SXSW 2014 Friday & Saturday | Reviews and Photos

photo of Tove Lo by Chris Dinan

words by Chance Solem-Pfeifer | photos by Bridget McQuillan and Chris Dinan

In the end, it’s a little like a dream.

Brushing past or colliding with a thousand faces you’ve never seen before and will never see again. Hearing sounds and melody strains out of distant windows you might have heard years before, or maybe not. It could just be diminished ears playing tricks.

It’s reviewing the concert notes you took on the car ride back from South By Southwest to Omaha and wondering what on earth “hydra pillow” could have possibly meant to you at 2 a.m. Friday about a two-piece punk band. Luckily Chris’ and Bridget’s photographs wore with a little less ambiguity.

Below, you’ll find photo and written coverage of Friday and Saturday shows, including (all the way at the bottom) one Nebraska band’s shining, festival-capping performance.

Table of Contents



Mutual Benefit
Tei Shi 
Desert Noises
American Authors
London Grammer 
The Front Bottoms
The Kickback
Hurray For The Riff Raff
Eros and the Eschaton
Shakey Graves
D.D Dumbo 


Mutual Benefit
Katie Herzig
Deleted Scenes
Empress Of
Tove Lo
Digital Leather
Residual Kid
Peanut Butter Wolf, Prince Paul, Madlib and Dam Funk


Panama at Empire Garage

photos by Chris Dinan

GEMS at Red Eyed Fly

photos by Bridget McQuillan

Mutual Benefit at Red Eyed Fly

photos by Bridget McQuillan

Katie Herzig at Little Woodrow’s

photos by Bridget McQuillan

Tei Shi at The Austin Convention Center

photo by Chris Dinan

Desert Noises at Holy Mountain

photos by Bridget McQuillan

American Authors at Stubb’s

photos by Chris Dinan

London Grammer at Stubb’s

photos by Chris Dinan

The Front Bottoms at Palm Door on Sixth

photos by Bridget McQuillan

The Kickback at Audiotree Lounge

photos by Bridget McQuillan

Hurray For The Riff Raff at The Pandora House

photos by Bridget McQuillan

Eros and the Eschaton at Valhalla

It’s hard to say what Adam Hawkins and Kate Perdoni would see if they ever took their eyes off each other in the middle of an Eros and the Eschaton song.

The most unsentimental explanation for their visual contact is that the married musical duo with their tiered keyboard rigs, guitars and side station drums could lose track of cues in the songs without careful observation of his/her partner’s movements. More ethereally, though, the pair often appears to be singing about the oneness of everything in the universe — its cycles and its inevitabilities. That includes each other. That includes the crowd. That includes the aural ocean of synth they seem to build across songs like “Over and Over” one drop at a time.

At Valhalla Friday night, they waded through a little undiagnosed feedback (it might have been a faulty cable) to the sort of ambient force you find in a deluge on their debut album Home Address for Civil War. Perhaps most singular to the experience in the towering PA system at Valhalla was the bass synth at Perdoni’s fingers. When it dropped, it did so with more depth and undertow than any plucked string could manage. Which is key to the kind of immersion these songs seem to shoot for ( “Carry The Water” not-quite-withstanding, which found Hawkins (formerly Omaha’s It’s True) and Perdoni both playing guitar Friday, something like a dreamier, more subdued Fleetwood Mac). It’s not immersion if all the coverage is in the highs and the trebles.

If we can pluck apart the binary of their name: perhaps the tenor voices, the harmonies and the bliss of the band are the Eros; i.e. “love.” The Eschaton, which references the idea of a broader end time, is something subconsciousness and distant, that Perdoni and Hawkins let drip into the Valhalla floorboards.

review by Chance Solem-Pfeifer | photos by Bridget McQuillan

Kelela at Cheer Up Charlie’s

photos by Chris Dinan

Shakey Graves at The Pandora House

photos by Chris Dinan

D.D Dumbo at Holy Mountain

photos by Chris Dinan


Tourist at Holy Mountain

photos by Chris Dinan

SOHN at Holy Mountain

photos by Chris Dinan

photos by Bridget McQuillan

Mutual Benefit at Holy Mountain

photo by Chris Dinan

Deleted Scenes at Firehouse Lounge

If the smiling man had not been down, all might have been lost for Dan Scheuerman’s big foyer into crowd control.

During the final song of Deleted Scenes’ Saturday set at Firehouse Lounge, the frontman of the Washington D.C. rock band (who, full disclosure, lives in Omaha and often contributes to Hear Nebraska) abandoned the stage, where his presence had been dramatic but isolated. He’d previously screamed and strained the skin around his mouth and played a handheld vocal effects box with the intensity of a 12-year-old glued to a video game — an effects box that turned the echos of Scheuerman’s voice into repeated oblivion.

But at long last when he set down his guitar, he grabbed the forearm and hand of the man standing closest to the stage and locked in. Scheuerman didn’t let go for about two minutes, scarcely breaking eye contact. And the spectator to his credit, appeared to appreciate this version of being welcomed onstage, grinning and holding steady until Scheuerman wiped 40 minutes worth of sweat from his forehead onto the man’s shoulder. Still smiling, the man recoiled a bit.

If this seemed like an unexpected turn in the performance that had previously been upbeat and complex but hadn’t breached the confines of the stage, call it another movement, a final overture, in the Deleted Scenes set.

From the inciting moment of noise, the sound guy was caught off-guard when instruments were being checked.

“Sorry. I just wanted to make sure it’s supposed to sound that distorted.”

