If We Were At SXSW

In times of excitement or exhaustion; happiness or sadness, one of the most powerful saviors of a mood, a day, or even a life, is music.

Before things shut down and the world took a collective pause, we were all geared up to head over to SXSW to see some of our favorite bands from the Bay Area and beyond. Obviously that didn’t happen, but we’d like to still see them in our dreams. And in the spirit of supporting struggling musicians whose work we need so much, we’d like to offer some insights into some of the artists who were affected by SX in particular — and to shed light on some special bands whose music we recommend tuning in to and supporting however you can.

From The Bay: Andy Bender

One of our favorite, low-key San Francisco folk rockers, Andy Bender, was set to play an unofficial show at SX with his crew of fine musicians and we’re mighty bummed to not see them out in Texas. The band — whose online presence currently remains a bit of a mystery — is tight-knit and charming, headed by the curly-haired Bender on vocals and keys.

High praise to “Happy Hour,” a song with coco-cabana beats and wry lyrics with a Harry Nilson thing going on. “My happiness is just a drink away,” the song says. Ah shucks, good thing the lyrics float pleasingly along with the tropical float of the keys.

Be sure to pay homage to the band’s work — word on the street is they’re about to release a shiny new album, recorded at our one and only Tiny Telephone — and once we’re all ready to bust out into the streets again, we’ll be sure to keep an ear out for upcoming shows and get our paws on that new album.

From The Bay: Sour Widows

Another Bay Area treat we’re sad to miss was one Sour Widows. After releasing their debut EP, the self-titled Sour Widows, the band was set to blast onto the official SX stage with tunes like “Tommy” and “Pilot Light.” The band’s got some killer merch on their hands, including a cutie cassette tape for a cool $10. Personally, I like to pop a cassette into my old Ford Ranger. Where do you play yours? (Comments below just may earn you a complimentary cassette, so get talkin’).

From The Bay: Tay and the JangLahDahs

Oakland’s Tay and the JangLahDahs are a unique psych-rock group with a touch of the gypsy jazz, and some horns that give just enough lovin’ to spice it up. Last June the band released Bloomin’, an album that feels like sad, gentler Pogues but infused with lovely harmonies; some crooning, fiddles, and a slow song or two. Just after the band touched down in Austin, word got out about SXSW closing down and, soon after, the ordinance limiting the number of people that could be at public gathering. We spoke with the band about their stubborn push to play in Texas despite Austin’s closures.

Lead vocalist Taylor Gersbach, who is from the town of Waco, Texas (a couple hours north of Austin) was especially excited to play her home state and to be a part of the unofficial SX lineup. Originally, they band had three shows booked. “We went to Austin, played a show on at the Love Goat on the 12th, then they announced a national emergency,” says Gersbach. “So both of our showcases for Austin Indiefest closed up.”

The City of Austin had announced a rule that venues hosting crowds of 200 or more would need to obtain Infectious Disease Insurance, which, of course, would be nearly impossible in the state of emergency. The Love Goat stayed open the night of Tay and the JangLahDahs’ show, in part because a sorority had rented the entire upstairs area for a party. “So there were like, 100 sorority girls upstairs and hardly anyone downstairs to see the show. There weren’t many bartenders, there was no doorman...one of the strangest shows, I think, we’ve ever played,” says Gersbach.

After both of their showcases were cancelled, the band trekked out to Waco in search of a venue. “We went from venue to venue trying to see if we could play any shows at all,” says Gersbach. “We’d rather do that than just give up.” Waco Winery ended agreeing on a two-night show with the band. But the winery didn’t have a PA system or drums, so the band ended up renting the seemingly only drum kit for rent in Texas, buying a PA system that they returned the next day — sorry, store — and knocking out two nights in a row at the winery.

The band booked one more gig at Darwin’s Pub back in Austin as well, thanks to some nice word-of-mouth suggestions and the general earnestness from the scene. “So we ended up playing three shows in two days, which ended up making our trip financially OK. People bought a ton of merch, tipped well, and were just supportive, which was really nice.” And now? The band is stuck in Texas for a few weeks, but no matter. Gersbach is from the area, and the band is looking at this in a positive light for now. “We’re going to look at it as a residency,” she says.

From Austin: Blushing

Dreamy Austin dream-poppers Blushing were set to play over at Esther’s Follies. Their debut LP just arrived, the self-titled Blushing, and we are not disappointed in what we were waiting for. You can hear the band’s My Bloody Valentine and the Sundays influences, with infectious energy and a killer dream-pop pop. Check out their delightful live show and interview below and if you’ve got a penny to spare, we recommend purchasing their special new pink LP.

From the UK: Beachtape

Coming over from Brighton, UK, indie junk rockers Beachtape were ready to grace Texan stages. Their single “Somewhere Better” just dropped this month, for any fans of hazy Weezer-infused guitar stylings and just the right amount of chugging (which is: a modest and pretty amount). Their melodies are catchy-pure and the boys’ energy is a pleasing melange. We hope they’ll roll back over to the States sometime soon, but in the meantime they're staying bundled up in Brighton. We recommend snagging one of their cute 7-inchers before they sell out.

In support of bands near and wide, might we suggest a home listening party...and forking over a bit of the cash you might have spent at SX to go toward some of the bands we were going to see? We’d love to hear from Bay Area bands about what you’re doing to raise a little bit of green. Live listening parties? Special merch deals? Customized playlists? All this writer knows is that anyone reading this is likely listening to something.

So who is the savior of your day? What music is keeping you feeling righteous despite the gray? I know one of the biggest reasons for the skip in my step is music, so crank it and, if you can, plop a dollar into someone’s music subscription. Music: The great unifier and purifier, all day, every day.

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