Guest Post: Joy Goes to SXSW, Pt. V: Friday, March 14

In which our intrepid reporter finds out SXSW really is as exhausting as everyone says it is, but rallies to attend more shows.

By day three, I had personally confirmed what we’ve all been told: SXSW kicks your ass. I managed to drag myself downtown before noon only by promising myself a cup of coffee at Mellow Johnny’s, where Wye Oak was playing a 12pm set.

The band was already playing as I bought my coffee, but I couldn’t tell if they were playing an old song or a new one. Like mr. Gnome, Wye Oak hasn’t changed their sound very much between albums #3 and #4. Jenn Wasner has switched from electric guitar to electric bass, and Andy Stack has added an electronic drum-pad to his kit, but at SXSW they were quite recognizably the same band. Wasner even managed to make her bass sound light and silvery at times, which was the most unexpected thing to jump out at me from their performance.

Ultimately this is unsurprising, considering the lyric-based character of Wye Oak’s previous records. Now as before, listeners should expect to make the music into a contemplative experience in order to really absorb it. Wasner — an extremely approachable frontwoman, if anyone ever wants to stick around a show to chat — understandably feels that anyone who doesn’t “get” it should listen to virtually anyone else: she performs for herself and for her fans. She’s quite open about her difficulties with writing a fourth record, and maintains that switching her instrumentation reinvigorated her creative process while inspiring her to keep getting onstage day after day. Judging by their latest single and the SXSW show I saw, fans of her established sound will definitely be interested in and not alienated by the band’s new work.

Next: blogmistress Jennifer had put in detective work to find out when Charli XCX was playing, so I put her time to good use and went to see my favorite British pop star play at the Flamingo Cantina.

Since I’d learned a lesson about being late, I went early, and that was a wise choice. For one thing, plenty of free swag was available for my free choosing. For another, I was treated to a charmingly eccentric set by a Welshman called Gruff Rhys, whose style shifted from guitar-driven folk to semi-pop to the only reggae I’ve ever heard played by a white man that didn’t make me feel instantly angry.

Finally, I got to watch the venue fill to capacity from an actual seat with an actual view of the stage.

Which was lucky, because Charli XCX‘s sets are made to be seen and not just heard. The young Brit, who is currently touring with a full female band, has a true rock-and-roll sense of style and stage performance — she roams the stage, dances, thrashes, flings her head of huge curly hair, and generally lets herself be free.

Some of it is surely due to the fact that she’s only 21, with years of international pop performance already under her belt, but none of it is obviously faked or put on: her rock-stardom seems as honest and natural as her breezy offstage attitude does when you, say, run into her at a vendor’s stall. She clearly makes big, brassy, sometimes silly, but nonetheless sincere pop music because that’s what she wants to make, just like she dances “like you’ve never seen anyone dance before” because that’s simply how she dances. The straightforwardness makes her live shows into a genuine thrill and a front-to-back good time, whether she’s belting out an ode to drunken crushes or a break-up song, and I genuinely hope age (and years in the industry) never tarnishes her luster.

Speaking of age: despite being somewhere just south of thirty myself, that show wore me out. After trying for the second time that week to see a Felice Brothers show and being thwarted by a long line, I scrapped plans in favor of taking a break. Somewhere along the way I helped myself to one of many Deap Vally posters as a reminder to gather energy for their set later that night.

That break became longer than I’d expected, though, since I did not arrive early enough to beat the line for Klassik either.

The best I could manage was snapping a shot through the Thirsty Nickel window:

My lesson was relearned, too: thick drunken crowds on “Dirty Sixth” Street notwithstanding, I arrived at Trinity Hall when the Cherrytree Records party was just gathering steam. In fact, I even had time to catch a quick nap-sitting-up in one of the venue’s deep windowsills, and was a little revived for Sir Sly.

