SXSW Overflow 2012, Tonight at SHFL: Day One (Sphynx, Galaxy Express, & Les Racquet)

Ah, yes. It’s March, that wonderful time of year when about a bazillion people cram into the confines of our prettier-than-us sister city to the northwest, all getting sweaty and drunk and deaf with one another while every band you’ve ever heard of plays somewhere. But eh, screw that. I’m too damn old for that crap, and the idea of being that close to that many other people kind of freaks me out these days.

So, yep, I’ll be staying home, down here in H-town, as I expect a lot of other fellow music-lovers are doing, as well. But hey, just because you’re not Austin-bound doesn’t mean you’re screwed — there’s always-always-always a lot of spillover from SouthBy, and at least some of the good stuff sloshes our way. A lot of these bands aren’t from Texas (or the U.S.), and hey, while they’re here, they might as well play more than one city, right?

That’s where Super Happy Fun Land comes in. They’re once again doing their ever-awesome SXSW Overflow Fest, running this year from Friday, March 9th (that is, tonight) up through Saturday, March 24th and featuring — at last count by the SHFL folk — 81 bands from as far afield as Sweden and Japan.

Oh, and it’s significantly cheaper than heading on up to Austin, with tickets costing $8 a night or $24 for a full two-week pass. 80+ bands, $24 — you won’t get a deal that good again around here ’til Summerfest kicks into gear, seriously.

Now, because I’m sticking ’round these parts, I figure what the hell — why bother trying to preview some SXSW-playing bands that I’m never actually going to see? Nope, not gonna do it (although yes, I do plan to post about some Houston-centric things going on up that way, too). If you want that, heck, head on over to Houston Calling where the inimitable David Cobb is doing some very cool rundowns on bands playing various points ’round Austin. He can cover that stuff far better than I can, believe me.

Me, on the other hand, well, I’m going to attempt to preview every single freaking band playing at the SXSW Overflow Fest, night by night, for the third glorious year in a row. (See here for some of the previous years’ stuff.) As in years past, this year’s lineup promises to be a crazy, all-over-the-board pile of musicians, some good, some bad, and some meh. Take it all with a big helping of salt.

Keep in mind, btw, that the schedule for this changes multiple times a day, so if you see that I’ve written about Band X, and Band Y’s playing in their place the night of the show, well, that’s the way it goes. This is a rapidly-mutating monster, right here.

I’ve been in years past, btw, and it’s always a cool, chill, relaxed-as-hell time, with a wide range of bands crashing at SHFL HQ (they feed the bands, apparently) and playing whatever the hell they feel like for a crowd of brave/curious souls. Seriously, it’s well worth checking out, so long as you go in with an open mind.

Anyway, enough of that, and on to Day One. Here we go:

SPHYNX: And in a weird twist of fate, yep, I get to start off with a band I’ve already heard. These folks sent me a download of their most recent full-length, Human Beast, last year, and while I sadly didn’t get a chance to fully review it before their show, I still walked away impressed.

The band does a spectacularly bouncy, bright-smiling kind of electro-pop, effortlessly melding electronicized beats, live drums, Gary Numan-esque synths, and sharp-edged (but still melodic) guitars for a sound that’s one part ’80s synth-pop (esp. on new single “Orbs”), one part Prince funkiness, and two parts unabashed party-rock — think of Sphynx as being the less-cheeky older siblings of fellow party-bounce-pop outfit Reptar, and you’ll be prepared. Recommended.

GALAXY EXPRESS: Remember when I said some of the bands playing this thing were from a long ways away? Well, here’s one — Galaxy Express are here all the freaking way from Korea, for crying out loud. And I think the lyrics are all in Korean, which makes sense; at least, I can’t understand any of the songs on their album Wild Days, so I figure that’s a good indicator. (Although the file names on the download I got are in English, and song names like “Reggae Chicken” kinda make me want to be able to comprehend what the band’s singing…)

But hell, who cares? The Express guys play a nicely ballsy, raw-throated, no-frills kind of punkish rawk that pretty much transcends language barriers. I mean, c’mon, a snarled “la la la-la-la / la la la-la-la” sounds the same whatever language you’re singing in.

LES RACQUET: Alright, imagine Fleet Foxes — the mellow gentleness, the distant-chorus male-vocal harmonies, the subtle rural feel, all of it. Then take that Fleet Foxes-ness and throw it up onto a piano-bar stage somewhere, give it a guitar Jack Johnson used to strum, and get the crowd to start screaming for some funky, jazzy, loungey stuff they can nod out to. Do that, and Les Racquet might just be what you’ll end up with.

They’re a little maddening, frankly, because while I do truly dig both the harmonies and the harder-edged, more prog moments, they slide a wee bit too close to the Adult Alternative realm for me (and yes, I actually enjoy Jack Johnson, so it’s not that). Tracks like “Oh Yeah!” and the reggaeified “Kids @ War” (which namechecks Fort Hood, where I lived back in middle/high school; that’s a bit of an odd feeling, there) work well, but then the band veers into the too-soft side of things on “Obviously” and “Chimney Pete,” and, eh, they lose me somewhat. Here’s hoping they stick to the non-AAR stuff live.

Alright, y’all, there we go — one down, God knows how many to go, and already I’m getting that sinking, “what the fuck was I thinking?” feeling. Awesome. Get on up to SHFL, and stay tuned for more…

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2 Responses to “SXSW Overflow 2012, Tonight at SHFL: Day One (Sphynx, Galaxy Express, & Les Racquet)”

  1. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: ZenHill Night + George Clinton + SXSW Overflow + Folk Family Revival + More on March 11th, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    […] Overflow Fest, fe aturing Sphynx, Galaxy Express, & Les Racquet @ Super Happy Fun Land Talked about this one already, too; again, well worth checking out, especially Austin-bred electro-pop outfit Sphynx. Stop on in […]

  2. SPACE CITY ROCK » SXSW Overflow: Day Twelve/Thirteen (Kaade, ElectroFoam!, Hurricanes of Love, MTPOTSBWY, & More) on March 20th, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    […] in the writeup for Day One of the Overflow Fest. I won’t rehash that once again — go here to read what I said the first time around — but I do want to give a virtual high-five to the […]

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