The Last Drop

Reviews and Clues on Music That Matters (to me)

SXSW 2011: Day 1


And so I did it. I finally fulfilled the life dream (my dreams are pretty attainable, I know…) of going to Austin and seeing lots and lots and lots of music in a impossibly short time span otherwise known as South by Southwest. Day 1 was filled with set up and planning. Didn’t see as many artists as I would have liked, but set myself up for a grand old weekend. The recap as follows:

Who I saw
Andrew Bealle
Fitz and the Tantrums (short set)
The Cool Kids (plus some other opening hip hop)
Foster the People
Noah and the Whale
Portugal, the Man
Charles Bradley
TV on the Radio – yep, tis true. See proof below.

The Good
Well, for starters, I saw a lot of bands I didn’t know. Which is the whole point, right? Seeing Fitz & the Tantrums in a hyper intimate setting (all 15 of us were dialed in) was a great way to start of the festival.


Fitz and the Tantrums @ Sessions

In the leadup to TVOTR, two openers stood out – Portugal, the Man and Charles Bradley. Portugal, while maintaining efforted cool by having the lead singer confine himself under a hooded jacket (It’s 80 degrees out and clear. Neither hood nor jacket were necessary.) let loose a rampage of psychedelic rock that somehow stayed focused in the pursuit of blowing your mind. Counter to the rock lambast was the soul revival stylings of Charles Bradley. Now, you really can’t go wrong when your backing band is constructed primarily from the Dap Kings. And Charles paid heed, letting the band lay solid funk underpinnings to his James Brown-esque wail of a voice. To cap it off, Charles sent us so much love, it was hard not to have a genuine smile on your face by the end of his set.

The Less Good
I guess The Cool Kids have a two viewing shelf life. I saw them twice in London – fantastic. Lots of energy, gritty bass lines, general enthusiasm for music.  Fast forward 4 years and the party is over. Less swagger, more  entitlement. All in all, they looked like they weren’t having any fun. Well, if you can’t be bothered with fun, neither can I.
The other let down – TV on the Radio. Ok, hear me out (yes, this is a subtle directing of this post to Diana once again. Others, bear with me). Rather, I beg of you to consider the following: I tried so hard to like them. Remember when I tried here. It was so earnest I even listened to the old album to see what I missed. And even now I persist in trying to understand. So much so that I pushed, clawed, kicked, and evil-eyed my way to a front row spot for these guys. Take a gander.


Even Beyonce's Halo won't make this any better



The full band, still they gets no love

After all that work, what did I learn? 1) TVOTR has only one speed live – fast. All of their songs were played at hyperspeed for maximal rocking out. To the detriment of any subtlety in sound or lyrics. All fast and loud all the time. 2) They have no sonic diversity. I believe I started to notice this on the albums – live only furthered this point. I was left with the undeniable conclusion that this band is no where near as good as we all want them to be. Frankly, they are very simple. Straight forward at what they present and comfortable staying in that prism. I’m still shocked that the live concert wouldn’t have converted me, but alas it is all too true. This is not to deny them of their intensity of purpose, rather to call them out for what they truly are – a decent rock band. No more, no less.

Now the great task is next – to put all of this aside and move forward to tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Written by TopDrop

March 18th, 2011 at 2:57 am

3 Responses to 'SXSW 2011: Day 1'

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  1. How was Foster the People? They are one of the bands on my list for Coachella.


    18 Mar 11 at 5:57 pm

  2. Foster the People was quite good! Very energetic, lots of drums to amp up the sound. Sometimes their songs start to run together. The lead singer definitely makes the group. I’d easily put them on your list.


    22 Mar 11 at 10:53 pm

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