Katie Hayes Luke/NPR
From left to right: Ann Powers, Bob Boilen, KUT's David Brown and Suraya Mohamed holding down the fort at The Parish.
'Minutes' is a series of one-minute concert videos I take to document the shows I see.
Thursday was such a special day at SXSW. It was the day we worked so hard for, it was our big bash at The Parish. NPR Music's lineup had some of my favorite artists and it kicked off with sonic fireworks and the bass saxophone of Colin Stetson. One man, a reed and a hunk of metal making simply out of this world sounds. You can watch Colin Stetson's entire set here.
When I went to the side of the stage to hear the quirky loops and world beats of tUnE-yArDs, dancing and grooving at the side of the stage was Khaira Arby. Had tUnE-yArDs known that, I'm sure it would make her day. Merrill Garbus doesn't just copy world beats. She studied in Kenya and deeply respects that music and confidently turns those beats into something very different. You can hear and see tUnE-yArDs entire set from the Parish here.
Khaira Arby is a remarkable woman. Khaira wasn't born into the tradition. She wasn't even allowed to sing in her Mali home. Today she is a champion of Mali music and a legend and she is influencing and changing her culture's attitudes toward women. She's a true pioneer.
For the past few years guitarist Carrie Brownstein has been a writer for NPR Music and host for our SXSW broadcasts. Now she is in front of a very different microphone, singing on stage and thrashing her guitar with her new band WILD FLAG. Also in this band is Janet Weiss, who played drums while Carrie played guitar in their last band, Sleater-Kinney; Mary Timony, who also shares songwriting duties and sings, and led the '90s indie band Helium; and Rebecca Cole, who played keyboards in the band The Minders. You can see and hear WILD FLAG's entire set by going here.
One of the great unknowns going into the show was the Welsh rock trio The Joy Formidable. Though their set was short due to technical issues it's clear that we'll be hearing a lot from this band for a long while.
It was so brave for The Antlers to perform their yet-to-be-released, previously-unheard album live. But their show at The Parish was soaring and wonderful. Give a listen and watch the entire set here.
I like the songs that Sea of Bees sing and play (you can watch and listen to a Tiny SXSW Concert from the Sea of Bees here). One funny aside: last year one of the people at the front of the line for our Parish show is now the Sea of Bees bassist Bryce Gonzales. I was introduced to him by a friend of his who pointed out that Bryce does a fabulous impression of me. Here's a taste of what they do on stage.
I took a break from electric music to hear the lovely voice of Mexican singer Carla Morrison.
Years ago I put a song by Christie Fellows on our show. In Austin, I saw her perform with just a cellist, and was reminded why I enjoyed her so.
Light Pollution had one of my favorite songs last year. It's called "Oh, Ivory!" The set from this Chicago band was ramped up and frenetic compared to what I remember of the record, and that was fine with me.
My Jerusalem is a band with an uplifting spirit and members from Bishop Allen, The Twilight Singers and The Polyphonic Spree.
King Creosote is a prolific Scottish singer who has released close to 40 albums in the last 13 years. His newest is a brilliant collaboration with electronic musician Jon Hopkins. I had hopes that Hopkins would be at King Creosote's performance in Austin, but he wasn't. I enjoyed the set I saw.
Magic Bullets is fronted by a very tall, rubbery singer named Philip Benson. His spirit is infectious, and the band was a delight, reminiscent of what Talking Heads were doing before 1978. Here they're doing a cover of an early '80s Altered Images tune called "I Could Be Happy."
Austra was one of my favorite surprises at SXSW 2011. They are reminiscent of The Knife, the dark electronic duo from Sweden, but this Toronto-based band is much less brooding and their voices are just gorgeous. You can also check out the nearly a capella version of this song, from a Tiny SXSW Concert we taped at the Driskill Hotel.
Prince Rama is a rather psychedelic trio. At least I thought so. On this night at the 512 Rooftop, the band was a duo: just two sisters playing keyboards and drums.
Agalloch's music grabs hold of me the same way great prog-rock bands did. The whole band is the beat and everything is right in your face. All that was fine for me until it was time for the singer to do his thing. I just can't stand the vocal style, but I'm in a minority: the place was packed and it rocked. In fact, more NPR Music folks were at this show at the same time than any other show apart from the ones we were broadcasting!
Adam Arcuragi and the Lupine Chorale Society nearly brought me to tears. There is something so uplifting about the way Adam sings, the ways his band lifts the music and rouses the audience. One of my favorite SXSW moments was his encore (a rare event at SXSW) when the entire room sang the chorus to "Goodnight Irene." After seeing Agalloch, it was a much needed dose of heart and soul that nearly overwhelmed me.
Tristen is the Nashville band of Tristen Gaspadarek. I've liked the group's music when it has popped up on my iPod, but they've yet to bowl me over, and I wanted to see what they could do live. I waited with open ears to be carried away by a song, but in the end I was let down. Each song felt similar to the one before, and the though the playing was good and the singing was lovely, when I left I wasn't any more a fan of the band than I was when I arrived.
James Vincent McMorrow has a beautiful voice and writes lovely tunes. His set was a case of great performer meets noisy inconsiderate crowd. Perhaps in these moments it's the job of the performer to grab hold of the crowd and get their attention. In the short time I was there, McMorrow never tried, though I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have made a difference. I'll try him again when he comes to my town. You should too.
Morning Teleportation had a lot more fans than I had imagined. The crowded rocked, danced and sang along to all the songs. A good band with a promising future.
You can watch more one-minute videos, from all the shows I saw at SXSW 2011.
'Minutes' From SXSW 2011: Tuesday
'Minutes' From SXSW 2011: Wednesday
'Minutes' From SXSW 2011: Friday (coming soon)
'Minutes' From SXSW 2011: Saturday (coming soon)