introduction / Snow Patrol

SXSW reviews

published: Wed 14th Mar 2007

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

Austin has often been dubbed the ‘live music capital of America’, and with a plethora of gig venues, bars, clubs, theatres, and one gargantuan convention centre, all conveniently located within a short walk from one another, and all staging varying acts from across the world over a one week period, it’s easy to see why.

The music festival itself doesn’t kick off big time until this Wednesday, when Austin will suddenly be overwhelmed by 1,400 (and counting) acts, performing at over 60 venues.

It looks likely to throw up a nightmare scenario of wondering what band to see and where to see them. If you thought that the clashes at some of the major UK festivals were unfair, then prepare to write a rather lengthy letter of complaint to the SXSW festival organisers, because there’s no way you’ll even get to see a sizable proportion of those 1400 bands. It’s just not going to happen. The flip side, however, is that Austin quickly develops an atmosphere rather like an urbanised version of prime time Glastonbury. There is always something happening, somewhere, and it’s a great feeling of a live and breathing city, based around an unrivalled passion for live music.

At the moment SXSW is playing host to some 200 films, ranging from the politically challenged ‘The Prisoner: Or I how I planned to kill Tony Blair’, to the downright inspiring ‘Black Sheep’, a movie about 40 million Kiwi sheep who have all turned into Zombified killing machines and precede to have lunch on the peace loving New Zealanders. How can that film be anything other than pure genius?

Currently the attendees are mainly made up of techy-geek types, totally immersed in their own cybernetic world and here primarily for the ‘Interactive’ side of SXSW; basically a whole sub-section on how the internet rules our lives. I spent most of the day hurdling these stereotypical computer loving sunshine-avoiding nerds, who had set up camp in the Convention Center’s lobbies, and were refusing to budge for anyone. I even felt a bit left out for not having a laptop on me.

Venturing outside the Convention Center presents a totally different Austin, with varying cultures, groups and people who seem to all get along remarkably well. 6th street is the main artery of the city, lined with bars, clubs and restaurants all preparing to make themselves into makeshift gig venues for the rest of the festival.

A small bar and restaurant known as Stubbs had managed to pull in three bands for tonight, one of them very familiar to the British public.

The first support act, Los-Angeles four piece Silversun Pickups, are a pleasant enough outfit, with well matched vocals that lead to building guitar fuelled climaxes. The hooks are all in the right places, and some of their material is sung in the type of self-defacing melancholy that you would have attributed to a lot of British indie acts who have risen to fame over the last decade or so.

After Silversun Pickups’ well-received set, OK GO took to the stage. They are a group who have been given a second lease of life thanks to a simple, yet effective music video, which managed to rise to attention thanks to the accessibility of music videos on the internet (God I’ve been attending too many SXSW panels).

It’s hard to know how seriously OK GO takes themselves. While they’re repertoire is largely made up of 3 minute 30 second pop nuggets, typified with irresistible hit ‘Get over it’, they do seem to throw in a little diversity, and even make a pretty good attempt at an acoustic song, and an ELO cover. Although this breed of pop punk has been bled to death, OK GO are packed with feel-good factor and can raise the smile of even the most cynical audience members.

The group pulled onstage someone who allegedly starred in one of the films showcased today, and then made him skip for the entire duration of the song. I’m not sure why exactly... but the crowd seemed to love it.

Finally, one of Britain’s, no Ireland’s, well... Scotland’s (wherever they’re supposed to come from) success stories emerged to play a set full of material from their latest two albums. It seems that Snow Patrol have well and truly buried their Polar Bear past behind them.

Lead singer Gary Lightbody, whose hair has now entered one of those dodgy in-between stages, enthusiastically took hold of what came over a bit like a greatest hits set. ‘Chasing Cars’ got the biggest cheer of the night, and it’s simple yet charming tune appears to have won over audiences on both sides of the duck pond.

Morose and tender songs seem to breed from Snow Patrol like a type of irrepressible mutating disease, and tonight the group’s indie crooning is delivered with predictable gusto. Lightbody a more than capable lead singer, that does a good job of elevating an otherwise quote middle of the road band to a higher plain.

Obviously any group that has the poetic intimacy of ‘Run’ at their disposal will always manage to captivate a crowd, no matter how they play it, and Snow Patrol’s true Coldplay moment is one of the pivotal moments of the set. A nervous girl is brought on stage to reprise Martha Wainright’s role on ‘Set The Fire To The Third Bar’. It’s a bit of an awkward moment because you can’t help wonder if the poor girls going to make a complete tit out of herself, but Lightbody’s accommodating and humorous accompaniment takes most of the attention off of her and alters the mood of the song somewhat.

As the set draws to a close and I’m struggling to keep my eyes open during ‘Open your eyes’ (the ironies only just dawned on me), Snow Patrol have well and truly cornered this audience. Amusing, professional, and delightful to watch, it’s a good set, if a little tiresome.
review by: Scott Johnson

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

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