Aurgasm@SXSW 2011 – Day Three
Pepper Rabbit’s set at The Orchard’s party on Friday morning was a bit of an odd one — the group’s normally lush and orchestral sound was stripped down as Xander Singh played solo in in front of a small group of us at Bar 96. Xander admitted, “It’s a little weird to hear my music like this.” Weird, maybe, but still a lovely way to start off the day, and hearing the tracks performed that way was a unique experience. A couple hours later, Serena and I were working upstairs in the Convention Center, just outside the Day Stage where the full band was playing a set. I lucked out, catching two sides of Pepper Rabbit, if only by happenstance. Don’t forget to listen to “Harvest Moon” off their debut album, Beauregard below!
Just after Xander’s set, we booked it across town to catch Brian Wright bringing some good old rock and roll Americana to The Belmont. Brian Wright and his band played an energetic set which included a personal favorite of mine, “Glory Hallelujah”, as well as mix of songs from both his upcoming album, House On Fire and his previous two albums. The early set meant a smallish crowd, but the energy levels were high — especially for the small group of fans that crowded in front of the stage! Brian’s new album comes out next week, you can get a quick preview by taking a listen to “Accordion” below!
We headed back where we came from to catch singer-songwriter Kina Grannis at Bar 96. Serena, who has been patiently shooting SXSW for us, was a fan of Kina’s already, and in no time it was obvious why. Kina’s songs are sweet with the occasional melancholic hint, but most of all, undeniably catchy — essentially, everything you could want in an pop song. She may have first landed on everyone’s radar because of the Super Bowl contest she won back in 2007, but it’s her nuanced songwriting and charming performances that makes Kina a musician to keep an eye on. She’s re-releasing her 2010 album, Stairwells, next month, and you can check out the song “Valentine” below. Kina also recorded a cover of the Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter Hymnal” which you can download here.
We swung by The Ale House to catch Buddy’s set, but even as he started playing, the noise levels from the audience were overwhelming; not a good mix, especially for self-described “wimpycore” that Buddy and his band play. Despite it all, Buddy and drummer Al Sgro played the show like champs, playing a short set of folk-pop inspired tunes from his full length, Alterations and Repairs, as well as a couple new ones. There’s a sweetness to Buddy’s songs, as well as a goofy streak (as evidenced by a Whitesnake singalong to “Here I Go Again” that he started). Early in the set, Buddy mentioned that there were supposed to be six of them on stage, and quipped, “It’s the White Stripes version of us.” Later on they became a trio when Holly Conlan (who was mentioned here back in 2009) came up to accompany him on a few songs. It’s no Whitesnake, but take a listen to “Silent Treatment”, and a live cut of “If We Lived Here” below:
The Chapin Sisters
The Chapin SIsters were briefly mentioned in our coverage of SXSW last year, when they sang background vocals for She & Him. This year they were front and center at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary, with a full band to back them up! Abigail and Lily’s haunting vocal harmonies and ethereal melodies filled St. David’s as they played a collection of songs from their album, Two. A personal highlight was when, near the end of their set, they shed the band and sang an acapella version of “Sweet Light” to everyone’s delight.
Thao with The Get Down Stay Down
I’ve been a fan of Thao’s for a while now, and we first featured her here back in 2008. Since then, she’s released another full length with The Get Down Stay Down ( Know Better Learn Faster, 2009), and has a new album with Mirah releasing in a few weeks. Antone’s was completely packed just before Thao and The Get Down Stay Down hit the stage — they’re always a blast to see live, but from Thao’s hilarious soundcheck ditty alone, you knew you were in for a great time. (“I always drink Shiner, like a wino. And that’s all right.”) Typically The Get Down Stay Down is comprised of Willis Thompson on drums and Adam Thompson (no relation) on bass, but the stage was filled with a few extras — including a violinist, trombonist, and guitarist/keyboardist. They wailed through a set which included tracks from both their albums, including “Body”, “Know Better Learn Faster”, a sick keyboard solo in the middle of “Feet Asleep”, and my favorite part of hearing “Bag of Hammers” live — the most impressive “three sounds at once” vocal intro you’ll ever hear. The band’s set was a high-energy mess of handclaps, foot stomps, soaring horns and exuberant vocals. You can take a listen to “Bag of Hammers” from We Brave Bee Stings & All and “Know Better Learn Faster” and “When We Swam” from Know Better Learn Faster below.
Ben Sollee is another familiar face here at Aurgasm — we previously featured him back in 2008, just after his debut album Learning To Bend released. Since then, he’s released an album with Daniel Martin Moore, Dear Companion in 2010, and has been noted for his political activism, especially relating to his home state of Kentucky. We found ourselves back at St. David’s for the last showcase of the night, where Ben was joined onstage by Jordan Ellis on drums; Phoebe Hunt, Cheyenne Marie Mize, and Tracy Bonham on violin; and occasionally, Abigail Washburn on background vocals. Just before introducing his band, Ben said, “The thing about being an independent musician is that you can’t do it without a lot of help.” That sense of camaraderie and simple joy in playing music with friends pervaded the atmosphere at St. David’s. Ben went on to play a number of songs from his upcoming album, Inclusions, which he described as his search for the answer to the fact that, “More than ever, people are living in urban environments. What does that mean for folk music?” He went on to say that “it can be in the car you hear playing a bass line you dig, and also your grandfather teaching you the fiddle.” I’m not sure what the answer may be, but if Ben’s new songs are any indication, it will certainly be beautiful.
I met Bob Boilen (of NPR’s All Songs Considered) after Ben’s set, and he pretty much summed up my thoughts on the evening: