Judging by the number of complaints over sore feet and backs and general grumbling overheard walking around Austin, it would seem that we’ve already hit full-swing. I can’t even begin to imagine what the pain relief aisle at the local drugstores look like by the time the week’s over.
But though the complaints were high, everyone soldiered on, and the massive lines remained massive, the loud music remained loud, and the excitement continued to swell to serious highs. We continued our scouring of the city, catching up with familiar faces and stumbling upon new names — achy joints and all.
Only Real – Yvynyl + Turntable Kitchen at Hype Hotel – 1:00 p.m.
Photo by Dan Bogosian
Only Real are distinct, if only for their strange mixture of everything: they’re a one-man rap-rock act filled out with supporting players who don’t sound like their nu-whatever brethren. The tunes sound like Joe Strummer’s chants laid peacefully over some English Beat ska, but infusing the guitar with dripping waves of syrupy guitar. When not rapping, Niall Galvin sings with an Eric Burdon-esque croon whose soul creeps on you. He’s more potential than reality at this point; apart from online single “Cadillac Girl”, the set lacked real rallying points, but with his deep voice, tasty blend, and touches of Iggy Pop, there’s something there. –Dan Bogosian
Fantastic Negrito — Lagunitas CouchTrippin’ at Container Bar — 2:00 p.m.
Photo by Ben Kaye
Fantastic Negrito lived up to his moniker on Wednesday. He came out with an old-fashioned soul intro, naming off the band members while they laid down a rolling, building jam. From the minute they went into their first actual song, neither he nor the four-piece behind him let up. There wasn’t a minute of stage time wasted as Xavier Dphrepaulezz rolled his body to the beat, jived, and belted his words. “Don’t give up,” he repeated over and over after finishing standout “It’s a Long Long Road”. He delivered positive, gospel-level banter like that throughout, even when talking about taking flack for writing his song “An Honest Man”. Coupled with the insanely feel-good nature of the songs (and their equally feel-good delivery), Dphrepaulezz connected with a crowd who likely had little idea who he was. (He’d earned his spot on the bill by winning a contest through NPR Little Desk.) That, alongside the lyrics’ relative simplicity and empowering message, allowed him to teach the words to the audience with ease. “Sunshine, let it down on me,” they sang at one point, and on a gorgeous Austin day with the fabulous Fantastic Negrito on stage, it certainly came down bright. –Ben Kaye
Shura — Yvynyl + Turntable Kitchen Day Party at Hype Hotel — 3:00 p.m.
Photo by Sasha Geffen
London-based songwriter Shura played her second show of a busy week to the crowd at Hype Hotel, a repurposed warehouse with a few attached tents across the street from the Fader Fort on 5th. It made a good venue for the young artist; though we haven’t heard much from her besides the sprinkling of solid electronic pop singles she’s loosed in the last year, her songwriting lends itself to high ceilings and open space. Flanked by two fellow multi-instrumentalists, Shura took lead duties on vocals and played a Roland Juno 106, lovingly renamed the “Shuno 106” with a piece of masking tape and some Sharpie. Shura played through a set that included her latest single, “2Shy”, a heartsick ode to longing and introversion, and in the live setting her songs flexed and sprawled. Along with her band, she commanded a chain of powerful, flexible electronics; at one point, her bassist played bass tones with a glowing electronic foot pedal while grinding out riffs on guitar. Like “2Shy” suggests, Shura’s presence is understated and wistful, even as she’s shredding a trigger pad into oblivion. –Sasha Geffen
Kevin Devine and the God Damn Band – Candy Shop Management Showcase at Maggie Mae’s Rooftop — 3:00 p.m.
