During the five days of South By Southwest music performances, we managed to catch an estimated 100 bands between the three of us. We survived mosh pits at a punk rock show, terrible DJs, incredible lines and acid-dropping audience members. But in the blur of generic indie rock bands, a few shows caught our attention. Here are the three sets we hope to remember and the three we’d like to forget.
DIIV: The androgyneous lead singer of DIIV, Zachary Cole Smith, stole our hearts with his “Fuck South By” comment, but we first fell in love during their live show at Mohawk Tuesday night. The Brooklyn band played the indie rocker role with long hair, denim shirts and tight pants. DIIV was situated in the midst of other enjoyable sets including Cloud Nothings and Marnie Stern, but they had a different sound: less loud, punk rock and more danceable. Though the band said they hated South By, we are glad they came to Austin and glad we caught one of their shows.
Sleigh Bells: Lead singer Alexis Krauss arrived on the stage with the attitude, flair and dance moves we had been waiting for all day. Sleigh Bells was not our favorite band before the concert and they probably aren’t now, but this set was enjoyable and engaging. Krauss crowd-surfed without abandon, threw bottles of water onto the crowd and head-banged more than a metal band. Sleigh Bells lived up to all of the Myspace Secret Show anticipation, and their music lived on in our partially-deaf ears for hours after.
The Flaming Lips: Even though we watched eight people get too drunk, and all the haters are continuing to hate, we still really enjoyed the Flaming Lips Auditorium Shores performance. Frontman Wayne Coyne began the show with a disclaimer that the band would be playing the entirety of their upcoming album The Terror. We enjoyed the dark twists the new album takes, but fans were leaving Auditorium Shores in droves throughout the performance — which was complete with topless women in hamster balls and illuminated baby dolls. We stuck around to catch the end of the set, where Coyne ditched the baby doll and performed several songs from their 2002 album “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.”
Dillon Francis: Dillon Francis began the second Myspace Secret Show with “Shout” and it all went quickly downhill from there. Though Francis came out looking smooth in a skinny tie and blazer, his show was anything but. The DJ’s hit music set had no continuity and even less momentum. Any time the audience began to bob and sway along with Francis’ beats, he would immediately shut it down with some slow oldies song that no one knew how to dance to. If Myspace’s plan was to sandwich Sleigh Bells between two bands that would make them look awesome, it sure worked.
Jim James: Not only did Jim James have a Flying V guitar, but he didn’t even hold it himself. We loved My Morning Jacket throughout middle school, but James’ Auditorium Shores performance was one of the worst things we’ve ever seen. When he wasn’t pacing back and forth across the front of the stage, he was violently shaking his curly hair in true seventies rock star style. But James is not a seventies rock star. James is actually the furthest thing from a seventies rock star. The only thing that kept us through his mind-numbingly horrific set was the promise of the Flaming Lips shortly after.
Family of the Year: One of Family of the Year’s songs is featured in an Advil commercial, which is exactly what we needed to get through this show. The band came on stage looking like a typical indie band, with a long haired lead singer and a girl with lavender hair, but things quickly fell apart. They seriously sang the lyric “you bring the ocean, I’ll bring the motion, together we’ll make a love potion.” We wouldn’t be surprised if Family of the Year lyrics were the next Facebook status of every high schooler.
Published on March 18, 2013 as "SXSW hits high, low notes".