Remember when I concluded at the end of Wednesday at SXSW that distance was a real killer for trying to stay on schedule with your favourite bands? It’s a good thing that there are so many things going on at this festival, in all parts of town, so if you want to ad lib and (gasp!) go off your previously dog-eared, highlighted and red pen marked schedule, that is totally okay. I had avoided putting any bands performing at Stubb’s BBQ place, in the northeast part of town, on my schedule, guessing that any show at that comparatively massive venue would be rammed, uncomfortable and full up of drunk and disorderly folks I’d witnessed down the front for We Were Promised Jetpacks the night before. After getting a taste of what Kaiser Chiefs had to offer at the Showdown at Cedar Street just hours earlier, a new friend from Australia convinced me to see them followed by the Temper Trap at Stubb’s that night. But what to do before? It would take me a while to get up there on Red River Street anyhow.
I mapped out a completely improvised new schedule for the night, which included starting with Films of Colour at Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) showcase at Easy Tiger Patio at 8:30 PM. Wednesday afternoon their drummer had been restricted to an iPod with beats and tapping on a ukulele; this time I’d see their full live setup. Maybe I was tired, or maybe it was because it was too early in the evening, but I didn’t get the same kind of chills from this band like I did in the Omni hotel lobby, where their harmonies bounced melodiously off glass surfaces. But I did tape their closing number, ‘Persinette’, which you can watch below; it’s my understanding that this is the song of theirs that appeared on Made in Chelsea. If you’re interested, have a look at the rest of the evening’s line-up, including headliner of the night, Ida Maria. But after saying my goodbyes to the 10 for 2012 poll winners and wishing them a safe trip home to London, I was off again.
Due to an unfortunate schedule clash, Fanfarlo played a show at U Street Music Hall in DC the same night Bombay Bicycle Club played a sold-out gig at 9:30 Club. Sometimes as a blog editor, tough choices have to be made, and in that case, I had to see Bombay, as I’d never seen them, despite being invited out to Philadelphia to see them support Two Door Cinema Club the year before and being unable to take them up on the offer. Luckily though, Fanfarlo had several gigs lined up at SXSW, and it wasn’t until I realised that Club de Ville, where they were playing a showcase sponsored by Paradigm, was literally steps from Stubb’s that I could squeeze them in after leaving Easy Tiger Patio. Fog obscured my walk along Red River Street, and it wasn’t clear if the effect was from a fog machine or some place being on fire, hopefully it was the former and not the latter. There was already a healthy, receptive audience who looked like they were enjoying the three-piece that was performing.
That’s when I had a sense of déjà vu. Wait a minute…the guitarist. He looks familiar… I started to wrack my brain, I’d seen this bloke before. And the guy next to him with a black baseball cap. Finally, I worked it out and nearly shouted “aha!” in the middle of the crowd. (I didn’t. Phew. I would have probably drawn some severe ire if I did.) They were Hundred Visions, an Austin band that had opened for Casiokids on the East Coast last autumn. Maybe it was a hometown, captive crowd, but you could just tell from the smiles on people’s faces and the shouts of approval after the songs, even though I’d arrived late, that they were beloved by this group of punters. Comparing it to their reception in DC, I’m really glad they had such a nice crowd response.
Then came Fanfarlo. Going from a trio with relatively little equipment to a five-piece with tonnes of stuff from England was a bit comical to watch. It was a small wonder than leader Simon Balthazar never tripped on any of the wires that lay dangerously all over the floor. I haven’t warmed to ‘Rooms Filled with Light’ the way I did with their debut ‘Reservoir’, but there is no denying that newer songs like ‘Deconstruction’ have a more commercial edge, and judging from the ‘pack ‘em in like sardines’ situation I encountered at Club DeVille, I think their popularity in North America is assured. (Er…thanks, NPR for making Fanfarlo a household name in America. Thanks, I think…)
From Club de Ville it was a short skip, hop and jump to Stubb’s. I was expecting some incredibly long queue like the ones I’d seen outside Hype Hotel on Trinity all week. No, I was shooed in quickly and efficiently by Stubb’s staff. Okay, so maybe all the other punters were taking it easy, getting drinks and buying up Stubb’s world famous grilled meats at the many concession stands set up on the perimeter of the grounds. Seriously, it was like you were at a fun fair or something; I was expecting the candy floss man and his cart to come by. No, instead, I was nervously trying to decide which side to stand on. Once I’d chosen stage left, I thought it would be tiresome to stand next to these uber Kaiser Chiefs fans from England and Australia, but in actuality, it was kind of fun. While we waited for the Kaisers and later in the intervening time while the Temper Trap roadies were setting up the stage, these girls sang differing versions of ‘Ruby’ and they were quite entertaining: up to this point, I hadn’t encountered any super fans of any of the acts I’d seen, so I considered if there were people like them who were excited about music as much as I was, then the music industry must be doing something right.
Compared to their earlier daytime show, this Kaisers set was a spectacle. Flashing coloured lights and even more bombast from Ricky Wilson is just what the doctor ordered and predictably, the blighty and Oz girls swooned and screamed like they were going to just die. To be fair, I was dying to an extent too: years ago when I became borderline obsessed with a certain Scottish actor in a sci-fi tv programme (along with millions of other girls in the UK; take a wild guess who…) and found out that one of his favourite bands was the Kaiser Chiefs, I investigated the band and I fell in love with ‘Ruby’. So that song is indelibly related to that time in my life when I had some grandiose dreams for the future, and watching them perform it in front of my very eyes melted my heart. (Actually, Ricky Wilson said at one point with some disbelief, “wow, you industry people…you do have a heart!” If you’re going to Reading/Leeds this summer, definitely catch them. You’re in for a good time.
The Temper Trap stormed most of the globe 2 years ago on the strength of their single ‘Sweet Disposition’ and debut album ‘Conditions’. Once word broke they had completed their album. I have to say, again, maybe it was just fatigue of being at SXSW 3 days in a row already but I just wasn’t feeling the new songs. ‘Dreams’ (video below) was just too much of a sleeper and I wished it was more animated to really get the crowd moving. However, Cheryl and I will be seeing them on Saturday in DC and we’ll have two minds them to confer and deliberate on the new material compared to the old faves like ‘Science of Fear’ and ‘Fader’.
What did they end with? No contest: ‘Sweet Disposition’, with pogo-ing and breathless screams of delight as I witnessed with them on their 2010 tour in Philadelphia and Boston. How will the new album fare? Only time – and the reaction of fans – will tell.