At South by Southwest, the room is often too small for the band booked. Consider buzz band Here We Go Magic, who played the inside stage of The Mohawk during the middle of a hot Texas day. Maybe next year someone will book a show in a closet so it will look super packed.
Or perhaps the place doesn’t even have a stage or a monitor system: It’s just a bar that crammed all of the chairs in one corner and set up some speakers, similar to what The Sidebar has concocted. And then there is the possibility that, during the set, the venue’s equipment (microphones, speakers, everything) will stop working. Shows at SXSW are not, by any means, glorious, unless you are M. Ward, St. Vincent, or Camera Obscura, all of whom played to a packed-out cathedral at the Central Presbyterian Church on Wednesday.
Conditions like these bring the true musicians to the forefront. If they can get past all of these obstacles and still put on a solid show, then they have conquered “The Beast.” My list of Thursday shows definitely produced some warriors. My Education and Wax Fang overcame: The five members of My Education, an Austin band featuring several SXSW veterans, sport an instrumental arrangement that could have been a nightmare for newcomers. Their songs boast layered guitar voices and a complementary violin in the mix, reminiscent of Explosions in the Sky, minus the epic builds. Wax Fang, a trio from Kentucky, kicked it out, too. Stuck in the same room as My Education, they didn’t let the lack of stage or proper venue take away anything from their set. They delivered their piercing orchestral guitar riffs with precision and brought the crowd to fist-pumps. An intense show.
Raleigh band The Proclivities had their fare share of the SXSW Beast. They came down to SXSW as a three-piece rather than their familiar four-part lineup. Their bassist quit two weeks prior so frontman Matt Douglas picked up the part. An early night show at Touché didn’t attract the core SXSW badge holders but did get the Uinversity of Texas girls dancing while bringing out The Rosebuds. Even when the lead vocal mic went out and the right stage speaker started to buzz on their last song, The Proclivities’ set was pretty perfect. Leave it to these guys to keep it strong in the midst of chaos.