Best Of The Best SXSW 2012

20 Mar

“In their eyes I would be strange and ragged and like the prophet who has walked across the land to bring the dark word the only word I had was ‘wow’.” – Kerouac

The greatest spectacle in music (I’ve heard they have movies too) has just wrapped up and for all it’s brilliance and mind blowing moments all I can say is “thank god it is over.”

I don’t think my body could have taken another day of free PBR and eating meals out of food trucks. SXSW lived up to, and surpassed, the hype and I didn’t even have a wristband. All in all I walked away from the week having spent $52 ($22 on food and tips, another $15 on cigarettes and $15 on gas). I was originally slated to have a press pass but somewhere along the line things got messed up, I thought that would be a damper but it.was.not.

The only negative I had all week was this. Most bands that I think are over-hyped end up being crammed full of REALLY “hip” people who only care about one song from one band and act like they are way too cool for everything else around them. My distaste for Pitchfork was one of the major catalyst to why I started Heycoolkid! in the first place but things have developed into a raging disgust. I hold bands accountable for the people that listen to their music, why can’t I do the same thing with websites?  If you keep up with me on Twitter you know a little more about my feelings here.

That’s it for complaints though. It was one of the better weeks of my life; from sun up to practically sun up there is incredible music, even without a plan you end up just wandering into these random places and catching absolutely incredible music. I shot a ton of photos, a few will be on this page but  if you feel like checking the rest I have them up on the heycoolkid! facebook page (everything on here is lower quality due to compression).

I’m huge on lists, I make them for everything and enjoy the process, so without too much talk and more focus on what’s important here are

The Top 10 Best Sets I Caught at SXSW 2012:


1. Cloud Nothings @ The Warehouse

From the very first note they played to the intense closing wall of instrumentation Cloud Nothingswent from being a band I really enjoyed to one of the only modern remnants of what defined music in the mid-nineties for having some of the best live shows ever. I’m thinking specifically of Cap N’Jazz and the really odd similarity in feeling I found when seeing these guys live. Even with a different sound you can definitely feel that they have all been drinking from the same water there in Ohio.

It was 2pm set and that DID NOT MATTER! Jayson Gerycz is definitely of the most skilled and intense drummers I have ever seen, Joe Boyer brings an explosiveness to the stage that caught me completely off guard, TJ Duke started off looking pissed off and with each song it transformed more into a flat out attitude that just felt right being presented before me. Which brings me to Dylan Baldi who I can’t rightly put into words how impressed I was with the eb and flow that works between his shy demeanor and aggressive angst which comes out at the most fitting times in each song.

I’ve got another review of this setup on Listen Before You Buy, if you feel like checking it out here is the link.

Cloud Nothings

Cloud Nothings – “Stay Useless”

Make friends with Cloud Nothings Facebook | Tumblr



2. Japandroids @ Mohawks


Sure I liked Japandroids sound going into this show but I had no idea I would dig seeing them playing live as much as I did. They just felt natural… comfortable. Oddly Japandroids and Cloud Nothings were the only bands I saw all week that actually seemed to be enjoying themselves. The crowd was super hip and still they could help having their faces melted completely off, by the third song things were feeling frantic.

These guys put in 5 free shows last week and there is no doubt in my mind that everyone who saw them walked away thinking positively about what they do regardless of whether you are into their style of music or not.

Japandroids – “Younger Us”

Make friends with Japandroids Website | Facebook | Bandcamp | Polyvinyl Records | Tumblr



3. Youth Lagoon @ Red 7

Youth Lagoon

I listen more to Youth Lagoon in my free time than just about any other band, Trevor Powers writes lyrics that rip me open with how much I connect to the honesty and what is being said. I caught them more times last week than any other band and with no intended disrespect, the other sets I caught of theirs were merely alright, I mean as a fan I enjoyed them immensely but if you didn’t already enjoy them going into the show nothing may have changed. Something happened at Red 7 though, there was a spark that lit the crowd on fire and for thirty heavy minutes we were one.

