THURSDAY - DAY 1 @ SXSW
It's 5AM and I'm running down the stairs of a Greenpoint, Brooklyn walk-up with the wild delusion that I'll get a cab to get me to Newark airport in time for my 6:30 flight. $80 and an hour and twenty-six minutes later I'm panting, out of breath, in the remnants of a line boarding my plane to Austin. There are leather jackets, guitar cases, vanity sunglasses, and black band t-shirts everywhere. The mass exodus of the stereotypical is underway.
SXSW has been a staple for the musician/dreamer since its inception in 1986 and has held the title as the most important thing your new band can do for only a slightly shorter time than that. It's the nursery that suckles the future of music. It's a time for industry people to rebuild their who-to-know network webs over copious amounts of alcohol. It's a time for media-hungry brands to show off their music taste by booking the "next big thing" at their showcases. It's where bands meet their future tour mates and label reps, and is simply Christmas for the rock 'n' roll soul.
BUST took its place amongst the clamoring fray of magazines and blogs putting forth their best impression of "future music" and came off like a champ. We wanted to recall the days when we responded to black and white Kinko's-copied flyers to show up at so-and-so's house party instead of RSVP'ing online to a mailing-list-gathering app. We wanted to do it like it wasn't our job. We get enough of that as it is.
So we decided to turn up the volume at the Pussy Palace, a little house in Hyde Park notorious for its local shows the rest of the year – a mile off the traditional SXSW drag – and book the best acts we could invite to play. Besides the gaggle of locals and professionals loitering about (Tito's Vodkas in hand) we live-streamed the party on BUST.com for the desk bound wishfuls watching the snow fall outside their non-Austin, TX, windows.
El Sportivo and the Blooz started the party with their indie-tonk take on swing rock. 2PM on a Thursday and the vibe resonated with sappy songs sung sad through smiles. It was a perfect set and everything worked.
Los Angeles' GLISS was an early surprise on Thursday. Victoria Cecilia's synth-backed, sexy robot vocals were shockingly lush in such a small venue. The pitch-perfect delivery and intensity brought every open bar opportunist in from the backyard to figure what was making that sound. We had booked them based on some well-produced singles, specifically "Weight of Love" but had no idea that their live performance could deliver such a haunting chill.
The house started to fill to our first capacity crowd when the sequined and coiffed Clairy Browne and Bangin' Racketts filed in with their suited-and-tied band. The air of expectation was electric as they set up for one of their first North American performances. The number of texts and calls I got back from my NYC office as all the BUST ladies tuned into the live feed was constant. The crowd contained at least eight photographers on assignment for God-knows-where but the photos will surely turn up on a number of blogs soon enough. With a peal of trumpet and a trill on a snare, Clairy Browne and her girls ginned up a stompy 60s revival that had the crowd dancing and spilling their vodka lemonades all overthe floor. The sweat was dripping by the end of their set and the band retired to the backyard to the rustic chill that is the Pussy Palace grounds.
Clairy Brown (at right) with her Rackettes
The doors open and the house venting steam, the So So Glos trade limited space with Clairy's crew to set up their Brooklyn, NY, punk that gets smarter with each listen. Their So Cal straight delivery and nasty drums conceal some delicate melodies and surfy riffs. Live, they're just fucking fun. Hammy, dancey, and built for speed, the So So Glos came to enjoy themselves and they did. It was really cool to see them enjoy the beaming audience so much that the line between band and fan blurred, and we simply threw down.
Laughing for no reason, ringing ears and dripping sweat, we noticed the vodka had crept up on us as we danced. The sun did set, the air did cool, and brought the azure glaze of a drunken hour upon the place. Widowspeak took the stage and traded volume for voluminous range and cooed and wooed us back to calm.
The Texas evening chill proved the perfect lead in to what was the embodiment of what this party was supposed to be. BOY began their set by shaking off the pretensions of their smash-hit status in Europe and burgeoning stateside fame by bringing a drawing room acoustic performance to the room. We turned the lights down low, lit some smokes and sat cross-legged on the hardwood floorboards. Valeska Steiner and Sonja Glass crooned through seven or eight of their songs, several of which are reaching 9 million views on YouTube, and snake charmed us into a relaxed repose. They finished up grinning and amused at how this is exactly the kind of place they used to play when they started. Mission accomplished.
Before we broke it all down though, we had to send everyone off on a high. French Horn Rebellion took their time setting up their neon glow rods, fog machine, and keyboards and kicked us back into high gear. Their disco funk-pop explosion took full advantage of the loose crowd and commanded us to dance. The floorboards shook with resounding bass lines and brassy bleats of their signature French Horn solos while the crowd bounced and flailed. A busted amp and smoke alarm later and the audience dispersed into the yard to make plans for downtown's late-night mayhem. Day one was done. I had nearly two brain cells left as I faceplanted the closest thing to a bed I'd see for days.
Photos by JOIN THE STUDIO and Najva Sol