Thursday review

SXSW (South By South West) 2007 reviews

published: Fri 16th Mar 2007

Tuesday 13th to Sunday 18th March 2007
Austin, Texas, USA, USA
last updated: Wed 14th Mar 2007

The second full day of live music at Austin’s SXSW festival looked even better than the first, and I was presented with yet more infuriating clashes. The good thing about SXSW is that bands often play more than once, so if you miss them first time around there’s always the chance to catch them again at a later stage.

I ventured into the SXSW tradeshow for the first time since its music industry overhaul, and low and behold it was more than a little on the sparse side. Hardly surprising as music industry moguls aren’t they type to be kept inside and lectured on the current market trends. They would much rather be hanging out at one of Austin’s many ‘private’ parties, sipping their complementary alcohol and swapping tales of whose going to be the next big thing.

There are a lot of ‘almost famous’ people hanging around they city. And I don’t mean almost famous as in a prime candidate for the next series of Celebrity Big Brother. Everyone here looks vaguely familiar, and the majority either ARE in a band, or WANT to be in a band. It’s pretty much one or the other.

I arrived too late to see either Fionn Regan or The Storys at the Day Stage Café, but I did manage to catch the brilliant Stars of Track and Field, who set their radio-friendly sound in a mould not too dissimilar to the likes of Mew, Thirteen Senses and Keane. Gently uplifting, formulaic soft-rock indie is their speciality, but Jason Bell’s vocals are captivating. They’re a band that could easily make the leap onto the British music scene.

Stars of Track and Field

Martha Wainwright was also making an appearance. Judging from the people around me ‘Wainwright’ was a bit of a household name, but Martha herself didn’t seem to have pulled in much of an audience. Perhaps it’s Rufus who gets most of the attention over here.

Downstairs in the Convention Center they were filming a series of SXSW shows to go live on TV. The whole atmosphere for these gigs was a little surreal, with the enjoyment of the crowd being orchestrated by the Producer / compere. Multiethnic Latin / hip-hop / rock cross-over group Ozomatli put on a stirring live set, utilising all the different instruments at their disposal, and producing a surprisingly tight ten piece. Their diversity is a coup that can no doubt be exploited, and music this happy and upbeat can appeal to all ranges of the spectrum.


Following Ozomalti was Britain’s own Razorlight, and by this point the queue to get into the venue had weaved itself way through the Convention Center corridors. I have still yet to see a Razorlight performance where Johnny Borrel hasn’t felt the compulsive need to strip to his waist and show off his skinnier than skinny body. This one was for TV, so now doubt Borrel was going to seize the moment to draw a few more thousand viewers to the attention of his pigeon chest. I was right.

He leapt on stage in that washed out all-white costume that he loves, and pranced around as if he thinks he’s the Angel Gabriel (he looks more like he’s turned up at a regional Star Wars convention in a homemade Luke Skywalker outfit). For all my criticisms of Razorlight and some of their cringe-worthy songs, they were actually pretty good. As irritating as he is, Borrell is a born performer, and seems to have taken over from Justin Hawkin’s as the UK’s most pompous and flamboyant entertainer. I’m even a little gutted to leave their set half way through, especially when ‘Golden Touch’ and ‘Don't Go Back to Dalston’ sound this good.

I left early so I could catch a semi-acoustic set from Glaswegian glamsters The Fratellis. The three members were perched at the front of the stage, all brandishing guitars, playing all the hits from their debut ‘Costello Music’. It’s a fun and entertaining set but I can’t help notice just how daft The Fratellis’ music is. As far as musical geniuses go, Mozart was doing a much better job ripping off songs when he was just three years old. It’s braindead music, for a braindead generation, and it’s only really worth listening to when you’re so hammered that you think you’re managing to sing ‘Duh der der Duh’ in time with everyone else, while watching the world from upside down.

Back in the centre of town Kid Harpoon is doing a similar thing, just from a folk perspective instead of a glam rock one. Oh, and he’s doing it a darn site better too. His voice seems to operate on a weird spiralling plain, sometimes reaching high notes that no grown man should ever attempt, and at other times delving down into a low growl. It’s an interesting juxtaposition of tones, and Kid Harpoon’s unique take on vintage genres places him somewhere between the comedic Tenacious D and the fantastic Duke Special. A brilliant Leonard Cohen cover of ‘First we take Manhattan’ was also thrown into the mix.
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review by: Scott Johnson

photos by: Scott Johnson

Tuesday 13th to Sunday 18th March 2007
Austin, Texas, USA, USA
last updated: Wed 14th Mar 2007

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