Priests (photo: Ian Young)
The highs of the previous night’s Lizzo performance gave way to some lows on Day 5, as the weeks’s late nights finally caught up with me and the exhaustion hit hard. Not even a BBQ pit stop and the prospects of a killer late night Priests set could fuel a second wind of energy, and I packed it in for an early evening.
A few performances did standout from the handful of sets I did see:
Meernaa’s outdoor performance at The Side Bar set the cool vibes early on. Led by singer Carly Bond’s smooth vocals, the Oakland band established a steady groove that highlighted tracks from their latest EP, Strange Life.
When Glasgow band, LUCIA, hit the stage for the Shure Bedroom Sessions I was half expecting the set to be a low-key acoustic affair. That wasn’t the case at all, as lead singer, Lucia Fairfull, and her band mates let loose for a raucous half hour of catchy rock songs.
Singer-songwriter Ghostly Kisses’ soft, whispery vocals provided the perfect lullaby to cap off the day. Performing as part of the POP Montreal showcase, Margaux Sauvé’s ethereal dream pop set the stage for an enjoyably atmospheric set.
I caught the tail end of BRONCHO while simultaneously discovering I had made a grave error in my choice of footwear for the day. Flats, cushy as the insoles may be, are not appropriate South By shoes. Though I knew it meant giving up at least an hour of quality rock time, I went back to the Airbnb to change my shoes before I was miserable.
Which meant I once again had to wait in a long line at the Doc Martens stage, this time for Japanese Breakfast. No security guard came to my rescue this time, but the line did move pretty fast. Once inside, I was greeted by probably the best atmosphere I’ve encountered this entire fest. I don’t mean to single out a potential portion of our readers, but I’ve encountered a lot of bros at South By. A lot. Blonde boys in polos who spend entire sets completely detached from the artist onstage, wrapped up in their own conversation.
Container Bar for Japanese Breakfast, however, was the first space were I felt like the entire crowd was engaged, appreciative, and supportive. I don’t think I need to tell you how hard it can be to be taken seriously as a woman musician — something Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner knows well herself — so to see a woman command a room like that is a rare thing.
Though it was a Friday night, the real fun was at the relatively mellow Father/Daughter showcase at Palm Door, where San Franicsco’s Rose Droll, whom Ian and a few of my other TBB colleagues have been effusing about for months, was playing. Droll played a mellow set in a quiet bar tucked away from the main drag, in a warmly-lit space that felt like a gathering of friends — because it was. I noticed a few Bay Area heads in the crowd, singing along. It was the perfect soundtrack to my BBQ coma comedown.
A little later in the night was Sir Babygirl, who, her band and herself bathed in a Kimmy Schmidt color palette, ripped the place to shreds with earnest and honest lyrics wrapped in tuneful pop melodies, plus some dance-team antics.
For our final act of the night, the SXSquad (we have a name now) — sans Norm, who was MIA — convened again for Priests at Barracuda. We got home late, like late late. Norm was, sensibly, already asleep when we got there.
After last night’s Lizzomania, I approached today with tempered expectations and, to be honest, aching feet and a throbbing head. But the show must go on. Luckily there’s no shortage of good music to be found and surprises were waiting in smaller rooms and darker clubs that weren’t sponsored by someone or something.
Otoboke Beaver: I first tried to see this Japanese foursome earlier in the week but the line was around the block, and their second and last showcase at the inside bar of Mohawk was just as popular. And for good reason: The four girls who make up Otoboke Beaver, all wearing bright summer dresses, played a manic set that was punk as fuck in every regard. They crowdsurfed, moshed, kicked, and screamed to the audience’s delight. Alright, day five, here we go!
Asterism: Sticking to the theme of Japanese bands who shred, I braved the long line at Elysium for Japan Nite, a touring showcase of Japanese musicians. Asterism took the stage as I was making my way inside and delivered another jaw-dropping where-am-I-what’s-going-on-wtfomg performance of concussion-inducing speed metal.
Emilie Kahn: Oh, Canada. Swan Dive hosted two showcases of Montreal-based musicians and — pay attention, showcase organizers — provided free cheese platters. I was there to catch Emilie Kahn, a singer/songwriter/harpist whom I saw a few years earlier at Iceland Airwaves and have been eager to see again since then. She provided a much needed respite from the metal and punk I’d seen earlier.
Japanese Breakfast (again): I rode a JUMP bike (don’t judge; they’re convenient) down to Rainey Street to meet a friend and we made our way to the gigantic Fender House for Japanese Breakfast’s closing set. Seeing her three times in three days is ridiculous, you say. I’m a fangurl, you say. Guilty as charged. But hearing their cover of “Dreams” by The Cranberries and some choice cuts from their latest album multiple times is a label I’ll proudly wear.
Priests: But anyway, back to loud, dark rooms with no corporate swag or clean bathrooms. Priests! PRIESTS! So glad to end my penultimate night at SXSW with such an energized performance by one of my new favorite bands.