“This is the center of the universe—well, our universe,” said Josh Moore, a folk singer-songwriter from Carrboro, his face was glowing with child-like excitement. Moore caught a ride to Texas with Wilmington band He Is Legend. He isn’t in Austin to play his own music, but rather to absorb everything else that's here. As we sat on the pavement together, we listened to The Love Language run through a quick soundcheck. I thought about all the North Carolina bands who are at SXSW this year. North Carolina—in particular the Triangle of Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh—sent several dozen bands to Austin to play both official showcase sets and house parties and art gallery shindigs.
“It’s like someone out there is working for us,” Josh Pope of The Love Language said later, referring to the swirling buzz and momentum his group is building. Friday the band played the Levi’s Fader Fort (which Kanye West will play tonight), followed by a set for Ground Control Touring, the Carrboro-based agency that books them and acts like Sonic Youth, British Sea Power, Rilo Kiley and M. Ward. Saturday, The Love Language will play the Rolling Stone Showcase, a gig that reflects a direct invitation from the magazine.
The band has a dedicated manager, Jeff Sawyer, who drives his van and trailer down to N.C. to pick the band up for legs of touring. The record is pushing its label Bladen County Records into new territory, and there is talk of a sub-contract to increase distribution. Thursday, after the band performed live sets for KEXP and WOXY, they went to dinner and talked shop with Gigantic Records (home to The Walkmen, Harlem Shakes, and Rumble Strips). All of this motion comes before the band’s debut gets its real release party later this month with a show March 28, at Local 506.
The night-time performance Friday warranted every bit of buzz and hype the band’s created. Stu McLamb, formerly of Raleigh band The Capulets, still possesses an on-stage persona that swoons his audience, though all seven members contribute to the performance with a balanced, united delivery. An indie-pop gem from North Carolina, the Language plans on keeping those roots, though they’re currently relocating to Orange County to focus on writing new songs. “We are very loyal to our scene,” said Pope. “We try to plug it in interviews and don’t plan on leaving North Carolina.”
After the Love Language show, I bounced over to Momo’s for a KUT.org show featuring The Rosebuds. Perhaps bounce isn’t the right word. I broke down and took a rickshaw for the 12-block trek. My feet rejoiced. At the show, I took notice that Brad Cook must be one of the hardest working musicians at SXSW. How his feet must hurt... He is doubling his performance time between his band Megafaun and his contribution as the bassist for The Rosebuds. He played three shows on Thursday and three shows on Friday. When asked about his schedule, he only laughed and said, “This is so much fun. Playing with Megafaun can be exhausting, but with the Rosebuds, I just get to have fun. Logan [Matheny, also of Roman Candle] is such a good drummer that is makes my job easy.”
Easy and fun is about right: The Rosebuds are SXSW pros by now, and although they admitted to being tired going into their third of five showcases, they showed no signs of real wear. Maybe their attired helped: Ivan was sporting Raleigh Denim jeans, and Kelly was wearing a dress from a new Raleigh designer, Marie Cordella. Seeing The Rosebuds off their home turf was a treat, an affirmation that their show is increasingly about crowd involvement. They instructed the crowd through song lyrics for half of the setlist. During "Nice Fox," Ivan proclaimed it was for “all the people in Raleigh.” He also confessed a life-changing moment: While waiting to see Tom Petty at an amphitheater, a thunderstorm was brewing. He crested the hill and heard The Jayhawks playing the song “Blue.” Louris and Olson had opened the radio set for the Buds. In that moment at that ampitheater, he realized he was going to be a musician.
The Rosebuds closed out the show with a performance of “Bow to The Middle” in the midst of the crow. Complete with lyrically instructed bowing, walking, and dancing, it offered an energetic wrap. Today, the Buds play at Homeslice Pizza, with The Love Language before their SXSW time with a performance at midnight for the Merge/Barsuk Records showcase.