Thunder and lightning and pouring rain woke me early Saturday morning. The rest of SXSW was all blue skies and sunshine, and I wondered if our Kevchino.com & The Nym Guy outdoor day party at Cafe Mundi would take flight. Our Austin promoter, Rob Dalley, aka The Nym Guy, insisted, "The show must go on, rain or shine!" So the rain stopped a half hour after the show was supposed to start, and we decided to have it under the café’s covered patio instead of the rain-soaked stage we had rented that Sandra Bernhard performed on two days earlier. Starting the show a half hour behind schedule, Threeleaf took the stage, and the long day began. This was the final show before Cafe Mundi closed their doors, having recently lost their lease, probably due to the new 32-mile MetroRail train line which had the Plaza Saltillo stop just down the street. (The train service started on Monday, just after SXSW.) Other than the early rainstorm and cold weather, which kept the crowds small, those who braved the elements were treated to a great show.
After watching the bands outside freezing in the cold, Shilpa opted to play indoors, solo, without her Happy Hookers. She put on a great set with her harmonium and projected her natural voice to the crowd.
Her Happy Hookers
Some of Her Happy Hookers whispered along with her lyrics and lightly tapped their parts on the table.
Sharon Van Etten
Sharon Van Etten played her set as the sun set. It was thirty-two degrees, but she powered through her set in the freezing cold. She asked if anybody had blue eyes and brought a blue-eyed boy named Brian on stage and serenaded him with "Ooh Love," a Blaze Foley cover (see video below). She also performed "For You" and a song she said she rarely plays, called "Damn Right."
Domino Records sent Irish band The Villagers’ frontman, Conor J. O’Brien, to SXSW this year. Conor performed a great set with his classic yet-to-be-released song "Becoming A Jackal," off his upcoming album to be released in June. He stole the hearts of many audience members and won over new fans, including Sharon Van Etten. He did a Beatles cover, "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," and got the audience to sing along. He also did a great cover of Roy Orbison's "Crying."
The show was running ahead of schedule, and we were lucky to have Damien Nicholas DeRose of Peasant, who was in the audience, step up to do a surprise set.
Drink Up Buttercup
Philadelphia's Drink Up Buttercup were the most energetic and playful band of our showcase. They previewed songs off their new album, Born And Thrown On A Hook.
Portland's Rey Villalobos put his band The Coral Sea on the wayside to promote his beautiful whispery folk solo EP titled Roses in the Nordic Countries.
Eagle Rock, California's Princeton played a great set. The standout was the tropical-sounding "Calypso Gold."
Austin, Texas's Joannabarbera played some tunes off her album Carnival Beginning. She's originally from New York.
Seabear traveled all the way from Reykjavík, Iceland to play SXSW and built up quite a buzz during their stay in Austin. Their sophomore LP, We Built A Fire, was also featured on Spinner.com this week. Seabear played an amazing set and had the largest crowd of the day. I highly recommend checking out this band. They're on tour in the US, so check out their MySpace page for dates.
Odawas were another highlight of the show. Their songs were reminiscent of Calexico if the band were on Ambien. I picked up a copy of their album The Blue Depths, on Jagjaguar. "Harmless Lover's Discourse" was a standout song in their set.
4AD's multi-instrumentalist Anni Rossi put on a great set as she gracefully plucked and played her violin. Backed with a live drummer and keyboardist, she played tunes off Rockwell.
Brooklyn's Monogold impressed many with their set. They played their great song, "Traps/Offerings," off the We Animals EP. They made some new Brooklyn fans in Austin, Texas.
The lovely Brittain Ashford and crew just finished recording her new album in Marfa, Texas.
Austin locals Threeleaf opened the show. They were also supposed to back Sarah Castro during her set later in the day, but she was sick with the flu.
During the Odawas set, I noticed tons of graffiti artists showing up across the train tracks. One artist started stenciling, and the others did color fills. It was fun to stare across the tracks and see the art taking form as the music played on.
Words and Photos by Kevin Serra