Spirits of the Red City, Dark Dark Dark, Grant Hart, and more locals party at SXSW
Peter Wolf Crier playing their official showcase at Emo's
Photo by Stacy Schwartz
The plate glass window in my hotel has been rattling nonstop for the past eight hours. Right now, I can hear at least two kick drums, an electric guitar, a singer, and a blaring bass beat, and I am certain that each sound is being produced by a different band. The end result is nothing short of cacophony, and it hasn't let up since we pulled into town save for a few of the late night and early morning hours each day.
Up until this afternoon, it seemed impossible to seek shelter from the hurricane of activity that defines SXSW. The streets and sidewalks are as crowded as a Manhattan rush hour, the attendees are partying it up every night like they are on frat row, and there is barely an unoccupied stoop, let a lone an actual chair, available for a wary traveler to rest their tired feet. But today, at last, came a revelation: the madness is centered around a very specific, roughly 10- to 12-block radius in downtown Austin, and leaving the epicenter of the maelstrom opens the door to an entirely different way of experiencing the festival.
This afternoon, Supply & Demand hosted a partially local bill of indie folk and acoustic pop acts, including Minnesotan bands Peter Wolf Crier, Spirits of the Red City, Dark Dark Dark, and Dosh. The party was in a coffeehouse, Dominican Joe's, that was about a mile south of downtown; just far enough away to be out of the madness. Almost immediately, the difference was noticeable - the mood was calm, the small audience was attentive (and sober), and the venue even served vegetarian and vegan food (which can be tricky to find during busy hours downtown, save for cheese pizza and one lone hot dog truck that stocks veggie dogs).
Peter Wolf Crier kicked off the day party, cranking up the volume with a couple of stacks of vintage amplifiers aimed squarely at the audience. It was odd seeing the duo in the coffeehouse setting; halfway through their set, Peter Pisano muttered a swear word during his between-song banter, and then immediately looked up in horror and asked the barrista if it was ok that he was cursing in her coffee shop. But the intimate setting only seemed to enhance their performance, giving attendees (and people waiting in line to pick up their frapuccinos) an upclose view of Pisano's feet as he worked his looping pedal and turned up his distortion.
The highlight of the party came when Spirits of the Red City played; seven of the eight band members are down in Austin this week, and the entire group plays without amplification, gathered around lead singer Will Garrison. An upright bass, drums, mandolin, banjo, acoustic keyboard, and singer leaned in around Garrison and swayed together as a group, and their songs would span from just Garrison singing to everyone playing and singing along in a joyous harmonies, each one of them grinning from ear to ear. Even people who came into the coffee shop just to purchase a beverage would stop in their tracks and stare in awe at the band as the sang and swelled together, and afterwards the band sold more CDs than any other local band (or national band, that matter) that I have seen play so far.
Dark Dark Dark played a set outdoors on the venue's patio, and the crowd grew to its largest for their set. The band remained incredibly stoic as they played, and at one point between songs Nona Marie Invie looked up and monotonously said, "We've just recorded a new EP, and we're very excited. Can you tell?" Afterwards, her bandmate Marshall LaCount picked up his banjo and started bantering with the crowd, asking an onlooker "Does my banjo sound like outer space?" with a completely deadpan expression on his face.
Later in the evening, we decided to continue our adventure of off-the-beaten-path exploration by venturing to an art space in East Austin for the Ox-Op party, where Gay Witch Abortion and Grant Hart were playing a collaborative, experimental show. I don't mean to play coy, but this portion of my day was so completely surreal that I'm saving it for the print feature that I'm writing next week -- pick up a copy of City Pages next Wednesday to read about that incredible adventure.
Off With Their Heads
Photo by Stacy Schwartz
Toward the end of the night, I headed over to the Red 7 Patio to catch Off With Their Heads playing their official showcase. Having just signed to Epitaph, I was curious to see what kind of turnout the band would get at their showcase, and was surprised to see an entire contingent of the audience moshing and singing along with each and every one of their songs. As soon as they started playing, it turned into absolute mayhem, with a bunch of gruff young dudes shoving each other around and hopping up onto the stage to crowd surf.
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