Infinite Shuffle

March 17, 2011

SXSW 2011: Day 1

Filed under: Austin, SXSW — assman41 @ 1:30 am

I’m writing this around 12:30 a.m. Thursday after wimping out and heading back to my home base early. I’ve been awake since about 9:30 and apparently am supposed to wake up that early again today, so I’m exhausted.

As for my health, I’m still nowhere near 100 percent, but I didn’t feel like I was gonna die at any point, so that’s an improvement.

Thankfully, I was able to see several good, new bands and even checked off one of my personal main attractions.

We started the day parking quite a ways east of the highway, just off of 8th Street, then hiking to The Paste Party at the Stage on Sixth. We got in immediately and greeted by the sounds of the male-female folk duo The Civil Wars.

The pair, who met in Nashville, gave off a very familiar and passionate tone. John Paul White, who is a spitting image of Johnny Depp, strummed along on his acoustic guitar, while he and Joy Williams crooned as if they were singing to each other without an audience even there.

I don't know if you can tell, but that dude in The Civil Wars looks just like Johnny Depp.

After skipping the next act and pausing for some free refreshments, we caught the first few songs by Trampled By Turtles. A couple of members of our crew were super-excited to see this bluegrass band. As it turned out, we all agreed they were a dud and nothing really special.

At that point, we headed around the corner to Red Eyed Fly to see what was going on there. We missed We Barbarians and The Spinto Band. We strolled back to the patio and caught the last portion of the John Vanderslice set.

Now, he’s not a bad artist by any means, and I didn’t mind listening to him, but as for excitement value, he tied with Trampled By Turtles for worst show of the day.

A little later, O’Death hit the stage. Some fellow members of the audience to approached our group earlier referred to this group as hardcore bluegrass or bluegrass punk.

I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it’s close enough, and they were relatively solid. Also, the lead singer was rather awkward with his between-songs banter, which was amusing to watch.

The dude to the right, with the big guitar, is the awkward lead singer of O'Death.

At that point, me and a member of our crew, Audrey, headed back to the Paste Party to catch a show I was really looking forward to. Meanwhile, everyone else stayed behind to watch The Dodos. Apparently, they were awesome, and I still hope to see them at some point.

After waiting in line a few minutes, we headed in and decided to actually watch the show before our featured performer. We were handsomely rewarded for our open-mindedness.

The group, Lord Huron, was pretty awesome and definitely one of my favorite discoveries in the first two days.

For the other members of our group, I described their sound as island folk, and Laura added the line, “that occasionally shot into outer space.”

Just looking at the guys, they looked like they could have been apart of just about any genre. The only connection to an island sound was the bassist, who is black and head massive dreadlocks.

Basically, they played really solid folk rock, but the percussionist, who was wearing a washboard on his chest, had several instruments at his disposal to add an island flair — including maracas and an electronic steel drum.

Lord Huron's percussionist (in green) is wearing a washboard on his chest.

After their penultimate song, I headed over to the smaller, outdoor stage to get a good spot for Kopecky Family Band. As I had imagined and heard from others, they put on an amazing live set.

Having first heard them on recordings, their live sound didn’t quite live up to that, but you could tell they had the potential to be great.

I also cut them some slack, because of the six members in the band, I think they were only able to fit four of them on the dinky stage at a time and often just had three. It was interesting watching them contort their bodies to get around each other and their instruments. I bet on a real stage they would be amazing.

Also, most of the member play several instruments, the most impressive of which was the lead male vocalist, who played guitar and tooted on the slide trombone a few times. You could tell he was winded, having to blow on the trombone, then immediately sing a line, then stand back and gasp for air.

This was probably my favorite show of the night.

The lone female in Kopecky Family Band is rather fetching.

Then we proceeded to lounge around for about an hour in the grass off the back patio, and eventually got our hands on some free nachos, courtesy of Qdoba.

Shortly thereafter, we headed a couple of blocks down to El Sol y La Luna to eat some more Mexican grub and listen to a band whose members are all friends of Laura, our crew’s obligatory townie.

The band was named What On Earth. I didn’t bold that one, because they’re a little out there and aren’t playing the type of stuff you’re gonna find on iTunes. They’ve amassed a whole treasure trove of interesting instruments from across the globe and combine them to make music that is sometimes awesome and sometimes odd.

The band's name says it all -- What On Earth.

After hanging out there for a couple of hours, we tried to track down a show worth paying money for, which was easier said than done.

Walking about eight blocks west, we couldn’t find anything worthwhile. On our way back, we ducked into One 2 One Bar and caught the tail end of a set by Dear Lions. I was already starting to fade at that point, but from the few songs I heard, they seemed like a solid little indie folk band — not a bad group to end my night on.

We left there and headed closer to downtown, trying to find something worthy of our  cash. By the time we got to Barbarella, the one band I was interested in was already halfway through its set, so that’s when Laura and I split away from the group and headed back to bed.

Weak, I know. But we may have an early day tomorrow. There was talk of showing up as early as noon to catch Great Lake Swimmers. But they’re also playing a later set elsewhere, which is what I’d prefer to attend.

I guess we’ll see. We really don’t have a plan of attack at this point anymore.


  • Kopecky Family Band
  • Lord Huron
  • The Civil Wars
  • O’Death
  • Dear Lions
  • John Vanderslice
  • Trampled By Turtles


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