Photo by Dan Bogosian
For a long time, Kevin Devine was a well-kept secret, but after an insane amount of buzz from a massively successful Kickstarter campaign, he’s … still a well-kept secret of sorts. What stands out most is that, unlike most at SXSW, they seemed not only happy to be there, but acted like performing on a rooftop in Austin was the chance of their lifetimes. Devine lost an earplug from headbanging as artist Rob Pryor did live art on stage, and the power trio routinely hopped around like a rabbit on speed. Maybe a Long Island punk singing songs as woeful as Elliott Smith doesn’t interest you – but there’s nothing uninteresting about his balls-to-the-wall performance. –Dan Bogosian
Hundred Waters — Yvynyl + Turntable Kitchen Day Party at Hype Hotel — 4:00 p.m.
Photo by Sasha Geffen
The last time I saw Hundred Waters play was nearly a year ago to the day. They performed at Central Presbyterian Church during SXSW 2014, just two months before they’d release their stunning sophomore album, The Moon Rang Like a Bell. Compared to yesterday’s set, the church show was a conservative one; Hundred Waters tested the boundaries of their new material before wrapping it up and shipping it out on record. In the last year, they’ve toured extensively, and their confidence onstage has multiplied. Singer Nicole Miglis possessed a subtle, mysterious charisma as she sang out to the audience. And while Moon’s songs might be delicate at points, live, they hardened into weapons. “Down from the Rafters” took on new life as it morphed from gentle, melodic pop to a pure house throb, and Miglis danced along to its quickening beat as if possessed by it. She repeated the song’s chorus, enunciating each consonant sharply until her vocals took on a percussive quality of their own. Last year, Hundred Waters were a promise; this time around, they’re a power all their own. –Sasha Geffen
The Rocketboys – Candy Shop Management Showcase at Maggie Mae’s Rooftop – 4:00 p.m.
Photo by Dan Bogosian
The Rocketboys started off slow, tranquil, and lulled a full house into nearly nodding off. It turned out to be a trap: halfway through the set, they flipped a switch and started singing infectiously catchy songs. By the fourth time “oohs” appeared as a sing-along, it had lost some of its touch, but what they lacked in potent lyricism, they made up for in bold, four-part harmonies. What’s more, for their finale, singer Brandon Kinder pulled the crowd on stage with him before diving into the mix of fans and standbys. He hunted down anyone unconvinced and converted them. Their brand of pop isn’t for everyone, but they close like giants. –Dan Bogosian
Josh Berwanger Band — All Tomorrow’s Tacos Party at The Lost Well — 4:30 p.m.
Photo by Jon Hadusek
Among the endless march of guitar bands at Southby, Josh Berwanger’s sense of style and melody is refreshing in its unpretentiousness, and there’s perhaps no band working harder to earn the eyes and ears of festivalgoers. Just yesterday the band played three sets at three different venues back-to-back-to-back, including an intimate slot at the All Tomorrow’s Tacos party at The Lost Well (and they’ve got four more today). Berwanger is proudly carrying the power-pop flag into the 21st century, channeling the late ’70s sound of 20/20 and The Nerves while adding a distinct glam-metal flare, which can be heard in the fretwork of lead guitarist Ricky Lee Salthouse. For all the soft-spoken romance in the lyrics, these songs rip. Keep an eye out for the band’s forthcoming LP (and Berwanger also just released a 7″ with power pop legend Dwight Twilley). –Jon Hadusek
Dead Sara – Candy Shop Management Showcase at Maggie Mae’s Rooftop – 5:00 p.m.
Photo by Dan Bogosian
Dead Sara’s first album was a combination of classic rock riffs, Janis Joplin vocals, radio songwriting, and a punk energy; the new material live keeps the Joplin and turns what were fast, throbbing rhythms into genuine anger. Any band that attempts the high jump of covering “Dazed and Confused” and actually nails the landing deserves applause, let alone one that does it with guitar leads and soul screeches long buried. What was punk is now raging hard against the machine; what was radio is now mature songwriting. I have no idea what is inside of Emily Armstrong. Something is pissing her off, and she is going to scream it out of her until you feel it, too. The showcase’s MC dubbed them the best rock and roll band of the past 10 years. I was ready to dispute that; now I’m ready to defend it. –Dan Bogosian
Click ahead for the rest of our Wednesday coverage along with an exclusive gallery.