SXSW Coverage: Jonathan Vela: Day 1

Day 1! Wednesday, March 14thWe got up very early in the morning to drive to Austin. We were actually already in San Antonio  visiting my dad so it wasnt a long drive. With the car stashed at a garage, we set out on out bikes to explore the festival. Let me say now that riding in Austin is insane! The cars just fly right by you! However, Austin is a very cycle friendly city that offers plenty of bike lanes and bike racks! Hey city of Lubbock! Take a hint!We found our way over to the legendary Waterloo Records. They’re hosting a day party every day featuring acts from all over the world! The first band to play was a British group  called Tribes. I didn’t really care for them that much. They reminded me of every stereotypical rock band you see in movies or TV shows.

However, the next band floored me. I had heard stories about the Cincinnati outfit Foxy Shazam. It turns out they were all true. The band took the stage as vocalist Eric Sean Nelly delivered an epigraph:

“Foxy Shazam is a dark band. They are so dark that when you listen to them; You might think your eyes are closed.”

They launched into a ridiculously high energy set of power rock ballads. Their stage antics were just insane. Throwing microphones, swing off the overhead cover, and stomping the keyboard were all executed to perfection. At the end of the set Eric Sean Nelly asked for some cigarettes, (which started a shower of cigarette packs from the crowd) continued to smoke six or seven at one time and then promptly ate them. With that being said, it’s easy to forget what music you’re listening to when watching this band. It’s hard to describe their sound. I’ll go with they sound like Queen go to a children’s birthday party completely out of their minds on speed. I think that’s pretty close.

The performance induced a certain giddiness and silly mood between the three of us. We couldn’t stop laughing about it for quite a while. After that we rode over to a pretty cool coffee shop/bar called the Spider House Cafe. They had like three or four stages going with a band going on every hour. It was like their own little festival!

The first band we watched there were a trio from Brooklyn called Old Monk. When they first kicked off their set I got a very 90’s emo vibe from them. They were working through very technical guitar and bass lines over sporadic drumming.  When the vocals came in, it turned out that wasn’t the sound they were trying to imitate; they were just really good at their instruments! But I did enjoy them.  They were a very loud and fast pop rock band.

After they finished, the tiny room slowly started to fill with people in anticipation for the next band, El Ten Eleven.  The Los Angeles based duo uses live drums and looping guitars to create a very original post rock sound. Guitarist and bassist Kristian Dunn looked out into the packed coffee shop and said, “I think this is the smallest show we’ve ever played,”  Dunn handles the string duties on a double neck guitar/bass. He often finger taps on both necks creating both instrument sounds at the same time. It’s an incredible thing to watch!  El Ten Eleven blew the crowd away with a short but powerful set. They didn’t play my favorite song but who the hell cares?! I saw El Ten Eleven!

Then we headed back over to Waterloo records to catch the indie pop super group, Fun.  Right before we got there, I remembered they were recently featured in an episode of “Glee.” The over capacity crowd of panicky and pushy teens reflected that. We got so fed up with the vibe and crowd we actually left halfway through the second song.  By the way, they showed up in a full tour bus and trailer to play an acoustic set. The crew actually closed a section of the sidewalk to move in the….? Hey Fun do an arena tour already jeez!
-End music elitism attitude-

Our final stop of the day was the SXSW Portland party. We didn’t have anyone in mind we wanted to see but it’s Portland! It had to be cool! The truth is, we were so tired by this point we really didn’t care. BUT
we did discover a small gem from Los Angeles (at the Portland party? Weird, right?) called Seasons.

They are a very nice spacey outfit that features guitar, bass, drums, keys, and even violin. They sound  like what I imagine the music in a lounge in 1972 founded by time traveling drug dealers would sound like. They have some very, very cool spacey tones.

Kaylee is complaining that my analogies don’t make sense. So the best way to check out these bands is to listen for yourself! Agh that was only Day 1!  I’ll be back tomorrow!


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