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SXSW 2012: Day Four | X-Rated

photos and writing by Hilary Stohs-Krause

At a festival as excessive as SXSW, credentials change everything.

No more waiting in hours-long lines, only to enter the club as the band you were waiting for says goodnight to the crowd.  A press badge on the camera means access to photo pits and ultimately, better shots. And the official schedule book? Awesome.

I definitely saw bigger bands this year, and since Hear Nebraska sponsored my wristband, it was also my cheapest foray into the gluttony of SXSW.

But there are downsides, as well. Seeing bigger bands, like Tennis, Kimbra and The Magnetic Fields, means I missed out on the smaller bands that made the previous years so memorable, like The Shivers, Sharon Van Etten (who was doing house shows the first time I saw her), Anni Rossi, and Micachu and the Shapes.

We had to file stories, photos and video in the morning, so I went to very few day shows, which are the staple of the non-badged — parks, cafes, basements, backyards, burger joints, with their free beer, or brownies, or vegan brunch, whatever the case might be. But what I missed was more intangible than just a keg and some local bands — it was the sense of community, the camaraderie of music lovers and artists and friends pulled together from across the country for one week. I had a great time last weekend, but it just wasn’t the same. I felt almost like an outsider, looking in and taking notes instead of participating and contributing.

But at the same time, I got to see Tennis, Kimbra, and The Magnetic Fields, and those years when I didn’t have a wristband, I couldn’t help but envy those who did.

Like anything, it’s a matter of balance; next year, I’ll know better how to manage the communion of the underground SXSW with the commotion of the corporate SXSW.

(And I’ll bring a bike.)

Harouki Zombi

“What is this?” I heard someone in the crowd say when Harouki Zombi took the stage.

What indeed.

Harouki Zombi comprises Of Montreal’s Nina Barnes and perennial Saddle Creek Records artist Orenda Fink (Azure Ray, Art in Manila, O+S). It’s a zombie geisha performance art DJ duo, and it’s a fucking spectacle: glitter, confetti, make-up, costume changes, paint, balloons, horror, video, crowd-surfing, dancing, erotica and Macbooks.


They played a mix of original tracks (download “Swamp Theme” here) and others’ work – including “Glass Danse” by Omaha group The Faint, a band that counts Fink’s husband Todd as a member, and “Killer Babes” (download here) by Omaha band Icky Blossoms, half of whose musicians were in attendance … by which I mean dancing their hearts out on stage.

It was a fantastic time and place to be a Nebraskan.

For the most part, they read the crowd well, and people happily grooved to the blend of electronica, Motown and dance music whilst painting the accompanying dance troupe, tossing balloons and wiping glitter out of their eyes. (An audience member in one of those skintight, head-to-toe green suits was brought on stage, only to blatantly grope the geishas.)

They had the courtesan part down pat — the dancing (apart from handsy green guy) was undeniably sexy — but the zombie aspect was pretty lacking, apart from a few moments where dancers ate some kind of black goo from bowls. I’d love to see more horror brought into the mix to counter the pretty heteronormative notions of sexy. The “sexy geisha” aspect also made me a little uncomfortable … perhaps I’m reading into this, but the fans and kimonos the DJs and dancers started out wearing struck me as cultural misappropriation – I'd be curious to hear what you guys think in the comments.

But dammit, they were fun, and I’d see them perform again in a heartbeat.

Luckily for me — and for you — they’re coming to Omaha’s House of Loom on April 27 to perform with Goo.

Lydia Loveless

Twangy, forlorn, rebel-with-a-heart-of-gold, indie-honky tonk singer-songwriter Lydia Loveless played at Duffy’s Tavern in Lincoln a few months ago, but I skipped the show because — wait for it — I was too tired to go downtown.

I find that ironic, given that by the third night of SXSW, I was exhausted, yet still managed to catch her set at Red Eyed Fly.

