Like everyone who went to South by Southwest, I am exhausted and have a raging headache, but I have some wonderful sonic memories of the past weekend to snuggle. Here’s a brief rundown of what I made it to at SXSW.
The Antlers – Club De Ville
“Sylvia” by The Antlers was the best song I saw performed at SXSW. That should come as no surprise, really, considering how epic the song is, but as the opening song in the set of a band not exactly known for loud, attention-calling music, it was gutsy. However, while the rest of The Antlers’ set didn’t live up to that first spine-shivering moment, when frontman Peter Silberman’s voice stretched beyond the considerable lengths it does on the album Hospice, the band was definitely louder and more interesting to see live than I expected, drumming up plenty of electronic noise to fill out the space created in its dark lullabies.
Abe Vigoda – Cheer Up Charlies
Abe Vigoda put on a brilliant set of mostly new tunes that feature more keyboard and tunefulness than in previous outings, but with the same manic power that has drawn them a growing following. Particularly engaging was new song “Pure Violence,” which, despite its name, dials down the atonal guitar interplay to focus on straight-ahead rush, as well as graceful instrumental sections that build off the momentum of last year’s exquisite Reviver EP.
Memory Tapes / Washed Out – Klub Krucial
Bits and pieces of bands here and there, but the next memorable set I saw came from Memory Tapes. Memory Tapes’ blissed-out, stratospheric dance music gets a new-wave boost live, sounding like New Order’s offspring. While embracing trance and house beats, Memory Tapes main man Dayve Hawk is still very aware of the power of a solid bassline, not to mention some surprisingly sweet riffage. Quite fittingly, another one-man chillwave band, Washed Out, followed with a set that deftly built from Ernest Greene enthusiastically moaning into a mic and dancing while synths sort of played themselves to a luminescent full-band set with (also great) chillwave band Small Black playing backup. For a sound based on hazy, unremembered nostalgia of ’80s new wave and hip-hop (how old is Greene, like, 20?), Washed Out sounded very much alive and current both times I saw them at South By, boosted by an energetic frontman too charming to hide behind a torrent of reverb forever.