Since this band was one of Jennifer’s picks that I’d never listened to before, I briefly thought a pair of stage-divers were the actual band — although to their credit, they played a pretty decent impromptu song before exiting to cheers and clapping.

The real Sir Sly, however, combined surfer-ish rock with some hip-hop beats and no small number of huge pop hooks. Hearing that they hail from Orange County, CA, brought it all together for me: some bands sound like someone squeezed their geographic area into a pure living distillation, and Sir Sly is a particular subset of Orange County poured straight onto a record.

They threw themselves into their songs with untempered spirit, singing about love and angst the way only a recently-post-teenage Californian band can, winding the crowd up into one chanting sweating almost-entity. It reminded me of a sunnier version of that time we saw New Jersey kids moshing unrepentantly at a Titus Andronicus show.

After Sir Sly shook themselves off and loaded their gear out, it was Deap Vally time, though not everyone in the audience was excited for the same reasons.

The duo came onstage in some awesome outfits:

And I was really not in the mood for certain individuals’ reactions for many reasons, not least because it was clear within half a second of the set that these women were serious musicians. I was closest in proximity to Julie Edwards, who eagerly laid into her drumkit like it had wronged her. Meanwhile, guitarist and lead vocalist Lindsey Troy proved she could nail the ’80s-hair-metal thing live as well as she can in the studio, gleefully shredding and growling and screaming as though personally putting Steven Tyler in his place. They were everything I’d expected: loud and crass and good at what they do, purely and simply very entertaining.

Although this is obviously not their first rodeo, I would still happily punch anyone who ever reduces them to their bodies in my earshot again, and I think they’d approve of that on the basis of punk rock.

The only truly unfortunate part is that, as usual, I couldn’t stay for the whole late set. Instead, I met up with a fellow audience member I’d overheard delivering a perfect verbal smackdown to her own sexual harassers; we walked one another to our bus stops, taking more souvenir Deap Vally posters from the phone pole along the way. Although it was a little less showy than punching some asshole in the face would have been, looking out for each other seemed pretty in line with the band’s ethos too.


Guest Post: Joy Goes To SXSW, pt. 1

While I cannot be in Austin this year, NTSIB friend Joy is, and she has graciously agreed to be a roving reporter. Below is her first dispatch. If you want to follow her adventures live, you may do so on Twitter and Instagram.

This year, I am pleased to be NTSIB’s correspondent-at-large in Austin. It’s my first South By Southwest, and I have thrown myself directly into the deep end. Swim along with me here on the blog, with live updates on Twitter!

Since SXSW can be an impenetrably overwhelming mess of day parties, showcases, special sessions, and free shows, I’ve sorted the wheat from the chaff according to my own personal preferences. In reverse order, here are my most-anticipated acts of 2014.

7. Deap Vally

They’re loud. They’re crass. They’re women. And they crochet. This Los Angeles duo has found success in the UK and is on the verge of making it big in America. NTSIB friend Geordie McElroy describes them as “two-thirds of a girl gang” who should be “basically every teen girl’s role models”, and I am inclined to agree. Enjoy a sample of their balls-to-the-wall sound with “Hobo Playa”, off their single End of the World.

Deap Vally-Hobo Playa

Deap Vally plays South By Southwest:

Mar 14, 11pm @ Old School at Trinity Hall

6. Wye Oak

If you have ever listened to this Baltimore duo’s music and thought, “Where is the driving bass line?”, they seem to have read your mind. Their upcoming release, Shriek (out 4/29), will see guitarist Jenn Wazner switching exclusively to electric bass and the band’s music shifting accordingly. Until we hear the results, let’s tide ourselves over on the standout track of their 2011 release, Civilian.

