SXSW 2014: a short stay at the Hype Hotel before bidding this year’s festival adieu – 15th March 2014

By on Thursday, 27th March 2014 at 3:00 pm
 

After we left Latitude 30, I decided we needed a real meal before we went home for the week. (Come off it, people, that veggie burger that everyone was complaining about there was delicious! But it was probably because I was hungry, and you know how everything tastes 1,000x better when you’re hungry?) I’ve been a regular at Piranha Sushi just down the street from the venue every year I’ve come out for SXSW, so it made sense to get some good food and drink from there before we said goodbye to SXSW 2014.

Carrie ordered the one with the strawberries on top, which I have to say looked pretty good but it just wasn’t my thing. (If anyone fancies seeing what I ate while in Austin, I’ve got a whole slew of photos I can share. My love for music is the only thing that trumps my love for food and cooking. You can blame my Chinese upbringing.) Our waiter Zachary was ubercool and was so nice to us, even though we were a little tipsy from our time at the British Music Embassy earlier. Seriously though, it was Saturday afternoon, and how could I not indulge in multiples of my namesake drink, the Bloody Mary?

We had every intention of going home after our bellies were full. But after a fortuitous accidental run-in with more friends from the AU Review and the reappearance of our Canadian friend Jordy, who insisted we should join him at the Hype Hotel with the promise of the famous free drinks and free tacos, we relented. I argued with myself in my head, when else am I going to see Gary Numan? He ain’t coming to DC anytime soon! Actually, we didn’t need as much arm twisting as I make it sound. Edinburgh’s Meursault, who had rocked our world at the British Music Embassy just hours prior, were playing again right before Numan, so we could make it a two-fer.

Following minimal queueing, we got inside and I was surprised how much smaller the Hype Hotel was this year compared to previous years; the location moves every year. Last year when I saw then unknowns Kodaline and the Specials there on the Thursday night in 2013, the space seemed ridiculously cavernous and empty when I arrived, #2 in the queue to get in. To be honest, this time I was little crestfallen in the lack of overall grandeur. It also didn’t help that by the time I’d gotten the munchies and wanted a free taco, they’d closed up shop.

The first band on at the Hype Hotel Saturday night was Caught a Ghost, a project of LA songwriter and producer Jesse Nolan. His Twitter describes the music as ” vintage soul with modern electronic influences”, and I would agree wholeheartedly. Songs like ‘No Sugar in My Coffee’ show off Nolan’s soulful, jazzy tendencies, evident in the vocal stylings and the bass-y grooves. If the song sounds familiar, it’s because it was used in season 4 of Boardwalk Empire, probably for its sleazy slinkiness. As a full band, they’re pretty cool to watch and enjoy.


Next up as promised were Meursault. I was so pleased for them that by then – 9 PM – there was a sizable and highly receptive American crowd just waiting to hear then do their best (er, or worse, depending on which side of rock you’re on lingo-wise). What an exciting thing it must have been for them to play on such a massive stage and in front of so many more people who didn’t know who they were, and it was their chance to shine. I was excited for them too because the Hype Hotel was so much larger than Latitude 30 and the sound system at the E. 7th Street venue made them sound huge. Contrast that with the show Cheryl and I saw in Baltimore on Sunday night, and I think I’ve gotten the full Meursault live experience over a 9-day period. I’m a lucky girl.

Then came 10 o’clock. Time for Gary Numan. Gary Numan is not Carrie’s kind of music at all. So I give her a lot of credit for hanging in there for the first three songs before she bailed, patiently waiting outside for the set to finish and for me to come out. I wasn’t sure how I was going to react to his new material; he is, of course, most famous for ‘Cars’ and ‘Are Friends Electric’, his hits of yesteryear. But what was more amazing to me was how huge the sound was from his evolution into an industrial rock god in the late ’90s, following on from his mastery of being a commercially viable electronic artist with those aforementioned hit singles, at least for a time in his early career. (I apologise for the poor quality of the below photo, but I wanted to show you just how excited I was and how grateful I was to the Hype Machine to put him on the Saturday night bill.)

The ‘Splinter’ LP, released last year, continues Numan’s commitment to uncompromising industrial, goth-y rock. ‘Love Hurt Bleed’ sounds more Nine Inch Nails than Nine Inch Nails does, if that makes any sense. But in the same set, ‘Cars’, despite all its layers making it sound so much more complicated than in its original form, easily proved why the song has endured in the collective hearts and minds of us synth heads. It’s just that good, as is Numan. At age 56, the man is still wearing eyeliner, has a shock of punky hair on his head, can rock out on a guitar like nobody’s business and wail on the microphone too.

For me, it had been an extremely emotional week, meeting up and spending time with the dear people in my life I don’t often see, while also finally meeting others who I had known for a while online but this being the first time I got to meet them in person. Saturday night was the culmination of a marathon I and all of us at TGTF had been running since the first band announcement was made in November, and now it was over. So this was the show where I truly let my hair down, allowing it to fly as I just gave myself over to the music.

I had been sad for the needless deaths of innocent music fans at the Mohawk Wednesday night, and I had been sad because I received signs over the weeks before arriving and while I was in Austin that certain things in my life had reached an end. But after several important conversations on Saturday, I became optimistic that my music career had only just begun, like the feeling you get when you open a brand new book for the first time and you run your fingers down the first page, anxiously awaiting for what is yet to come. I’m a little scared but also raring to go into this next phase of my life. Gary Numan looked over at me a couple times and smiled; I doubt he realised he was witnessing a transformation.

I gave Jordy a final hug and when I finally emerged into the night to meet up with Carrie, I found her grinning from ear to ear as we were leaving. She said we definitely had to do this again next year. Shall we? I think yes. Until then…goodnight, dear Austin.

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[…] was lucky enough to catch the legendary Gary Numan at the Hype Hotel on the last day of this year’s SXSW. One of the songs he played in Austin, ‘I Am Dust’, now has a […]

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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