Wye Oak at Cedar Street Courtyard.
Wye Oak at Cedar Street Courtyard. Shantel Mitchell/NPR
The best feeling SXSW is capable of generating — and, if I may hyperbolize, one of the best feelings life is capable of generating — is the sensation that comes with falling in love with a band at first sight. Last year, I wept openly, pink mojito in hand, as I saw Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros (a band I'd never even heard of) perform its song "Home" at a party sponsored by Rachael Ray.
We knew, when we scheduled our Wednesday-night SXSW showcase and the following day's party, that we'd spend the first 24 hours of the festival seeing 11 bands we liked — artists on whose coattails we were delighted to ride. But, while we saw countless people converted by the up-and-coming likes of Brooklyn Rider, Visqueen and G-Side, we'd already discovered those bands. The rest of the festival is our time to scout around and scope out the artists we hope to be talking about for the rest of the year.
There's nothing quite like the thrill of musical discovery, which makes it easy to chase that possibility down some dark alleys: After wandering into a set by singer Nive Nielsen (a singer who dropped in to Austin from nearby Nuuk, Greenland) last night, I sat down, only to immediately realize that the music wasn't for me; it felt unformed and sloppy, and when she trotted out a kazoo, I hit the exits. (It should be noted that I had better luck with Iceland later in the night; the seven-piece band Seabear made sweetly catchy rock with just a glint of Icelandic twee.)
And then there's Wye Oak, a Baltimore duo I've loved for about a year. I watched Wye Oak record a Tiny Desk Concert a few weeks ago, and I'll get a babysitter in order to watch Wye Oak perform in Washington, D.C., on March 26. (With Shearwater, no less!) If Wye Oak performed in D.C. once a week for a year, I'd go at least 20 times. So why go see the band at SXSW, when dozens of bands I don't already love are playing? What if one of them is amazing? Because that would mean missing Wye Oak, that's why.
I know people who set a rule for themselves at SXSW that they allow themselves to see nothing they've seen before. The sentiment makes sense, but I go by my own Babysitter Rule: If I'd hire a babysitter in order to see a band in my town, I'm walking down 6th Street and taking my spot in the front row to watch in goggle-eyed admiration.
Oh, and Wye Oak absolutely destroyed last night.