Wye Oak plays South By Southwest:

Mar 12, 4pm @ Hype Hotel
Mar 13, 10am @ Four Seasons
Mar 13, 11:45pm @ The Parish
Mar 14, 12pm @ Mellow Johnny’s
Mar 14, 4pm @ The Blackheart
Mar 15, TBA @ Red 7

5. mr. Gnome

Another duo, this time from Cleveland, mr. Gnome has long been a NTSIB favorite. Their music, at times a frantic rush of paranoia while at others a sweet hymn to the void, should be heard rather than described. They are also hard at work at a still-secretive fourth album, due later this year. As a retrospective, here is a live session featuring songs from their previous releases.

Through the Turnstyle - mr. Gnome

mr. Gnome will play South By Southwest:

Mar 10, 7pm @ Clive Bar [FREE SHOW]
Mar 12, 3pm @ Cheer Up Charlie’s [FREE SHOW]
Mar 12, 11:30pm @ Javelina’s
Mar 13, 7pm @ Rowdy Saloon
Mar 14, 5:45pm @ The Tiniest Bar in Texas

4. Jessica Lea Mayfield

Jessica Lea Mayfield, the darling of Kent, Ohio (as well as an act NTSIB has been following since her first release), is preparing to drop her fourth record: Make My Head Sing … (4/15). Over the course of her career, this young guitarist’s tone has shifted from gorgeous minimalist folk to country-influenced dance pop to grunge-inspired noise rock. A sincere, down-to-earth performer, she says she calls her dog on the phone every day of tour — just to chat. Here she is performing “Our Hearts Are Wrong”, from 2011’s Tell Me.

Jessica Lea Mayfield - Our Hearts Are Wrong - David Letterman

Jessica Lea Mayfield plays South By Southwest:

Mar 12, 2:50pm @ Weather Up Bar
Mar 12, 5pm @ Cheer Up Charlie’s [FREE SHOW]
Mar 13, 12am @ Lambert’s

3. Kan Wakan

If you follow any of my social media presences, you have probably noticed that I am quickly becoming a Kan Wakan superfan. This up-and-coming Los Angeles band creates lush music that is like fancy dessert for the ears. Kristianne Bautista’s voice is incredibly, effortlessly deep and rich; her backing band provides intricately orchestrated but not overpowering accompaniment. Watch them play “Forever Found”, off their EP of the same name, and wait for their first full-length to arrive this spring.

Kan Wakan plays South By Southwest:

Mar 12, 1:55pm @ Red 7
Mar 12, 5:40pm @ Palm Park
Mar 13, 12:30pm @ Palm Door on 6th
Mar 13, 11pm @ Lambert’s
Mar 15, 10am @ Brazos Hall
Mar 15, 2:30pm @ Cedar St Courtyard

2. The Felice Brothers

Paleotrees wouldn’t be Paleotrees — and wouldn’t have met NTSIB — without these guys. This famously raucous five-piece ensemble from Upstate New York has undergone several lineup changes and numerous shifts in musical direction over their career, but they have never lost their freewheeling charm. They do what they want, and we just come along for the ride. Here they play a song off their compilation God Bless You, Amigo.

The Felice Brothers - Dream On (Live @Pickathon 2013)

The Felice Brothers play South By Southwest:

Mar 11, 9:45pm @ Cedar St Courtyard
Mar 13, 12:30pm @ Weather Up
Mar 13, 10:50pm @ Mohawk
Mar 14, 4pm @ The Gatsby

They will also participate in Willie Nelson’s Heartbreaker Banquet, during but apart from SXSW, on March 13 at Willie’s private ranch. (Set time: 3:30PM)

1. Doe Paoro

Doe Paoro, from Brooklyn, is a force to behold. The woman has a compelling, engaging stage presence and a positively terrific voice. Justin Vernon apparently agrees with me about her latent star power, since he sings on her upcoming release Ink On The Walls. Recorded this winter in Vernon’s studio and produced by S.Carey, the album will drop this April; “Walking Backwards”, below, is its lead single .

Doe Paoro - Walking Backwards (Official Audio)

Doe Paoro plays South By Southwest:

Mar 12, 8:30pm @ Banger’s
Mar 12, 10:15pm @ Holy Mountain
Mar 13, 2pm @ Do512 Lounge

… and I am honored to be part of her crew for some if not all of these shows.