When Trevor began keying in on “17” I wanted to scream like a twelve year old girl at a Justin Bieber concert, I never imagined he would play it live, it’s my favorite Youth Lagoon track, with how slowly it opens I just couldn’t imagine including it as part of a daytime south by set. What’s crazy is that when he played it the softness felt stripped away and what was left was this bitter almost angry collection of the deepest, most real, words imaginable. I didn’t know whether I should sing along, stand in awe, or begin to weep…that’s how real it was. Those last two sentences  could be said for the entire set.

Youth Lagoon

Youth Lagoon's Trevor And Logan with Jay Armstrong

Youth Lagoon – “17”

Make friends with Youth LagoonWebsite | Facebook | Twitter | Soundcloud



4. Widowspeak @ Red 7


Two things happened during the Widowspeak set at Red 7; First being I felt confident that I have been hyping these guys up for good reason and the second that I may have fallen in love with Molly Hamilton (fact).  Of all the dream-pop bands  to show up on the scene over these last few years Widowspeak has been the one I have  bought into the most. There is more of a dynamic to their sound than with any other band in the genre. In person they felt completely relaxed and at ease without feeling boring, even Lower Dens weren’t able to keep my attention for their entire set so this is definitely important enough to mention.

I dig bands where each person has a valuable place among the sound and Widowspeak felt comprised by four individual’s whose place in what they play simply felt natural.

Molly Hamilton‘s entire demeanor (not to mention a killer smile) captivated me and stirred feelings in a way I haven’t felt towards someone I haven’t known personally in a long time… what a babe. When their set concluded they had me in their hands, I was completely sold. Robert Thomas brings an edge that goes unnoticed on their albums but sure as hell can be seen live, he was made to play seventies rock full of wailing guitars yet chooses instead to be a piece in a borderline shoegaze band, this is commendable.

Widowspeak's Robert Thomas

Widowspeak's Molly Hamilton with Jay Armstrong

Widowspeak – “Fir Coat”

Make friends with Widowspeak –  Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter



5. Hooray For Earth @ Side Bar

Hooray For Earth

So on Thursday afternoon instead of locking myself in on one show I decided instead to walk the streets of sxsw and really just dig the scene, in the process I ended up with four amazing experiences including “Mr. Bonetangles” and caught a handful of great bands that I probably never would have otherwise.  The sun was starting to go down and I was making my way to my car to take a break for a few hours when I passed by the Side Bar and instantly recognized the sound drifting from inside. There were what looked like twenty or so people in line to come in, I took my chances and walked to the door, the girl checked my I.D. and let me in without a wait and without an issue.

And there I was having stumbled in on accident watching Hooray For Earth play in this tight space, the vibe was incredible and the crowd really felt like it was one solid wave of chill. I only caught the last three songs but it was absolutely amazing to go from the heat and the hustle and lines and end up in this half-dark cubby-hole listening to incredible music.

Hooray For Earth closed out their set with “Surrounded By Your Friends” which outside of it being probably their best and more well known song if you’d been there as they stood on the floor in front of us, people edging all the way around the band, and listened to all the voices singing along it was one fantastic experience. One of the most peaceful and at ease moments I can remember ever feeling.

Hooray For Earth – “Surrounded By Your Friends”

Make friends with Hooray For EarthWebsite | Facebook



6. The War On Drugs @ Mohawk’s

The War On Drugs

Can you believe that Danny Brown went on before The War On Drugs? I’m a fan of mixing genre’s but there’s always a negative that comes from it. Take going to Bonnaroo (something I won’t ever do again) for example, you end up being stuck in a crowd that is only wanting to see Snoop Dogg while getting high and wasted instead of appreciating all of the music for the art it is. These are the same people that talk through half of Snoop’s set only to get SOOOO excited when he plays one of the two songs they know of his only to attempt at screaming the words along louder than everybody else even though they don’t actually know the words so all you can hear is three girls screaming a bunch of fucked up mumbles in your ear.

