For Day 1: click here
For Day 0: click here
First up on the agenda – get lunch. Street tacos are in order, and we definitely need some energy to get us past that morning jolt (read: 2 PM). But the day is just starting for us, and with trade shows full of the newest gear and more bands than we can count on the horizon, it’s looking like it’s going to be a great one.
Buried in the heart of the Austin Convention Center is the Gear Alley Expo, full of booths showcasing some of the best products in music tech. Providing a soundtrack for a corner was the Serato Scratch Live booth (see below), with a DJ showing off the true power of the Serato software, which takes a set of turntables and maps your MP3s to the vinyl records – allowing you to control music on your computer with a set of decks. However, new versions of the software allow the addition of digital controllers (the square piece of equipment with the light-up pads), which the DJ seamlessly brings into his set.
Not to be outdone by their fellow DJ/electronic music software colleagues, Abelton Live (see below) has a booth right next door. Also, Dubspot is there as well, spreading the word about their online classes to help emerging DJs and producers hone their craft.
Rock Strapless (see below) doesn’t just make ordinary shirts – the designs on these have a sort of static cling technology, where an acoustic guitar with “adhere” to the graphic. Wearing one of them, you can play acoustic guitar without a strap, but not worry about holding it up in the crook of your strumming arm.
Next, we roll over to check out some folks playing the handcrafted drums at the ZBG Drums display. Made by a few enthusiasts in New Mexico, the company creates their instruments out of different materials than traditional drums of this sort, which gives them a unique sound and feel. We try them out, and boy do they sound good.
Pulling a 180 from our acoustic drumming experience, we head to Roland’s booth to bang on a new set of V Drums (see below). You can modulate the sounds of your kit, and make your drums sound like just about anything.
We hear a guitar soundchecking, and follow the sounds to the back corner of the trade show hall to find a “hidden” showcase, which is curated by the Black Lips. The concept: speed sets of 15 minutes, and six garage-punk bands ready to set up and go. Also, the Black Lips demanded that beer would be free during the shows, and the Austin Convention Center had to oblige.
First on the list was Bare Wires (see above) – they didn’t seem to mind that they were playing on the floor in a blocked off corner of the trade hall. In fact, the tones on their guitars sound excellent, even though there is no sound guy (this is a really DIY setup).
After a quick five minute set change, The Yellow Dogs (see above) throw down a few songs for their speed set.
Our favorite of the mini-showcase was King Tuff (see above), who really took the word “speed” in “speed set” literally. The band blazed through their songs at breakneck speed, with band leader the King railing through solos with a 70s crunch.
The last band we see is Nashville’s Natural Child (see above), before we head out to meet Zion I and The Grouch at a listening party in the Presidential Suite at the historic Driskill Hotel. On the way, we catch an impromptu freestyle battle in the middle of 6th Street. Musicians are constantly setting up and playing shows on the block, from marching bands to street drummers.
The view from the balcony of the hotel suite is amazing, giving a great vantage point on the SXSW madness in the streets below. Zion I and The Grouch (see below) are celebrating the release of their new album, Heroes In The Healing Of The Nation, and the Grey Goose is most definitely flowing. Oh yeah, and the record – you better go pick one up, it was bumpin”!
Though it’s difficult to leave an excellent hotel part in full swing, we had to make it across the river to Auditorium Shores to see everyone’s favorite New York hipsters, The Strokes. Levi’s is sponsoring the show, so it’s free to any who want to attend. Saying that the area around the auditorium was pack would have been an understatement. Fighting through waves of freeloaders, we make it to a decent vantage point (see below). Julian Casablancas and Co. are in full swing, opening with a powerful rendition of “What Ever Happened?” The band plays a set full of The Strokes’ hits, along with a few new tracks from their upcoming record, Angles. Guitarists Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr. still mesh perfectly, playing interlocking riffs and trading solos. Casablancas’ voice still rings true, and he seems just as surprised as everyone else when fireworks start shooting off behind the stage during the encore closer, “Last Nite.”
Beating the mass exodus out of the gates, its time for, yes, more street tacos – all of this concert hopping works up an appetite. As our mouths slowly cool down from some insanely spicy salsa, we saunter over to Stubb’s to wait for TV on the Radio to go on at the AOL showcase. However, we are pleasantly surprised with opening act Charles Bradley & the Menahan Street Band (see below) – once we recognize the drummer from the Dap-Kings, we realize that the next hour is going to be a funky adventure. Bradly’s soulful screams and wails are met with massive applause, and the Menahan Street Band lay down a framework of tight grooves, keeping us dancing through the entire set. “I love you!” yells Bradley, and we shout it right back – he pours his heart right out during his set, and you can’t fake that kind of energy.
Twelve thirty rolls around, and TV on the Radio (see below) take the stage for a very intense, ninety minute set. The band puts a heavy dose of grit into all of their songs – even “Staring at the Sun” morphs into a driving, rock ‘n’ roll freakout, much different from it’s original version. “Wolf Like Me” and “Dancing Choose” were surefire hits with the crowd; however, on of TVOTR’s high points is a new song. Singer Tunde Adebimpe doesn’t name it, but if it’s a proper preview of the feel of their upcoming album, their new record will blow all of us away. The band’s thick soundscapes are excellently executed, with guitarists Kyp Malone and Dave Sitek modulating the tones of their instruments to nail the forboding feel of much of the group’s material.
The show ends at 2 AM, and all of the venues eject their crowds into the fray of 6th Street. The bars are all closing, but we don’t want to end the night just yet. University of Texas’ Co-Op is having a late night party, so we head towards campus in search of the complex. As the daylight hours approach, a jam session materializes on one of the balconies (see below). Guitars, violin, horns, you name it – everyone was belting out folk tunes until an angry student appeared, explaining that five in the morning was not the best time to engage in such activity outside. We beg to differ, but hey – you can’t please everyone! Time for some late night diner food, and then lights out.