photos and words by Shannon Claire
It was time for round three, and quite honestly, I was and am exhausted. However, after our awesome HN/Nebraska friends and artist meetup at The Library Lounge I was pumped up with a little too much whiskey and was ready for the night.
Now entering the weekend portion of SXSW, the streets were insane. No matter what sidewalk or street — brick paved or cement — it was all nudge come to shove. As we departed from our gathering, most of us made the treck to the west side of downtown for the Saddle Creek showcase.
Icky Blossoms were just taking stage to quite an impressive full house in the upstairs part of Lamberts. It's not news to most that I am quite an Icky Blossoms fan. During my near panic attack of leaving my ID and credit card on the table of the bar 10 blocks back (later rescued by the darling Hilary Stohs-Krause), I realized I was going to have to shake it off. IB were electric as always. And with Saber Blazek assisting on bass and Clark Baechle on drums, their sound is tighter than ever.
Big Harp took the stage next, and I was excited to finally see them. I really like their sound as they go from saloon-inspired folk rock to something more romantic. I of course love their story as well. Saddle Creek put's it best: "(They) met. Fell in love. Made a baby boy. Got married. Made a baby girl. Started a band"
I ventured back to the center of the madness that is 6th Street to check out Fanny Bloom (Montreal) playing at Spill. Two ladies and three fellas make up this precious, melodic, french-pop group. They're led by lead singer Fanny Bloom who prances and bounces barefoot while singing to their deep urban synthesized sounds.
Across the way at Maggie Mae's, Chilean band Astro was playing to a super-fan-frenzied crowd. A Spanish-language lover ready for some culture, I ran over and fell in love with these guys. Astro has made impressive progress and growth in the Latin music scene. It's no shock after seeing them. Their eclectic, harmonious, experimental sound along with heavy drums and synth were great paired with such a passionate language.
I stopped into Lucky 13 for a brief moment as I heard some decent heavy electronic dub: Sofi. The bar was pretty empty, unfortunately, because these guys were pretty good. However it was still early in the night. I kept a movin' and all of a sudden a cowboy caught my eye. I mean, everyone needs to say howdy to a cowboy, especially if you're in Texas. I ran into Blue Moon to check out what was going on. Twangy country isn't for me, yet this band had a solid following, and was a good photo op along the way.
I was eager to make my way over to the Beauty Bar to check out Rubblebucket (Brooklyn, NY) and I was running short on time. Due to the ridiculous amount of foot traffic, I arrived a little to late but was fortunate to catch the last minute or so of their set. I knew I had missed something epic and probably one of the best shows of the night (if not week). Bright colors and large aluminum wrapped figures filled up the backyard of the Beauty Bar, taking you into a jungle of worldly vivacious funky pop.
I stuck around the Beauty Bar to catch Thundercat (Los Angeles). I was more than anxious to experience the sounds of these four men. Stephen Bruner (bassist/vocals) is an apocalyptic bassist, at least to my ears and eyes. Thundercat is from the past and future, combining classic jazz with current electronic melodies. My mind was blown, along with the rest of the crowd.
After picking up pieces of my brain, I quickly headed to the Bat Bar to catch an acquaintance I had made while living in San Francisco. Chelsea Wolfe (originally Sacramento, now residing in Los Angeles) may appear a little dark and despaired but she is far from that. Her use of melody is black and blue — black metal of the blues that is. Nothing puts a bigger smile on my face then seeing an artist/band grow, gain recognition and develop a fan base. The crowd in the Bat Bar were hypnotized and swayed to every note.
At this point I was in serious need of a break. Not gonna lie: I'm spent — exhausted, really. I took a seat on the corner among littered trash and drunken attendees not knowing if I had it in me to continue. Thankfully HN Editor Michael Todd spotted me and informed me he was on his way to see Tom Morello: The Nightwatchman. Tom Morello! A huge Rage Against The Machine fan, I decided to accompany him and crossed my fingers I could get in. We approached Swan Dive to a few hundred wristband- and badge-less folks waiting outside to view the Occupy Austin show. Tom Morello has switched things up a bit since RATM, performing as more of a folk balladeer these days. He set up a video screen to show a live feed to the patient and calm outside crowd. Inside was hot and arm to arm. Getting up front to photograph was nearly impossible until the mosh pit broke out and I was able to dive forward. Holding onto my camera for dear life, I was right in there with aggressive crowd soaking up every moment and singing right along.
I had overheard in the beginning that the crowd outside was in for a surprise. Morello had planned on taking the show to the streets. As the last song played on I somehow maneuvered my way through the sweaty dense crowd to the exit. I spotted the mic and planted myself firmly in front. I knew this was the moment I had been waiting and hoping for. For me, there's always been that moment you remember from a concert or festival — a time when you get carried somewhere else. Reality doesn't exist. However, here we were occupying reality, and it was never more evident. Morello came out and grabbed two guys from the crowd to help him sing "This Land is Your Land" then hopping up on the sound booth to "mic check" a very impressive message. It was a timeless moment that I will never forget.
Shannon Claire is a Hear Nebraska contributor. Contact her at email@example.com.