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SXSW 2011: Friday Part II

21 Mar

…Friday at SXSW 2011 continues below…

The rest of the day on Friday was a grab-bag of amusements, music and dealing with the influx of new people to the Festival. It is hairy enough when the thousands of festival-goers are out in the streets at night, but add in the college students and regular partiers for a Friday night and Sixth Street turns absolutely manic. To cool off a little bit and duck in off the street, we headed into a day party sponsored by Sennheiser headphones, that a PR rep had stopped us and told us about the day before. There were two distinct advantages to the party; first, a chance to catch The Luyas, a Montreal quartet whose electric folk pop had a distinctly chamber orchestra appeal. Onstage was not only the usual assortment of guitars and keyboards, but also a French horn and a pedal steel/zither combo which gave their sweet harmonizing a slightly other-worldly lift. They are in at the Cedar Cultural Center on 4/4, and it’s worth checking out a band comprised of former members of Belle Orcheste, Miracle Fortress and Arcade Fire. The other plus was scoring a free pair of Sennheiser CX300 earbuds, which their PR rep was very excited I say something nice about. He shouldn’t have been so worried as the earbuds, which come with different gauges of plastic cover to fit different ears, were not only extremely comfortable, but also had a really great bass sound and resonance- they made flying home and ignoring everyone else on the plane a breeze.

After a brief respite and cool down, there was some time to kill before we headed back to Stubb’s to catch CakeIn15 faves The Airborne Toxic Event and so the Last Gang party at the arty Swan Dive seemed an appropriate choice, it was close by and they were sound-checking in French when we walked past. The French turned out to be the band We Are Enfant Terrible from Lille, France (which begs the question, in France, are they “Nous Sommes Terrible Child”?) a Matt and Kim like electroclash three-piece with a live drummer bouncing himself off his stool and female lead snapping off lyrics about having crushes and pushing limits and leaping off pianos on to the stage. It was super energetic, which, it turns out, was just the kind of shot in the arm needed around 10pm after a full day of music and trekking already.

At Stubb’s, TATE were joined on stage by The Calder Quartet, a string quartet which reinforced their already symphonic sound. Their first songs were new tunes built up over the last two and a half years of touring, gearing up to the April 26th release of their sophomore LP, All At Once. Judging from the new tracks, they are louder and more complex than the the tunes on their self-titled debut, but dealing with some of the same issues in frontman Mikel Jollet’s literary fashion, fitting in well with songs like “Wishing Well”, a standout track from that debut. They come to the Varsity in May, a step up after filling up the Fine Line and Triple Rock as headliners.

The last act of the night was King Charles, who had made quite a stir when he opened for Mumford & Sons in the First Avenue Mainroom, if not only for his eccentric English folk melodies, but also for his very revealing white silk breeches. His Alone On The Throne EP has been getting quite a a lot of play since that show and the mood of that record is mostly folk and acoustic oriented, so it was odd to see him play the back of a bro bar with test-tube shots circulating, it was even more odd to see him fit in there. Backed by a full band and in front of a raving crowd, he mixed in a lot of swampy blues guitar and Southern rock riffs into high energy and uptempo versions of songs like “Love Lust” and “Beating Hearts”, along with some countrified heartbreak tunes. He dedicated a song to “the kind of animals you find in Mississippi” which was about girls with “the hot heart of a polar bear, the cool head of a crocodile” and by the end of the set, he had tried to swing from the rafters, jumped off speaker stacks, unleashed his giant dreads and torn up a Gibson. When his time was up, the sports bar crowd didn’t want to let him go, even as he sadly apologized to the crowd that he wasn’t permitted to carry on. He didn’t seem particularly happy at any point in the set, like some girl in Mississippi really had done him wrong, and to hear some of the more delicate and enjoyable parts of his songs get crushed under Lynyrd Skynyrd riffs left us, if not heart-broken, a little confused as to the direction of our relationship.

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