danny brown

This was the same thing that happened during Danny Brown, a bunch of really really hip kids proudly displaying their Caucasian heritage. I had three girls, which somehow transformed into five, shove there way in front of me and turn their backs to the stage while I was trying to enjoy Youth Lagoon, sharing a bloody mary and constantly trying to passively shove their purses full of pamphlets on “how to be scene” into me. I rarely smoke but I sucked in probably five cigarettes during DB’s set just so I could blow the smoke into the personal space of mine that had been stormed like Normandy. “Second hand smoke kills”… not fast enough if ask me. So Danny Brown came out and his opening song was  solid about how the record company only cares about him writing radio songs, if the rest of the set had followed suit it would have been enjoyable but instead the next thirty minutes all I heard about was how he takes adderall, smokes blunt after blunt after blunt and degrades women sexually. Each time he finished a song he would immediately scream out “Make Some Fuckin’ Noise.” Look if  you have to tell the crowd to make noise you’re probably not doing well. That’s the kind of shit I expect at a Nickleback show not at a Pitchfork event, which brings me to the fact that Danny Brown also name dropped Pitchfork AT LEAST twenty times throughout his set. If you are going to put a hip-hop artist on a bill with great bands (which I’m in no way against) just make sure they equal in talent (suggestions : Das Racist/ Freddie Gibbs) .

Now that we’re up to speed when The War On Drugs took the stage those annoying girls in front of me lasted maybe a song and a half before cutting out. The entire time they hung around with disgusted looks on their faces, I expected one of them to say “these guys actually play their instruments? That’s so lame.” So once they cut out, probably to try and blow Danny Brown in his leased Escalade, things got exponential better with a quickness.

The War On Drugs are the future of rock and roll as well as probably the most important band of our generation. I get into their music, I enjoy it, but I’m saying from the outside looking in I see something in these guys, post Kurt Vile, that feels necessary for where we are in music and the direction that music is going to go.

The entire set was on point, like time traveling to the early seventies. This is not a band meant to play thirty minute sets and they did better with it than I thought they would. They cut nothing short and still took the time to really move a song out of the lyric structure into a more visceral quasi-americana experience bordering on post-modern psychedelia. As far as on-point playing goes The War On Drugs did the best I saw all week leaving me with the conviction these guys are meant for capacity filled arena’s and even though it will take a few years I believe it’s going to happen.

The War On Drugs

The War On Drugs – “Baby Missiles”

Make friends with The War On Drugs Website | Facebook



7. Tycho @ Red 7


“Never judge a book by it’s cover,” How many time’s have we been told that in our lives? For the most part I do well at being passive and accepting but I succumb to lame stereotypes from time to time and while setting up I really thought Tycho were just a couple of “Bros.” Two minutes into their set I was feeling guilty for my judgements.

As a lover of solid instrumental songs Tycho were spot on from start to finish. If you are one who thrives on energy and movement you may want to pass on catching Tycho… as for me I was in a trance. I felt hypnotized. Tycho‘s set is the one distinct time I can remember really wishing the band wouldn’t stop playing.

Tycho – “Epigram”

Make friends with TychoWebsite | Facebook



8. Trash Talk @ The Scoot Inn

Trash Talk

The only time I felt comfortable and amongst peers was at the Thrasher show. I’m always more likely to check out a hardcore or punk show than any other and although I don’t look the part this is the subcultural I feel at home in. Since moving to Austin I’ve spent more time at Beerland than any other place (Spider House maybe comes close).

 I didn’t even know about the venue until I caught sight of the half-pipe on Friday morning, from then on I wandered back to The Scoot Inn like it was home base or something all day. The indoor shows were all insane, the place felt like it was on fire the entire time I was inside.

