Music: South By Southwest Bonus Coverage

The paper's only so big. Even more SXSW insight for those who can't get enough

Mar 19, 2003 at 2:06 pm
Doug Trapp




KaitO/The Polyphonic Spree

No other band made me want to dance more than U.K.'s Noise Rock quartet KaitO — except Dallas' 24-member Pop symphony, The Polyphonic Spree. Well, OK, technically KaitO made me want to dance with my fist pumped in the air, while the white-robed Polyphonic Spree made me hope they would start a musical commune so I could join it.


I Am The World Trade Center

A dozen other bands would have kicked this sugary-sweet Techno-Pop duo's asses to get their Friday Tower Records in-store slot, but they walked through a four-song, 15-minute set as if the store was lucky to have them. Some of their songs are catchy, but Amy Dykes' mediocre voice wasn't enough to carry them. Most of their live show was pre-programmed, but it was still 15 to 30 minutes shorter than every other band I saw at SXSW. Halfway through their micro-set, I had the barely controllable urge to push them out of the way; I was sure I could improvise something better on their keyboard and sampler.



No other SXSW band attracted such a hyper, devoted crowd as did Mexico's answer to Limp Bizkit. Or are they Mexico's answer to Rage Against the Machine? Their album, Dance and Dense Denso, reminds Americans that Texas was once part of Mexico, before oil became a profitable commodity. But they also steal a 2 Live Crew beat and spend more than a few lines on graphic sex, if my Spanish is holding up.

The crowd's chants most often included the word puta (whore), although I couldn't say what the context was. It's difficult enough understanding English at Rock concerts.

No matter. The line of people who couldn't get into their show at The Vibe — usually a Jam band haven — stretched for almost a block. Police on horseback had to encourage them to leave not long after the show began, according. I barely made it in even with my SXSW badge. On the inside they had the entire crowd — I'm guessing mostly Spanish speakers, judging by their response to the mostly Spanish lyrics — jumping and pumping their fists in the air, four women from the crowd dancing on stage, and carrying on in general.

Even the skeptical joined in. Right after the first song, a guy next to me who saw me taking notes told me he didn't like this "anarchist shit" and told me to "rip them a new asshole." A couple of songs later he was jumping and pumping his fist in the air. When I asked him why, he said, "I jump for everybody." (Beware: the Web site automatically plays their music ­ loudly.)


Torrez, Mother Egan's Irish Pub

TVs showing college basketball and chatty, shrill, drunk patrons in a small bar did not provide the ideal ambiance for this somber Rock band from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. They can put out strong sound, but only do so during a few of their methodically building anthems, and that only encouraged the shrill, stupid people at Mother Egan's to become more of both. The biggest problem was that singer/guitarist Kimberlee Torres' sweet voice barely and only briefly rose above the din. But that was more the bar's fault than her's.


VHS or BETA, Club 505

Louisville's Electro-Rock band VHS or BETA couldn't have hand-picked a better place or a better time to play. Following a night of booty-shaking acts at what is usually a dance club, the band closed the last night of SXSW with an almost non-stop set of songs. One basic beat served as the framework for several minutes while two guitarists, a bassist, and a drummer using sampler pads fronted for the usual techno gadgetry. They only paused to change beats twice in nearly an hour. One band member opened their set by saying the SXSW music festival was over, and that "this is a party." He was right.


The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash's Mark Stuart

The band's lead singer, talking at their Tower Records performance about the flak the Bastard Sons caught for letting actor Billy Bob Thornton sing on their album. Thorton's first Country music album last year received nearly universal scorn from critics. Stuart tried to help Thornton by saying: "Musical talent aside, he's a tenacious individual." Which is probably why the Sons turned Thornton's song into a hidden track — his tenacious fans will still find it, right? Sometimes things are best left unsaid.


Concrete Blonde

Camper Van Beethoven

Joe Jackson

The Yardbirds (of course without Eric Clapton, Jeff

Beck, or Jimmy Page)

Liz Phair

Dead Meadow

I usually avoid Jam-style bands, but these three guys merge Blues rhythms, way fuzzed-out guitar, and a keen sense for improvisation into the perfect songs for slow-motion head-banging. Think Failure with a slightly Southern accent.

Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash

Another aptly named group. These four guys do straightforward, no gimmicks Country, and do it just fine. One song is about the lead singer's 1970 Monte Carlo.

Jungle Brothers

I'm no Hip Hop expert, but you have to respect a pioneering but aging duo who can get a mostly AltRock crowd at Emo's main room to raise their hands in the air to a set that was mostly their old jams — even by using the "roof is on fire" callout, the Hip Hop equivalent of "Play Skynyrd!" On second thought, is that impressive?

... And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead

You never know where the Austin sound gremlins will turn up during SXSW. The hard-rocking Trail of the Dead aimed high by inviting Austin's Tosca String Quartet — that night named the best quartet in town by the Austin Chronicle — to back them for a few songs on Emo's main stage. By the end of the set, the quartet had left after getting minimal cooperation from the amps, plus the lead singer's guitar barely worked. So the Trail of the Dead absolutely trashed their instruments — not out of trying to impress anyone, I'm betting — but because they were genuinely pissed off about the sound problems. It was the ultimate period at the end of a fragmented sentence.

Party of Helicopters

If only this Kent, Ohio's Punk Rock sound had as much sneer and insolence as their lead singer did at their Emo's Jr. gig. Then they might have something.