Today was all about heavy-hitting sets from folk-rooted artists like Grizzly Bear, The Low Anthem, Lisa Hannigan and Dent May but the Irish also made an impression at the Breakfast Showcase on 6th Street. The aforementioned Lisa Hannigan charms everyone in the room lost in song, her delicate voice filling the room on her first performance of the day (the second coming later in a packed to capacity church). The great thing about B.D Reillys, the Irish bar which hosts the event has open windows onto the street so you can still hear the bands playing from the scorching hot day outside. They also do a mean corn beef sandwich.
Following Lisa there are well-received sets from One Day International, “the good time rock ‘n’ roll” boys The Mighty Stef (they manage to get three six year olds throwing limbs up front), the shoegazing rock of The Brothers Movement (with three guitars and a violin to one of them), Fight Like Apes do their best falling down/throwing synths and their set is the first time State has ever seen someone use a pillar as a percussive instrument as Pockets does today. In Case of Fire had to pull out due to a bout of chickenpox so Belfast’s Skibunny stepped in with a more traditional indie band setup than their far superior remix work. The Urges bring the garage band club vibe (clothes and all) to proceedings and Fighting with Wire bring the noise.
After the Irish have had their fun (and Guinness), to the dusty environs of the end of 6th Street we go to catch the rollicking Solid Gold from Minnesota who are playing in a pub backyard filled with the smell of barbeque. Their set was as good as their Bodies of Water album, 5 guys eschewing indie-rock conventions with groovy synths and a danceable sheen. Their guitarist also had an electric slide instrument he was able to scratch like a record so kudos for that.
A bit of a lull hits the festival as we transform from day to (official night) and across town Dent May and his Magnificent Ukulele Band is knocking out pleasant tunes before the storm of gigs in evening (Like Metallica’s secret show – worst secret ever). May is a lovelorn bespeckled nerd who seems to sing exclusively about girls he had and doesn’t have any more / girls he wants / girls he had but wishes he had again (delete where applicable).
We hang on the west side for a bit catching a melancholic and relaxing set from Beach House as well as an irregular drum and unknown stringed instrument-heavy set from Wildbirds and Peacedrums . Singer Mariam Wallentin’s caterwauling cries forewarned of doom and gloom. Wait, does that mean we’re not getting into the Grizzly Bear???
We do but not before the discovery of the day in The Low Anthem (as recommended by Ms. Hannigan) from Providence, Rhode Island playing The Presbyterian Church. Utterly swooningly gorgeous Americana folk which funnily enough reminds us of times as the quiet parts of Low’s back catalogue. The three-piece instrument swap through the show with singing, drum, harmonica, guitar, organ and bass performed by a different member depending on requirements. Truly awesome stuff.
Grizzly Bear’s show in the Cedar Street Courtyard, an outdoor venue sheltered by two buildings has the air of expectation about it. About 400 people gather on the street outside waiting to get in while Peter, Bjorn and John are running through a generally lacklustre set. The police arrive and sort out the melee into lines by wristbands and badges first (the major advantage of acquiring or buying a $650 badge). The 30 minute wait is worth it too, as Grizzly Bear are playing a mix of old and new songs from Veckatimest which sound perhaps better than on record such is the pristine quality of their playing and the sound tonight. You simply cannot underestimate their skill – they are the definition of a tight band. Every instrument sounds wonderful and has its own space – Daniel Rossen’s guitar in particular crunches beautifully and the three-part harmonies are a joy to watch from 6 feet away. Such nuanced and singularly different singing styles come together to make a superior whole. ‘The Knife’ along with new songs ‘While You Wait For The Others’, ‘Two Weeks’ with Victoria from Beach House on backing vocal duties, a sped-up ‘On A Neck On A Spit’ are some of the highlights of SXSW Day 3.
Tomorrow brings us the last day of music. We wish it would go on for another week.