SXSW 2009: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4
Today is Metallica day. The worst kept secret of SXSW is that LA’s finest will be making an appearance at what is billed as “Metallica Guitar Hero Competition”. That suspiciously lasts for two hours. The result? Fans are seen queuing some 11 hours prior to showtime, ensuring themselves a place in the 2,000 capacity Stubbs venue.
The good news for others is that in might be easier to get into certain venues while the rock gods take Austin by storm. So, ignoring the hype completely, I start my day with the mighty HEALTH who, despite having spent the best part of the last 18 months touring, have still managed to record new material, a lot of which is previewed in the boiling 1pm sun here today. It’s nothing groundbreaking, or even stretching far away from what their debut delivered, but they’re still a hugely fun live proposition.
Next door in the Habana venue, Titus Andronicus‘s high pitched fist-in-the-air rock would please fans of The Hold Steady but fail to hold my attention for more than a few numbers and We Have Band are a far more attractive option at Mohawk. The Brighton three-piece are on fine form this afternoon and the crowd are enraptured by their dark, layered Lo-Fi-Fnk-ish party tunes. They seem genuinely surprised by this and it makes for an uplifting finale.
Ra Ra Riot play to such a heaving tent at the Radio Room that I give up hope and retreat to Emo’s where A-Trak and Diplo are sweating buckets to a steaming late afternoon crowd. As DJ sets go, this is the usual fodder of recent club tracks and more favourable early ’90s gems. But the sheer presence of the two superstar DJs is enough to get the crowd eating out of their hands and, at the end, walking out in the blazing sunshine is disorientating to say the least.
METALLICA UPDATE: Queue now reaching the hundreds and people have begun to take their places at the top of a nearby car park to get a decent view outside of the venue. Nutters.
Back at the Mohawk, Bear Hands manage to be more Les Savy Fav than Les Savy Fav while the very funny comedian Margaret Cho provides some respite from music music music.
These Are Powers roll up late to the Club Deville stage and are an utter delight. Mixing hip-hop beats with harsh, almost post rock melodies, they’re one of the more original bands on display this week. A band that looks like they’re having fun at the same time is half the charm.
Elsewhere Mi Ami are fronted by a screeching maniac of a vocaliser (although this is slightly ruined by his politeness in-between songs, burbling on as if he was talking to your mum), and offer a hypnotic blend of tribal drums and guitar, like the more indulgent moments on recent Liars records. They raise more than a few eyebrows here and are sure to blow up in indie terms before the year’s out. One to watch for certain.
Cult favourites Wheat, who held much promise 10 years back with their Hopes And Adams record but since faded away into obscurity, attempt some sort of comeback. It’s heartbreaking to see the near-empty room that greets them and although they play the classic Don’t I Hold You? and others from the aforementioned record, it’s hard to shake the feeling that nobody’s listening.
Metallica are done and 6th street is heaving with gig-goers. Feet are crying out for bed once more so it’s time for rest before the final day.