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Rick @ SXSW: The Disticts, St. Vincent, Kelis and More.

March 14, 2014

The_Districts-001Text and images by Rick Kauffman.

During the early morning of Thursday, March 13, almost two-dozen people were run down by a drunk driver in downtown Austin. Outside a venue called Mohawk, 23 people were struck, killing two and leaving seven more with critical injuries.

Mohawk was hosting a capacity show featuring members of the Odd Future crew while just around the corner were the 1000 plus stage space where Kelis performed her now decade-old “Milkshake” track while opening for the majestic St. Vincent before Damon Albarn headlined.

Two days into the largest music showcase in the world, a festival as much for journalists as musicians, and one moment will forever undo what seemingly was once a joyous occasion, a celebration of music.

Nothing is sadder than to see something as unifying as the sound of music torn apart as a result of innate carelessness. Our sometime reckless lifestyles, lived vicariously through the words, notes and songs by the musicians we love, can lead to long days of excess only to lose total regard for the very life you hope to cherish.

One could want nothing more than to just get lost in the music.

And yet, the morning will be another day. The artists will return, the people will flock back to the same corner — some unaware of the atrocity committed just the night before — and the music will remain.

Nothing stops the train. Not even tragedy.

And with that, back to the music…

The Districts (above) played the Red 7 outdoor stage mid-afternoon to a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd Wednesday afternoon. Their high-intensity show was only magnified by the vigor of the Austin crowd who helped still the 18-to-20 year olds into a frenzy.

At Stubb’s, the NPR gig was as advertised: a genre-blending showcase. Noise rockers Perfect Pussy started out the show with some unintelligible jams that totally rocked, whatever they were. Front woman Meredith Graves and the group recently made news when the singer announced the bands’ upcoming album will be pressed to limited vinyl with her blood in the mix.

Next was Eagulls, who frankly were a bunch of snoozers. They played with talent and technical skill, yes, but their lack of animation is simply their downfall.

Kelis made a return in a big way. Fully embracing the Tina Turner-side of R&B rather than her party-anthem, which despite the oft referenced “Milkshake” song (you’re singing it right now, aren’t you?) making an appearance, she stuck to the ballads with her full brass band and backup musicians giving her the big band effect.

Annie Clark of St. Vincent, who recently became even odder, took a stop at Stubb’s wearing the same dress she wore at Union Transfer in Philly a few weeks earlier. Splattered blood somehow seems appropriate on the pop superstar as she has stepped into a new roll, becoming something of an icon for her latest, self-titled album.

Clark got her newest single “Digital Witness” out of the way early, performing her little song and dance routine in which she embodies the soul of a possessed porcelain doll.

Later, Damon Albarn headlined in support of his first solo album, Everyday Robots.

To finish the evening out on East 6th street, the two ladies from She Shreds Magazine held a mini festival – titled Shredfest – behind The Sailor Jerry House. Featuring a lineup of all-female-led bands, founder Fabi Reyna and jack-of-all-trades second in command Natalie Baker put on a rad little lineup that had Jack White in attendance scouting out talent.

A killer little two-piece made of sister and brother due, White Mystery, tore through a set with complete disregard for drummer Francis Scott White’s crash symbol. Singer/guitarist Alex White stirred up a pit before leaving off for the final act of the night, La Luz.

The quartet of ladies played jams reminiscent of surf rock a la the movie Pulp Fiction — just picture Travolta rolling down the boulevard with a cool buzz. Despite a long day of drinking and having a great time, the La Luz girls were troopers and finished with four or more encore songs while drummer Marian Li Pino winced with every beat. Slick harmonies and oft solos were only magnified by the band’s easy and confident demeanor. In other words, those chicks ruled.

More to come.

One Comment
  1. March 20, 2014 9:08 pm

    What was the name of that band that had paint on their faces. Pretty tough!

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