Once Cloud Nothings finished up their amazing set at the 1100 Warehouse I cut back to the Thrasher/Converse stages to see Trash Talk. I’ve heard people going off about their live show and thought it was definitely time I saw it for myself. The band itself was solid, seeming more pissed off and arrogant than anything but Lee Spielman is a different story. That guy’s presence with a microphone is unbelievable. He owned the crowd from the moment he stepped on stage, it was unreal to catch with my own eyes.

He worked every person in the crowd into a frenzy and just kept pushing and pushing until things started feeling dangerous, and as a fan of hardcore I was ready for it. At one point Lee climbed out into the center of the mosh pit, mic in hand, and had them form a circle pit around him. I’ve never seen anything like it before in my life. It looked like that scene in Batman Begins when Bruce is standing in the cave with all of the bats flying around him only more bad-ass.

He closed the set out by crowd surfing to the middle of the floor and standing on people while hanging himself from the center support cable. If you get a chance to see Trash Talk in the future DO IT.

Trash Talk

Trash Talk

Trash Talk – “Sacramento Is Dead”

Make friends with Trash TalkWebsite | Facebook | Twitter



9. Bear Hands @ The Bonfire Sessions

Bear Hands

My first day at SXSW would have been a disappointment if it hadn’t been for Bear Hands. I caught these guys a year ago in Indianapolis with Pomegranates and someone else (I’m trying to remember who headlined but can’t for some reason), I’ve been an avid fan ever since. They are solid performers, I respect that.

So of all the bands I caught during that first day, every one of them was rather boring, ESPECIALLY White Denim… if you ever get a chance to see them pass on it.Bear Hands should have headlined with the way they played.

Usually when a band plays new songs they don’t come across well yet that was far from the case for these guys. Their new stuff is the best yet, I can’t wait to hear it through my headphones.

Bear Hands are one band I am most definitely paying close attention to.

Bear Hands – “Crime Pays”

Make friends with Bear HandsWebsite | Facebook | Twitter



10. We Were Promised Jetpacks @ Red 7

We Were Promised Jetpacks

One of the best shows I caught last year was Jetpacks at Radio Radio in Indianapolis, so I went into this set with really high expectations that weren’t quite met. Those feelings aside this was easily one of the 10 best sets I caught all week. It was a day of really chill music, the only thing close to heavy all day was Youth Lagoon,  then as the sun was beginning to go down here was We Were Promised Jetpacks and they were ready to melt everything that stood in front of them.

The thing that always sticks out about WWPJP is how they start off a song looking almost bored and definitely nothing like a band that would ever have an edge to them and then things begin building and never let up. The passion that transforms within each song breathes fire and destroys, this is something you would never guess on their albums, the best bands are always better live.

We Were Promised Jetpacks – “Roll Up Your Sleeves”

Make friends with We Were Promised JetpacksWebsite | Facebook




Mr. Bonetangles

Sxsw 6th Street Mr Bonetangles

While roaming the streets of Austin i caught a guy setting up some strange dolls which had me hanging around near by to see what he was up to. Turns out he is a puppeteer Will Schutze who travels all over putting on his very entertaining “Mr. Bonetangles” show. Where a bone puppet dances and sings along with some solid 50’s and 60’s music.

He quickly drew in a crowd that was growing still as I headed on to check the streets out more.



The Gallery @ Bayou Lounge

The Gallery

Without disrespecting The Gallery this just isn’t my style of music. That being said, I heard them playing as I passed the Bayou Lounge and was oddly drawn to it. I caught the tail end of their set which they played flawlessly, I kept thinking the entire time of my friends that aren’t that into indie music who would fall in love instantly with these guys.

After listening through the album I do enjoy the song “Who’s In The Right,” putting the commercial-rock sound aside the lyrics are some I can really get into.

The Gallery – ” Who’s In The Right”

Make Friends with The GalleryWebsite | Facebook | Bandcamp






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