SXSW Overflow 2013: Day Two, Pt. 1 (Roomrunner, New Sweden, Walking Shapes, Grown Up Avenger Stuff, Chateau Nowhere, & Small Houses)
And here we are, y’all, looking forward to Day Two of the SXSW Overflow festival over at Super Happy Fun Land. Tomorrow, on Sunday, March 10th, there’s a ridiculously impressive lineup on the bill, with pretty much something for everybody.
Down Side Time: I’d hoped to already have a big long post with alllll of the eleven bands playing tonight, but dangit, I ran out of time. So this one right here will be the first part of a two-part deal, with more coming later today. Away we go:
ROOMRUNNER: Baltimore, damn. I swear, it seems like everything that comes out of that city is strange, somehow, bent from the normal sound you’re expecting to hear. And yeah, Roomrunner followed that trend, seemingly throwing any expectatons on its head. (It helps, by the way, that the band’s got a hell of a pedigree, led by Denny Bowen, formerly of Double Dagger & Dan Deacon, among others, with bandmates from a slew of similarly-talented outfits.)
The music the band makes is rough and raw, rolling out of the speakers in a thick sludge; it’s reminiscent of Mudhoney, but with a sharp, angular structure that spirals and swirls, twisting upon itself while making you bang your head along. Sadly, I’ve only heard one song so far, “Weird,” off forthcoming album Ideal Cities, but it’s fucking awesome, like the best of ’90s noise-rock burned down into a thick, flesh-melting muck. Check it out:
NEW SWEDEN: One of the things I like the most about the whole SXSW Overflow thing is the sudden gear-shifting that goes on from one band to the next; I like a ton of different things, and I suspect a lot of other people do, too. So hold tight, because going from the murky, thundering sludge-rawk of Roomrunner to the Dylan-esque, janglified folk of New Sweden could be a little abrupt.
It’s worth the jolt, however, because New Sweden do a great, great, downtrodden-yet-hopeful Americana-folk that feels like it’s out of time, slipped somehow from a Depression-era campfire where a bunch of homeless, jobless wanderers sing and make music just to make their cares slip away. Take a listen for yourself, and hey, download a copy of 2011′s the Mountain for free, if you want it:
WALKING SHAPES: Haven’t been able to find much by NYC band Walking Shapes, unfortunately, but what I have been able to hear is definitely intriguing; it’s delicate and meandering, with a dark murk hanging over melodies and structures that sound like they wouldn’t have been out of place coming from some stage in the ’60s-era Village. It’s hazy and heavy-lidded, like a less-paranoiac Clinic, a retro-ified Radiohead, or maybe a lighter-weight Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and neither of those is a bad thing, believe me.
Here’s the one song/video I’ve been able to check out, for “Pusher”:
GROWN UP AVENGER STUFF: Alright, I’ll admit it; I went into listening to Grown Up Avenger Stuff already liking ‘em, based on their name and promo tag line (“Your friendly neighborhood rock band with super powers”) alone. Once they got rolling, however, my kneejerk like for the band felt pretty justified, especially once tatted-up vocalist Deirdre Kroener really cut loose.
She can belt it out impressively well, making me think of Company of Thieves’ Genevieve Schatz, except that unlike Schatz, Kroener sounds like she’d just as soon punch your lights out as smile. Music-wise, the band ranges pretty broadly through the realms of capital-R Rock, bringing together bluesy stomps, snarling indie-rock rawness, and frenzied alternarock, and then coating the whole thing with a dirty/shiny glam sheen. Here’re some tracks to listen to:
CHATEAU NOWHERE: Austin, Texas, isn’t where you’d generally expect a Parisian guitarist/songwriter to make his home and start a band, but with Chateau Nowhere, that’s apparently the case — Paris-born Philippe Beer-Gabel started his band not back in his native France, but right here in Texas, enlisting a slew of talented Texan musicians (and one British-born singer, vocalist Anna Reuben) to give voice to his high-flying, orchestrally-intricate brand of indie-rock. And the result, as chronicled on the band’s Trying to Change the Mind of America EP, is pretty damn cool.
The music swoons and sways, but never gets lost in the clouds, instead remaining grounded — courtesy of the sharp-edged guitars — while Reuben and Beer-Gabel soar up above; the effect is like a baroque chamber-orchestra trying their hand at early-Radiohead-influenced indie-rock and succeeding admirably. Here’s the aforementioned EP:
SMALL HOUSES: And then, it’s back again to the moody folk, but this time the sound’s less Depression-era and more modern-era, evoking the backwoods of our fair country, those rural parts of America where people can sometimes get forgotten by the folks elsewhere. Small Houses‘ main man Jeremy Quentin hails from Lansing, Michigan, but truly, he could be from anywhere people sit quietly on their front porches and wish for things that could’ve been.
The harmonica, gentle guitars, minimalist arrangements, and that rough-beyond-his-years voice work beautifully together, sounding like he’s playing alone in the dark in a beaten-down farmhouse out in the middle of nowhere. There’re hints of Steve Earle, David Ramirez, and William Elliot Whitmore floating through here, and I’m loving all of it. Listen for yourself:
More coming, assuming the midgets will go to sleep early tonight…