So, Austin: stop by when you can, and I hope to see you there!

– Joy @ Paleotrees

[A version of this list also appears on]

Rainy Day Saints/Wye Oak/Lou Barlow + the missingmen at the Grog Shop in Cleveland, OH, 8.27.10

Rainy Day Saints

Kicking off the show around 10:30 p.m. (contrary to the 8 p.m. start time listed on the Grog Shop website. Though I’m getting to the point where I actually like the Grog Shop, their concept of time continues to mystify me) was local opener Rainy Day Saints. Playing straight-ahead, classic Cleveland-style rock with a modern influence, the band suffered from a muddy sound mix in which Marianne Friend’s saxophone and harmony vocals all but disappeared, and it was difficult to tell if any of the songs were good or not. Still, the band seemed to enjoy themselves, so there’s that.

Wye Oak

While the Wye Oak recordings I have heard have been a little mellow for me, the word around the internet was that skeptics should catch the Baltimore duo live before locking in an opinion, and this advice proved on the mark. While you might expect something tiny and twee upon seeing Jenn Wasner in her ballet flats and polka dot blouse, she unleashes an intense sound. With Wasner on vocals and guitar and Andy Stack on drums and keyboards, Wye Oak is equal parts dreamy Americana pop and noise assault. They won over the audience quickly, party through their music and party through Wasner’s charming and friendly personality, and drew vocal praise for “Holy Holy”, a song from their forthcoming album (which Stack works on in the backseat of their tour van “while I talk to myself for 7 hours,” says Wasner).

Sidenote: Red keyboards are so hot right now. Seriously, this is about the fifth one I’ve seen at a show this year.

Lou Barlow + the missingmen

“Lou Barlow!” one of the more, uh, enthusiastic audience members helpfully shouted through the night, just in case we – or Barlow himself – forgot who he was. (The same person would also like you to know that “The Freed Pig” is the best break-up song ever. At least, I assume this is why she stated this no less than four times until Barlow honored her request.) I wasn’t about to forget because, confession time, I was a little geeked out to be seeing someone I’ve been listening to for about a decade, in his various bands and projects, at this little club.

Barlow began the show solo with his acoustic guitar (the case for which sports a handsome Music Saves sticker), chatting with the crowd, telling stories and taking requests (or pretending to). He played sweet-voiced renderings of songs like “Magnet’s Coil”, “Puzzled” and “Rebound” before bringing on missingmen Tom Watson and Raul Morales (on loan from Mr. Mike Watt) for an electric set.

Watson and Morales bring great talent and energy to the stage, and it’s easy to see why Watt has been keeping this friendly, easy-going pair close and why Barlow borrows them. They helped pump up songs like “Home”, “Too Much Freedom” and “Gravitate”. Things really broke out when Barlow put down his Danelectro and strapped on the bass, closing out the electric set by tearing up “Losercore”.

Back for an acoustic encore, Barlow broke out his ukulele (a baritone uke as opposed to the popular soprano uke) for “Beauty of the Ride” and “Soul and Fire” before returning to his acoustic for a few more songs, including the aforementioned “The Freed Pig”, closing out the show with “Brand New Love”.

Barlow is a skilled entertainer, aware how to keep a good balance with his audience. During solo acoustic sets, he chats more – telling stories about everything from annoying his sisters with an 8-track player to finding a bag of weed in a hotel room left by the previous occupants, the Black Crowes – and comes across as amiable, funny and candid. “Did I ever tell you my Cleveland story?” he asks the audience at one point, creating the feeling of being friends who have hung out together before. But when Watson and Morales join him onstage, the between-song conversation was turned down as the music amped up.

I don’t normally add links to my show reviews, but I have to share Lou Barlow’s great website and kingofthecastle7’s YouTube channel for videos of the show.