It was, bassist Matt Dowling and keyboardist/guitarist Dominic Campanaro nodded in unison. And the set that ensued was both reckless and withholding in its transitions. Certainly Scheuerman’s guitar solos had half-regard for the key in which the rock/pop songs had begun. But each new angle of a keyboard riff or pedal effect could either change the shape of the song until its end or else they teased that change, rearing its head for a moment, disappearing and making the musical shift that did inevitably come all the more invigorating.

photo and review by Chance Solem-Pfeifer

Empress Of at Elysium

photos by Bridget McQuillan

Tove Lo at Empire Garage

photos by Chris Dinan

Wet at Empire Garage

photo by Chris Dinan

Digital Leather at The Sailor Jerry House

Playing in a tent named for a rum, Digital Leather appeared as the most down-trodden, black-hearted band of buccaneers imaginable.

If the mood was slow to pick up for Omaha’s Shawn Foree and company, the tent is notable. Cavernous and white like a revival preacher’s tent, there simply weren’t enough people on hand (during, before or for an hour after the Digital Leather set) to justify a space which so obviously pointed at its own size. For the first five or so songs, Todd Fink was preoccupied with something not coming through right in his synth. Foree, the creative force behind Digital Leather was under-mic’d, as well, leaving the spiritual leader of the band too hushed to let his vocal drones egg on his other four players.

At times, the first half of the set was more like a Digital Leather workshop with Foree turning to his bassist and murmuring, “I liked that,” as though his players were freelancing on the songs for the first time. They clearly weren’t, but that was the level of enthusiasm at play Saturday night.

Until the lights came on.

Somewhere around song six, the whole scene came to life when Digital Leather’s lighting effects finally cued up into an aggressive strobe. Fink instantly attacked the keyboard with greater ferocity, ducking away and then pouncing again, no longer fixed in place. Foree, on electric guitar, bit harder onto the overtones of his riffs, playing louder and faster. HIs mumbles became screams.

“Studs In Love” will be a stand-out almost any time Digital Leather plays it, with a synth riff that’s part video game, part bad narcotic trip, but on Saturday there was some kinsmanship in the song about male companionship. Near the end of Digital Leather’s set — with the lights in full force and heads swiveling around and the five men moving as one— it represented the righting of the ship.

photo and review by Chance Solem-Pfeifer

Residual Kid at Soho Lounge

photos by Bridget McQuillan

Peanut Butter Wolf, Prince Paul, Madlib and Dam Funk at The North Door

photos by Chris Dinan

AZP at The Roof Top

It looked like the koi bridge at the Henry Doorly Zoo.

That was the view of 6th Street, our last view of 6th Street, at 1 a.m. as Saturday night turned to Sunday morning. Thousands of squirming people looking for one last drink, one last first blast of sound from a band they weren’t expecting to see. For more than 100 people at The Roof Top, that was a band called AZP from a city called Lincoln, Nebraska.

When the act dropped off the bill behind We The Ghost, AZP was awarded a full hour and the opportunity to close 6th Street and (for most people) South By Southwest. So they relished. Their enthusiasm permeated even the smallest nooks of the songs with the group’s rapper and rhyme writer Ishma Valenti exhaling percussively into the microphone while Zachary Watkins dialed up his piano intro for “I’m Laughing.”

The five-piece hip-hop/rock collective wasn’t the least bit shy about wearing their hometown on their sleeves, asking in variation at least four times if the crowd had heard of Lincoln, Nebraska or if they knew art like this could come from such a place.

Lyrically, Watkins and Valenti thrive on battle lines: good and evil, light and dark, empowerment vs. exploitation, being duped by the system vs. spiritual clarity. It was fitting then that they inked a line of demarcation between themselves and the mobs of other hip-hop artists crowding 6th Street all week desperately trying to give away or sell CDs, rapping unsolicited at passersby. The result was a wasteland of home-packaged CDs trampled to smithereens on 6th Street.

So Valenti picked the opportune moment to draw a line in the sand. After working the crowd into a frenzy with the frighteningly fast rap wind-up of “Black Jesus,” Valenti grabbed a stack of CDs from the back of the stage to pass out.

“I better not see even one of these on the ground out there like all that bullshit.” People roared.

Perhaps even more tellingly was the pair of dancing poles in the elevated center of the room, which 30 minutes before had been swung on by women who looked like they were about to fall down. During AZP’s set, men and women stood around the poles, bobbing their heads, eyes locked on the stage. For as much critical unpacking as can (and probably should) be done around the way Valenti and Watkins term their “real art,” it is without a doubt some of the smartest, most socially responsible, layered hip-hop available. And gift-wrapped as a rock band. The crowd responds, then, in kind: enjoying themselves the way you would expect when a guitar is howling at 1 a.m., but with an attentiveness they almost certainly did not plan on before the music started.

Ultimately, It’s an odd kind of ecstasy when the crowd is so on board with a performance that almost anything a band says will elicit cheers. They were down for it all: a hook, line and sinker sell from AZP. Half a country from home, Jeremy Buckley (co-owner of Vega in Lincoln) received louder cheers when Valenti simply said he was in the building than some bands at SXSW received at the end of their shows. It was that kind of atmosphere.

And if the crowd is, unprovoked, chanting the name of a band they’ve never previously heard of at the end of their set (“A-Z-P, A-Z-P”), well then, happy South by Southwest, Nebraska.

review by Chance Solem-Pfeifer | photos by Bridget McQuillan

Chance Solem-Pfeifer is Hear Nebraska’s managing editor. Bridget McQuillan and Chris Dinan are HN contributors. Reach them all at