I was a little disappointed, to be honest. After a while, everything kind of started to sound the same, but I held out, hoping she’d slip in a particular song before calling it a night. As you can see from the tweet below, I lucked out: it was her final song.


Agent Ribbons

Former Omahan-turned Austin transplant Cass Brostad recommended former Sacramentans-turned-Austinites Agent Ribbons to me when she and Mandy Rowden did an X-Rated in-studio.


Blown. Away.

Agent Ribbons is a two-piece band, just electric guitar, drums and voices, and I was hooked before the first song was finished. It’s like Sleater-Kinney surfer rock with a hint of The White Stripes and Dark Dark Dark. (I know, right?) They describe themselves on their Facebook page as “a tree house club of post-feminist dreamers.“ I bought their latest record, and can’t wait to play it on the air.  

A band to watch, as the kids say.

Mynabirds

SXSW 2012: The Mynabirds


I first saw Omaha-based group the Mynabirds perform as a full band at The Zoo Bar a few weeks ago, and the venue was shockingly barren — maybe 20 people attended, tops. Peckerheads, the worst-named venue in the history of the world, was a different story.

The Mynabirds had been added to a Colorado showcase, but when the emcee misidentified them as from that state, lead singer Laura Burhenn quickly — yet diplomatically — set the record straight.

The bar was split between drunken St. Patty’s Day revelers and those there for the music, and an undercurrent of conversation filtered behind the entire performance, but it didn’t detract much.

In fact, several different people approached my friend and me to ask the band’s name, likely because we were dancing (and occasionally singing along). As with their Zoo Bar show and the Saddle Creek showcase the day before, the Mynabirds primarily played material from their forthcoming sophomore album, GENERALS, due for release in June. Burhenn led the crowd in a sing-along during the title track, with decent crowd participation.

I can’t wait for the new record.

Ryat

Ryat played in Lincoln about a year ago, and collaborated with Lincolnites The Show is the Rainbow and Big Messy on a song and video while in town.

I was a little confused when I made my way to the stage, since only one person was performing, and I’d thought Ryat was a duo. Looks like Ryat is similar to Icky Blossoms — a band with a few core members and a wide variety of collaborators. Christina Ryat IS Ryat, and more often than not she plays with Tim Conley. This time, however, she took the stage alone.

Ryat’s version of electronica is more akin to Zola Jesus than, say, Skrillex — dark, moody and undulating as opposed to dancey and pulsating. About a dozen people weren’t even standing, but instead nestled into giant bean bags circling the stage.

Ryat, however, kept her energy high and proved herself an expressive performer, even though necessarily glued to her mics, laptop, and instruments, She was in a great space, too — dark and smoky, with a constant interplay of light, shadow and projection.

Clock Opera


Totally thought Clock Opera was a DJ.

After all, the entity had released some of my absolute favorite remixes, and as its debut album hasn’t been released yet (due in the U.S. April 23), their remixes are pretty much the only thing to be found online.

Of course, it turns out that Clock Opera is, in fact, a band, but I was pleased to discover that their remix style – electro-indie-pop with a emphasis on rhythm, percussion and pacing – is rooted in their original compositions.  

Clock Opera, a London band, performed at Latitude 30 as part of a British showcase. Like New Zealander Kimbra, it was their first tour in the U.S., though their 7th or 8th show instead of their first. They employed an oddball array of noisemakers, including what appeared to be a tea kettle, creating a sort of urban orchestra. Sturdy yet lithe melodic indie-rock with electronic tendencies — one of my new favorite bands.

Hilary Stohs-Krause gets her local music fix through HN and as a cocktail waitress at Duffy's Tavern. For more on Nebraska ladies making music, tune into the "X-Rated: Women in Music" radio show every Thursday from 1:05 to 3 p.m. CST at 89.3 FM KZUM in Lincoln or streaming live at kzum.org. Find it on Facebook at facebook.com/xmusicnebraska.