Well I am sure that any of you who really give a shit what’s happening at South by Southwest this week will have found out from one of the more dilligent blogs who have been writing daily updates. Honestly though, I doubt anyone who regularly reads this site would have really expected me to be one of those blogs.
I got to Austin at about ten or eleven at night on Wednesday and stumbled into town to find Peej, who kindly offered to put me up, and Vic Galloway, who along with Peej is one of about four people I know in Austin this week, at the Scottish Showcase.
Due to not having bothered with either a badge or a wristband and the place being absolutely jam-packed, Peej had to sneak me in the back door, getting rid of a bouncer with a vague sort of ‘I’m in the band’ response which rather miraculously seemed to work. Peej had a badge which he waved and that did the trick.
I saw the tail end of the Jetpacks show, which people went absolutely mental for. I have never been a big fan of the band, honestly, but Peej loves them and they seem to be going down an absolute storm in the States. They certainly do put on a good show too, so it’s hard not to warm to them. After some quality MCing by Mr. Galloway, with an enormous super jumbo extra helping of cheese, Frightened Rabbit took to the stage and they really were good.
I gave their new album a bit of a savaging, and in the comments section there was a bit of discussion about how the songs would come across in a live setting, free of the smothering production. I also said that a lot of the guitar sound on Winter of Mixed Drinks was really good, or at least what little of it you could hear, and live this really is what dominates the songs. The new stuff fits in perfectly with the older songs, and when they are just played on guitar I enjoyed them miles more than on the record.
On Wednesday night I slept like a fucking corpse, and wandered into town at about three or four o’clock in the afternoon. First port of call was the Hype Machine to meet Dev Sherlock, who has had the unenviable task of editing our hour longs chats down in to concise five minute soundbites for Hype Machine Radio. It turns out that instead of simply being a nice bloke on the internet, he actually has a rather storied history as a music journalist and instead of going to a lot of music stuff we wandered off to the Ironworks to eat burned meat and pickles with a beer on the deck. It was very, very civillised and finally meeting someone who’s been an internet friend for a couple of years now was a rather strange pleasure.
On the subject of internet friends, I finally met a certain Campfires and Battlefields on Thursday evening at the 4AD/Bella Union showcase. I went in with the Broken Records lads to see them, Efterklang and Midlake, and ended up also catching an excellent set by John Grant, whose new album is out on Bella Union in a few weeks. He used to be in a band called Czars, who I also rather liked, and he sounded really good. When he sat down I expected something a bit like Bon Iver, but in fact it was probably closer to Rufus Wainright than anything else. Very promising, in any case.
Efterklang weren’t bad, and I am not going to go on about Broken Records (great idea – travel all the way to Texas just to go and see bands from Edinburgh). The real revelation of the night for me was just how good Midlake were, however. I saw them at the End of the Road Festival a couple of years ago and they were no better than pretty good, and their new album was pretty much like that as well: really enjoyable, but didn’t exactly blow me away. In the rather fantastic surroundings of Buffalo Billiards in Austin, however, they were pretty brilliant. The harmonies were gorgeous, and I have no idea why they needed five bloody guitarists, but the sound they made was so nice that you can’t really question them on that count.
And of course, just before the Midlake set, Jamie Broken Records tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘I think there’s someone here you should meet – a certain Mr. Campfires and Battlefields…’