SXSW 2010 Festival Review: WhoMadeWho, The Black Angels, Liars, dd/mm/yyyy, Bear In Heaven

So, despite my whirlwind Americana tour of the Southwest (courtesy of the Cash Only: Diners, Dive Bars, and Yardsales Road Trip), I still managed to enjoy a healthy dose of sonic debauchery in Austin, Texas. Below are my TOP FIVER PICKS from this year’s SxSW Festivus Maximus!


5. The fold-out couch I drooled and snored on from approximately 5:00am to 10:00am every day.

Just kidding. That’s actually number one.


5. Bear In Heaven
We annoyed the shit out of these guys by following them around all of Wednesday. Then we kept running into them the next three days, as if we were stalker ex-girlfriends. Then I made the always classy move of calling guitarist Adam Wills by the name Joe, all weekend. In turn, I called drummer Joe Stickney, Adam to keep the playing field even. In any case, Bear In Heaven’s music is huge, brilliant, heavy, and fun all in one. The only reason they are number five is because I knew what I was getting into with these guys. I’ve been listening to them for about four months, and I would love to dance around an apartment during a party, listening to their tunes on fat can headphones, and having people wonder: a) who the shit is that guy?; and b) what’s he listening to that makes him dance like that?



4. dd/mm/yyyy
Speaking of dancing, or rather, convulsing erratically, number four in the countdown is pronounced “Day Month Year.” This Canadian quintet, hailing from Toronto, wailed! Their sparse lyrics and unique overblown punk progressive everything made for one of the best live shows I’ve seen in years. I wouldn’t use their music for ambience whilst writing a novel. I wouldn’t play their tracks at the local book club soirée. However, if you need to demolish a dilapidated house or barn in 25 minutes, just get me a sledgehammer and an iPod full of dd/mm/yyyy. I’ll have it to rubble lickity-split! After the show, they invited us to have poutine with them. That’s French fries covered in cheese curds and gravy, for those of you who don’t speak Canadien.


3. Liars
Speaking of splits, I am very perplexed as to where to put the Liars. In surpise-factor, they are number one for me. Their broody, dark albums that make you want to wring your hands and plot your next major caper/revenge on society, are a complete 180 degree turn from their bouncing, chanting, fun, and hard as hell live show. This West-coast-East-coast-plus-an-Aussie-Islander group gave a good dose of whiplash to 95% of the crowd at Club de Ville at 4 in the afternoon. I can’t imagine what they did at their nighttime show at Antone’s. If their new album Sisterworld, does not catapult them into rock solidarity, the earth will implode post haste. Their music sounds like… like… well, for the most part, it sounds like a very young and very drunk Tom Waits is experimenting with delightful melodies while crashing cars in an abandoned East Berlin parking lot. You know, when you get the ’83 BMW going about 35km/h, then tuck and roll out the driver side and watch it smash into a concrete wall.



2. The Black Angels
I’m going to be honest. I did not expect much from this Austin-based rock powerhouse. I have had their album, Passover, for about two years now, and I glazed over it, thinking it was typical blues-driven American hard rock. I was right, except I forgot how fucking awesome that is. Especially live. The lead guitarist is a slave to his left-handed vintage Rickenbacker, which must have cost at least $3,000. I bet he just leaves the guitar on at night, humming in the corner, and by morning, all his droning riffs of glory are implanted in his brain. The Black Angels did everything you want a band to do during a live show. Every bit of every song was orchestrated to extract every last scream from my lungs and every last swoon from all the black leather-clad females in the crowd. Blown away does not begin to describe it.


1. WhoMadeWho
I don’t know who made them, or me. But I do know they made me… DANCE! It takes a special ability — possessed by this Danish duo — to organically provide full beat-and-rhythm-driven electro-sounding music. WhoMadeWho are just two guys with a guitar, bass, and keys, bouncing around and having the time of their lives on stage. They also played the crowd perfectly — as perfectly as they played off each other. It was like a tag team of funky, dancey elicitations. As one moved into the crowd, nearly throwing his bass onto the front row, the other would offer moustache rides to the second row from behind his Korg. I knew these guys would be amazing; I just didn’t think they would be that amazing. I would say the coup-de-grâce on this sonic bloodbath would be their coordinated dance moves ala German Bier garden style. I tell you, a few well-timed leg kicks, and I am hooked!


Last minute submission. Pattern Is Movement
I don’t know where to put these guys, both sonically and in the countdown. So I shall place Pattern Is Movement here! I can only say one thing about this duo. They’re soul-filled lumberjacks. Enjoy!


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