, Headhunters. A grizzly man at the entrance points to a sign reading ‘Your badge and wristband ain’t worth shit here’ and charges me $5 for the pleasure of discovering they’re running half-an-hour late. I’m forced to watch some goofy, baseball-capped pump attendants attempting spiky punk-metal before I decide to leave. In fairness, the venue did display headless Barbie dolls in fish tanks, so the experience was well worthwhile.
Next, the evening’s unexpected highlight: semi-naked disco-pop bizarros, Gil Mantera’s Party Dream. We could spend all night speculating on this act but I’ll keep it simple. We have two brothers (the eponymous Mantera and Ultimate Donny), one dressed in some fiery-red lacey number, the other only in his briefs, who dance, squirm, wrestle, cavort, swing from the rafters and stuff beer bottles down their crotches. Even for fans of their music (and there are plenty, even amongst conservative-looking beardie rockers), their antics are slightly unsettling. However, for fans of Eurotrash, like myself, it’s all pretty ordinary, really – even if two brothers perhaps shouldn’t be quite so close.
Next up, another bunch of euphemistic performance artists, Dandi Wind. Much has been muttered about this painted duo and their plentiful silver piping but singer Dandilion Wind Opaine packs an arty punch with her dance moves, idiosyncratic vocals and extravagant fashions. With keyboardist / everything else-ist Szam Findlay grinding away in the background, it’s a full-on, strangely gratifying experience, if more of a Turner Prize nominee’s installation than a foot-tapping pop group.
An all-too brief glimpse of the undervalued and rather gifted Martha Wainwright (www.myspace.com/marthawainwright) later, it’s time to take in the eye-mind-and-ear-warping glory of Indian Jewelry. They are, not to put too fine a point on it, an act who require your indulgence and patience. The 30-minute set contains only three songs, the last of which threatens to be endless. Not everyone is hypnotised by the unrelenting, Skull Island beat and many depart bewildered; watching this five-piece concentrating hard on creating a thumping, screeching soundscape with added vocal ranting obviously isn’t for everyone. I thought they were great.
Finally, it’s upstairs in Wave for Toronto’s kings of mock-electronica, Holy Fuck. I haven’t seen too many audiences really dancing while here but, even though we’re sardined on a tiny rooftop, we the punters are all getting to know each other a little more intimately when the beats begin. One poor bloke mistakes my buttocks for his girlfriend’s – I’m sure she was even less happy about that than I was. Anyway, the Holy Fuck word is spreading, the music sounds better live, and refreshingly different, than on record, the t-shirts are delightfully juvenile and I’m pretty sure this lot won’t be playing anywhere quite so tiny around these parts any longer. What a way to end the day.