Walking around the first night of the music portion of the South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival, it seemed to be business as usual.
Sixth Street was as crazed as it’s always been, a riot of bodies in various states of awe or inebriation, and music of all kinds seemed to come from every direction at once.
But when you arrived at an intersection along Sixth, or Red River, and saw the clusters of policemen and SXSW staff standing near barriers, it was a reminder that for everything that seems unchanged, this year, hopefully, will bring some much needed calm to this annual ritual of sonic frenzy.
The crowds were fairly light in the venues I visited Tuesday, but that will most likely change as the week goes on.
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I started out with some Ecuadorean electronica, because hey, it was St. Patrick’s Day, and what goes better with shamrocks than that?
Quito, Ecuador’s Estereo Humanzee, shrouded in smoke and lasers, blasted through its set, letting one song bleed into the next and inspiring quite a few listeners to begin dancing. “We come from the middle of the earth to bring you this music,” one band member offered, by way of introduction.
The thumping, sleek sounds functioned as a palate cleanser, as well as a primer for the night and the week to come.
Further down Red River, Brooklyn’s Dead Leaf Echo was setting up shop and the few songs I heard were intriguing. The self-described “nouveau wave” band marries the sludgy aesthetics of shoegaze with a hip New York attitude and vocals resting just on the periphery of their grinding rock songs. Not coincidentally, I felt a little rain hit my skin during their set, the perfect, gloomy accent.
I arrived at the Parish just in time to see the last few songs of Austin country-rock outfit Uncle Lucius’ set, and the overall vibe struck me as ideal for a summertime backyard barbecue. Easygoing, big-hearted, melodic and messily incorporating different genres — at one point, some horns gave the strong impression of a New Orleans-style jazz tune — their performance made me eager to see more.
I capped off my first night with a quick few songs from Jessie Frye, who was at performing the venue downstairs from Uncle Lucius. I’d just seen Frye at 35 Denton last weekend, but in Austin, as in Denton, Frye wasn’t afraid to tear into material from her debut LP, Obsidian. The audience drew closer, as if held tightly by some unseen force.
Preston Jones, 817-390-7713