Charly Bliss (photo: Ian Young)
Japanese Breakfast at Fader Fort: Michelle Zauner, aka Japanese Breakfast, has a busy SX this year with five showcases over three days. Her first at Fader Fort was a short but mighty set that included a cover of The Cranberries’ “Dreams.” In fact, her show was so nice I’ll see it twice, since her second showcase is this afternoon.
Fader Fort: Speaking of Fader Fort, this festival-in-a-festival boasted free entry, free booze, free CBD vape pens, and free good vibes. Plus this adorable pup named, fittingly, Austin.
Paella at Sounds from Spain showcase: Followed my ears and my nose to an outdoor showcase featuring musicians from Spain and this gigantic paella that fed the hungry hordes.
De la Soul: The line wrapped around the block but luckily our fellow journalist and SXSW guardian angel Adrian Spinelli had a +1 and VIP access so I could jump the queue and check out these legends. Thanks Adrian!
Furutori: Major props to this Japanese duo working the streets to drum up interest in their showcases.
It’s was an absolute accident that I stumbled upon singer-songwriter Prateek Kuhad’s set at Waterloo Records. My intentions were to see a completely different artist but I didn’t realize I had arrived a full 24 hours early. The Show Gods work in mysterious ways, it seems, and their maneuvering purposely got me to that spot a day early to catch Kuhad’s velvety croon and romantic ballads. And although it was Kuhad’s slow-burn love songs that first caught my attention, the man isn’t shy about rocking out as well.
As Jody mentioned yesterday every inch here in Austin had been reclaimed by some tech startup or big-name brand, and the music can get lost in all of the hoopla. These corporate branded events can be a mixed bag, for sure. So I definitely didn’t know what to expect when I got the heads-up about a private label showcase from an artist I had photographed a few months back in San Francisco. Luckily, the Show Gods pulled through again, and I caught some great country blues artists. The biggest discovery being Los Angeles rocker Dave Cavelier, who instantly lit up the place with a barn-burner set of some good ol’ rock and roll. Sure, the conversations were mostly “music business-y” that honestly flew over my head, but all that aside, there were great vibes.
Speaking of MAJOR CORPORATE EVENTS, Fader Fort kicked off its three-day festivities yesterday. After taking a year off, the biggest SXSW party has returned. Ironically, the biggest party didn’t really feel that big on its first day. Maybe I was expecting some all-night drunken rager, but its early evening ending through me off a bit. Nonetheless, greats set by the hyperkinetic Sir Babygirl, Japanese Breakfast, and Rico Nasty at least hinted at the what’s to come over at The Fort over the next couple days.
Random Day 3 highlights:
Austin the pitbull, arguably the biggest star at Fader Fort Day One.
Duncan Fellows at Hotel Vegas
The food truck in East Austin blasting all the Lady Gaga hits while I scarfed down some late-night chicken shawarma.
Welp, OK, I finally saw my first few mind-blowing sets.
Charly Bliss! So fun! So sparkly! Decked out in a top made of tinsel, guitarist Eva Hendricks shredded her way through an absolutely nonstop set for some early birds at, appropriately enough, Cheer Up Charlie’s. The crunchy ’90s guitars were a blast, but you know what’s even more of a blast? A band that looks like they’re having fun. The New York group threw themselves into their performance, and the crowd seemed grateful. Near the end, I looked around and thought, ‘I actually feel sorry for people that aren’t here right now.’
I also spent some serious time in churches yesterday. First with J.S. Ondara, a Minnesota-via-Kenya singer-songwriter with a voice that rung off the rafters. Then I did a complete 180 and wandered over to Maggie Mae’s, where two of San Francisco’s heavy-metal torchbearers were playing back-to-back. Maggie Mae’s, at least on that night, was a portal to another time and place — one where long hair, leather jackets, and even a few leather vests were still the height of counterculture fashion. War Cloud wasted no time diving into a pummeling set, followed by Banquet, who delivered more of the same. I don’t spend much time in the metal community, but maybe I should start — the most remarkable thing about both bands was just how into it they seemed. Just like I mentioned up top, the most important part of performance for me is a band that genuinely seems to be enjoying themselves onstage.
I gotta admit, I was flagging by this time — and it wasn’t even that late. For my last appointment, once again found myself in a church with new country singer-songwriter, Yola, whose sweeping single “Faraway Look” checks all of my boxes of expert musicianship, epic production, and kinda-sorta sounding like it could be from a musical. Backed by a band wearing hats of various gallon sizes, Yola sang a nicely curated set of selections from her debut record, on Dan Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound. When she lets those vocals fly, she’ll will make you believe in country music if you didn’t already.