It’s really easy to start of SXSW like a kid let loose in a candy shop—overcome with excitement, running full force from show to show, stuffing your ears full of bands, snapping pictures, paying no attention to signs that the human body can only take so much… Show after show, band after band, and then it’s one in the morning and you realize you’ve forgotten to eat lunch and dinner.
That’s what Day 1 of Kelly vs. SXSW felt like. Although I reached the point of maxed-out musical indulgence too early, the day’s findings were not lost. First band of the day, and by far one of the day’s best, was from a group of youngins out of Philadelphia, Drink Up Buttercup. Their energy was not thrown by the early-afternoon, early-week show, as they showcased all the peculiarities of their performance. The four piece have all the carnival weirdness of Man Man, combined with the space-odyssey songs lines of Wolf Parade. They round it out with harmonies that pull the crowd into the show.
Subsequently, The Evangelicals would have been more enjoyable, and more comfortable on stage, if the Texas sun had excused itself for the day followed by everyone consuming a few cocktail. Frontman, Josh Jones recalled Robert Smith in his ability to deliver a sensual performance. Just not so much at three in the afternoon.
Locals Lonnie Walker opened the first evening show on the Terpsikhore lineup and although the crowd, and energy, of a local act can’t travel 1,000 plus miles from home, they bit off their first SXSW performance with an earnest chomp and rounded out the show with new material. Their full-length is due out late spring/early summer and their remaining SXSW time should serve as a reminder that they might in the big leagues soon.
Overall, the most satisfactory performance was from Cotton Jones, the new project from Michael Nau of Page France. Coming off their early 2009 release of Paranoid Cocoon, the group took the performance as an opportunity to reinforce why those songs are just so damn good. There was a rawness to live performance that contrasted the smoothness of the recorded versions of such tracks like “Some Strange Rain” and “Up a Tree.”
The group doesn’t waste time, either: They hit the road Friday and will roll through Chapel Hill at the Local 506 on Sunday. Keep an eye and ear out for Whitney McGraw on the upright, church-like organ, which is bolted to a piece of plywood with four small wheels on the bottom, perfect for touring.