What It Was Like: Film School, The Acorn, A Place to Bury Strangers, Sea Wolf
Saturday saw another slew of impressive day-time shows. I spent most of my afternoon at the Hot Freaks party at Mohawk, then made it to the Convention Center and, finally, found my way over to the Cedar Street Courtyard for the tail end of the Filter party. It wasn't has hot as Friday was--but it wasn't exactly chilly either. Anyway, here's What It Was Like...
Band: Film School, loud indie rockers from San Francisco
Where: Mohawk's outdoor stage
What It Was Like: Listening to a band that takes itself a bit too seriously. Maybe it's because it was hot out, or maybe that's just how this band is (I've never seen them live before), but Film School wasn't too exciting to watch on stage on Saturday afternoon. The bass was loud and the post-grunge art rock/shoegaze sound was fine. But it wasn't anything to go ga-ga over. Maybe if the band looked like it was having a little more fun up there, that would've carried over a bit to the crowd, who looked every bit as bored as the band did.
Verdict: Undecided, really. Film School doesn't have a bad sound--I've liked their recorded efforts so far. But their live performance wasn't really suited for an outdoor day-party, and the bass was too turned up on the sound system to really give this band's live show a fair judgment. At moments they were amazing, at others they were deathly boring. I'm still up in the air. (Note: I was so unsure I nearly hit the band's night-time performance at Bourbon Rocks, but backed out at the last second in an effort to see as many bands as possible.)
Random Note: It might not have been as excruciatingly hot on Saturday as it was Friday, but it seemed like enough of the audience had learned its lesson the day before. Wherever possible, the crowds packed into the shaded spaces beneath the tents at the outside venues.
Band: The Acorn, indie poppers from Ottawa
Where: Mohawk's indoor stage
What it Was Like: Watching a band that, if it was just a bit more upbeat and had higher pitched vocals, could have been Vampire Weekend. With two and sometimes three members of six-membered The Acorn working percussions at any given time, this was undoubtedly a drum-reliant outfit, and it, at times, did delve into very Vampire Weekend-similar afro-beats, although the guitars and vocals were more folk-based than VW's pop-based schtick.
Verdict: Pretty good stuff from these Canucks. The multiple drum and plucked guitar sound resulted in a very pleasing folk-based indie pop rock sound that managed to come off as fun and catchy, without being forgettable.
Random Note: With the sun shining through the windows from just to the side of the stage, the whole set had a very rustic feel. Perfect for the sound. And the band's name, really.
Band: A Place to Bury Strangers
Where: Mohawk's outdoor stage
What It Was Like: Going deaf. This three-piece Brooklyn-based shoegaze act provided the loudest set I heard throughout SXSW--especially surprising because the set came on an outdoor stage. I had earplugs, thankfully, but the rest of the crowd resorted to finger-plugging. And no one, it seemed, was too pissed about it. People smiled at their own goofiness, and no one ran for the door.
Verdict: Very good. With a drugged out sound coming from an on-point rhythm section and a very noisy, ethereal guitar, A Place to Bury Strangers lived up to its dark name by offering the crowd a very nightmarish set. The one detractor? The length of the songs. At the beginning of the set, this wasn't a bad thing. But when the band ended its set with a 15-minute effort, there were a lot of curious looks flashing back and forth within the crowd. Oh well, I didn't really mind. The 15 minutes went by quickly.
Random Note: Surely, I'm not the only one who thinks the lead singer of A Place to Bury Strangers (far left) looks a lot like the lead singer from Silverchair (middle)?
Band: Sea Wolf, Los Angeles-based indie rockers with a hint of alt-country twang
Where: Cedar Street Courtyard
What It Was Like: Floating in a turbulent sea. The reverb of this band's picked electric guitars paired with its methodical key parts, strummed acoustic elements and tender distant vocals definitely give this band a sound that lives up to the "Sea" portion of its name.
Verdict: Definitely a fan. My only previous experience with this band came a few weeks back when I was wandering through Good Records, checking out the listening stations. I came across Sea Wolf and had it in my pile of CDs to purchase and spend some more time with--until I got up to the check out line and realized I couldn't afford all the discs. Sea Wolf got the ax then, but, with this performance, made it back onto my must-buy checklist.
Random Note: Sea Wolf was the second-to-last act to play a pretty decent Filter magazine party bill. Other acts on this day-party's schedule included DeVotchKa, Grand Archives and Kate Nash. -- Pete Freedman