This week, thousands of bands, journalists, publicists, record label reps and hungry music fans are in Austin, Texas for South By Southwest. Soundcheck producer Michael Katzif is there, too, bringing you a taste of the festival each day with blog posts, photos and more.
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Saturday night at South By Southwest often offers the biggest surprises and blowouts to end the festival that everyone ends up gushing about. This year was no different. There was Justin Timberlake's much-rumored not-so-secret secret show for MySpace and the Smashing Pumpkins playing Red Bull's Sound Select: 120 Hours stage to celebrate frontman Billy Corgan's birthday. And there was Prince, performing an exclusive show at La Zona Rosa -- which also featured A Tribe Called Quest -- that lasted until 3 a.m. and ended, predictably with a singalong of "Purple Rain."
There was also a rumor about a solo performance from Flaming Lips frontman and spirit guide Wayne Coyne. Until there wasn't when that never materialized.
I get the appeal of seeing these megastars in intimate spaces for special one-off shows, but very few actually get a chance to see these. I love Timberlake or Prince's music as much as most people, but for me, I was just uninterested in committing to staying in one place all night in hopes of catching an up-close glimpse. As cool as it might be to say "Yeah, I was there," I'd walk away with the same feeling of "Yep, Prince is still pretty awesome."
Instead, with so much music to hear, I packed in as many shows as I could on Saturday day and night. I started the morning with the noisy rock of Brass Bed, accidentally saw Toronto punk band METZ for a third time, and ended my late afternoon with Telekinesis (again). And all in between, caught sets that included grungy rocker Mac DeMarco; the heavy obliterating feedback of A Place To Bury Strangers; propulsive rock of The Thermals, sparkly dancepop of Empress Of; hazy indie rock of Widowspeak; droning, Indian-tinged psyche rock of Elephant Stone; and Dallas band Air Review, who must have drawn an unlucky number by having to play it's set in a banging, over-crowded dance club full of people ready to party, rather than see them. Such is the SXSW experience though.
Here are a few other highlights.
Micah P. Hinson and his wife perform Saturday at Red Eyed Fly in Austin, Texas during South By Southwest 2013. (Photo by Michael Katzif/WNYC)
MICAH P. HINSON @ Red Eyed Fly
I have heard about Abilene, Texas-based singer-songwriter Micah P. Hinson for years, and I'm positive I may have a few of his records thanks to a friend and former colleague, who absolutely adores Hinson. But it wasn't until his set Saturday night was I won over by his peculiar singing voice -- sometimes deadpan like Bill Callahan, or warbling like Vic Chesnutt -- and his heartbreaking lyrics. Hinson played his folky country songs mostly solo in a too noisy bar patio, but when he brought his wife up on stage for a duet -- sung into the same old-timey microphone like Johnny and June Carter Cash might've -- the entire place went more-or-less silent. It was a lovely moment for a songwriter that most people still do not know, but really should.
Houses performs Saturday at The Mohawk in Austin, Texas during South By Southwest 2013. (Photo by Michael Katzif/WNYC)
HOUSES @ The Mohawk
A few years back I came across and fell in love with the music of Houses -- a Chicago-based electronic pop duo Dexter Tortoriello and Megan Messina -- when I heard All Night, a superb, subtle and dreamy record constructed while living briefly in a cabin in Hawaii. But I had never seen the band live. In a set that showcased new songs -- such as "Beginnings" from the upcoming album A Quiet Darkness, Houses displayed one of the prettiest and outright earnest sets all week.
Fear Of Men performs Saturday at The Mohawk in Austin, Texas during South By Southwest 2013. (Photo by Michael Katzif/WNYC)
FEAR OF MEN @ The Mohawk
In the new discovery department, Fear Of Men is a band I knew very little about besides wanting to check them out. The London/Brighton band fronted by singer Jessica Weiss makes gauzy, heart-swelling and bittersweet pop music that a friend described as '60s girl groups meets shoegaze. The show was intimate but as the sound swirled around the small room, it was clear this band was build for a larger hall. It turned out to be a great surprise I'm anxious to hear more of.
To see more photos from last night, be sure to go to Soundcheck's Tumblr page.