Tex fest South By Southwest lurched into the weekend this Friday, with what was perhaps its most overbooked, spoilt-for-choice day of the week. Depeche Mode, Green Day, the Flaming Lips, Natalie Maines, and Talib Kweli? All on the same night? Well, that's just downright cruel, SXSW bookers...
Yes, SXSW can be a frustrating exercise in FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), because it is inevitable that some stellar shows must unfortunately be skipped. But I am pretty pleased with the array of shows I did manage to take in on Friday. Here are my highlights from the day:
1) Fitz & The Tantrums Threw It Down
This funky rock 'n' soul collective, led by dashing blue-eyed soulman Michael "Fitz" Fitzpatrick and fiery R&B goddess Noelle Scaggs, is finally following up 2010's Pickin' Up The Pieces with the long-overdue sophomore album More Than Just A Dream. And judging by the sheer volume of fans who've been showing up to the hard-working band's many appearances at SXSW this week, there are plenty of people out there twitching and itching to hear new Fitz. I caught one of the Tantrums' gigs at the Rolling Stone party at La Zona Rosa, and despite my belly full of BBQ and my liver full of Shiner Bock, I could not help but shimmy in earnest as I watched them perform. Seriously, I dare you to watch the clip below without feeling the uncontrollable urge to dance, dance, dance.
2) Blake Lewis Performed On A Magical Mystery Bus
So I was speedwalking past the Austin Convention Center on my frazzled way to see one of the 17 conflicting afternoon shows on my SXSW calendar, when I heard some familiar mouth-music beats emanating from out of nowhere. I glanced up in confusion. Look, there in the sky! It was a bird! It was a plane! No, it was a real live American Idol! Yes, there he was, Season 6 "Idol" runner-up Blake Lewis, randomly beatboxing atop a double-decker bus on the corner of 1st and Trinity. So I stopped to get my groove on. It's this sort of unplanned awesomeness that I love about SXSW most.
3) Solange Serenaded The Spin Crowd
Beyonce's younger, cooler sister has easily established herself as a darling of the indie set, collaborating with hipsters like Devonte Hynes, Grizzly Bear, Theophilus London, Of Montreal, and Chromeo. And plenty of SXSW hipsters showed up to see Solange play Spin magazine's daytime bash at Stubb's, which also featured performances by Glaswegian electro outfit CHVRCHES and new-school hip-hop hero Kendrick Lamar. Solange's show-closing rendition of her breezy daytime-disco hit "Losing You," one of THE best singles of 2012, was the perfect soundtrack for a hazy Austin afternoon. This Knowles child has her own date with destiny, because I believe her forthcoming third solo album will be massive and will take her to the next, beyond-hipsterdom level.
4) Depeche Mode Had A Black Celebration
Yes, of course I chose Depeche over every other Friday-night option, duh--and not just because it was a Yahoo!-sponsored event, either. For my full review of Depeche Mode's epic first-ever SXSW gig, at the intimate club Brazos Hall, click HERE. Or, just watch six seconds of Dave Gahan amazingness below, and come down with a severe, acute case of FOMO yourself:
5) Palma Violets Made Joyous Noise
These garage-rock London rabblerousers (think the Libertines, the Vaccines, Jesus & Mary Chain) almost made Fitz & The Tantrums look like mellow coffeehouse folkies, their set was so chaotically, boisterously brilliant. They didn't take the Club de Ville stage until after 1am, but the totally pumped crowd that gathered for their set had energy to burn. And so did the band. There was screaming. There was moshing. There was crowd-surfing. There was plenty of eardrum-liquefying guitar noise. (When the band asked, presumably rhetorically, "Wanna hear a slow song?"--the audience amusingly bellowed, "Nooooooooooo!!!!!" The band obliged and kicked out the jams even harder and faster.) And at the end of it all, there was an onstage punk-rock pogo party. I was so wired after watching this show--if the Violets could figure out how to put this sort of energy in a can and sell it, they'd run Red Bull right out of business--I couldn't get to sleep when I finally made it back to my hotel.
I wish I'd been able to rest up, actually, because Saturday will be even more chaotic and action-packed than Friday, with last-hurrah "secret" shows by Justin Timberlake, Smashing Pumpkins, and even Prince. (I really wish I could pour a can of Palma Violets Energy Drink down my throat right now.) Come back later for a full report on SXSW's final whirlwind day!
For more South By Southwest coverage on Yahoo! Music, go to http://music.yahoo.com/sxsw.