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Katuwapitiya.com reviews SXSW 2013

Sixth Street, Austin

This was my second year visiting Austin for SXSW. Last year, I was given a wristband by the festival. I had it all planned out, previewing and interviewing a bunch of bands beforehand, I had a hostel booking, a printout map, American currency, the works. I packed 2 sets of shorts despite my hatred for shorts, sunscreen despite my sunburn-proof dark skin, hell, I might as well have packed a fanny pack.

This year was different. Having become so busy with school, it was very much a last minute decision to decide to go to SXSW again. As I met some great folks out there last year, I found myself with the opportunity to crash on a couch, wristbandless and badgeless. I took it.

When I have to describe SXSW to someone who has never been, I struggle. That may sound ridiculous considering I’ve been attempting to write about my music experiences here for 5 years now, but it’s true. What I (and Pitchfork and SPIN or every other blog/magazine that goes out there) would try to describe is its awesomeness, its scale, the cool bands we saw, the interesting crowds, and how the city is so cool and non-stereotypically Texan. There’s the other side too, complaining about how it’s not as good as it used to be, how the lines are too long, how they didn’t get to see the band they wanted (getting to a small venue Flaming Lips show 1 hour before with a badge does NOT guarantee entry, much to surprise), etc.

My suggestion would be: Go.

Book a flight now if you have to.

You don’t need to know anyone. You don’t need to have anything but a little bit of foresight and the ability to go with the flow. If I knew it last year, I wouldn’t have even bothered with a wristband. You can RSVP to the bigger shows of the year (names like Fader Fort, Hype Hotel, Spin at Stubb’s were some I loved this year) but outside of that, all you need to do is get there and find a place to sleep.

It’s everything and anything. It’s an entire city swallowed by the sound of any type of music you can imagine. If you took Bourbon Street and replaced “Jazz” with “everything”, you’d have Sixth Street. If you replaced the bulls in Pamplona with indie kids and hip hop heads, you’d have most of Austin in its chaotic evenings. It’s new bands hoping and dreaming to be seen and noticed. It’s well-established bands suddenly coming together to play again. It’s food trucks, everywhere. It’s walking into a place, being given free food and drink, striking up a conversation and having a blast. Every single day.

Few friends in Toronto really know about SXSW. They know about Coachella, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Osheaga, etc. The magnitude of SXSW is so much greater than those other festivals. It’s one thing being at an all day festival behind 50,000 people while a band plays a sound that isn’t suited to an outdoor venue. It’s another to be able to go door-to-door and hear perfection.

With that off my chest, I hope you’ve booked your ticket to SXSW 2014. If anyone tells you something other than what I said, it’s because they didn’t plan enough, they planned too much, or they want to keep it to themselves because they’re still pissed off at what happened to Kings Of Leon.

Here are some of the best bands I remember hearing at the festival:

Solange

Solange at SXSW

Absolutely gorgeous, phenomenal voice, great dance moves, basically the total package. She blew me away. It won’t be long before she’s the queen of R&B. Sample.

Diarrhea Planet

Diarrhea Planet

As hard as I tried to write them off based on their name, their brand of indie-punk brought me back to the first time I heard Titus Andronicus (edit: I just found out that they’ve toured together and that Titus is a big fan of their music, what a coincidence!). So much raw potential, energy, and skill. The recordings capture about a fifth of their live energy. Sample.

Flume

Flume

An Australian friend told me about Flume a few months ago and I’m glad he did. This producer’s brand of electronic hip hop inspired instrumentals got the crowd in a frenzy and made them all into instant fans. Sample.

Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick

What can I say about this dude besides the fact that he’s the best rapper hands down in hip hop right now?

Here he is during Spin @ Stubb’s:

Palma Violets

Palma Violets

An incredible pleasure to see them at a house party near UT campus but such is the craziness of SXSW. Met the singer beforehand and talked about how their big hit “Best of Friends” was actually initially written by the band as their “shitty song” and they called it that until coming up with a proper name for it. Seeing as how I’m already loving Diarrhea Planet, I guess my music taste has turned to shit. Here it is. Decide for yourself. I’m sorry for the pun.

Cloud Nothings

Cloud Nothings

I saw these guys at the exact same venue last year (The Mohawk) and was literally the only person dancing in a crowd of 200. This year, they received the moshpit they deserved. Their age and noticeable improvement has me excited for their future. One refrain that stuck out from last year was “I thought I would be more than this.” and as they sung it this year, it seemed like much taller an order. But I believe it. Sample.

Local Natives

Local Natives

One of the best bands in indie right now. Did not disappoint. Sample.

CHVRCHES

Sort of like Elie Goulding meets Grimes. Except their few official recordings lean more towards the poppy side. I would stay tuned to them. Sample.

CHVRCHES

There’s more but who cares. You’re still reading and that makes me think you haven’t loaded up how much a flight to Austin costs in March 2014. <Everest Guy:> Just go already, you’re just sitting there reading about a music festival, get out of your computer chair, MAN! </Everest Guy>.

Shout outs to Sidecar for helping me get around the festival for free. Riff Raff for being as bad as I thought he’d be. East Side King for living up to all expectations. And most importantly my awesome hosts, Stephen, Patrick/Katie and their crew at Lucid Routes, and every single person I met in Austin for not changing my perception of the place one bit.

East Side King

East Side King

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Throwback Monday: Kendrick Lamar – Growing Apart

In honour of the clear album of the year , here’s some early Kendrick. There is no other rapper who can touch his wordplay and subject matter and it was only a matter of time until the instrumentals caught up to his level. Sky’s the limit.

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Katuwapitiya.com's Top 11 Songs of 2011

Katuwapitiya.com's Top 11 Songs of 2011

The lack of a standout, groundbreaking album separated 2011 from 2010. Last year, we had The Suburbs, Kanye’s twisted fantasy and Titus Andronicus’ epic call to arms. This year, we instead had slightly disappointing follow-ups from Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Feist, The Strokes, TV On The Radio, Radiohead and a bunch of solid slightly-memorable albums. With that said, if I were to choose an album that stood out from 2011’s offerings, I’d say that Adele’s 21 spoke the most to me. It used to be a lot cooler to say that you were a fan of Adele before her meteoric rise to fame but if someone wants to pretend that Adele doesn’t have one of the best voices in music and that her heartwrenching songs aren’t up there with some of the best pop music of the past decade, well, I respectfully disagree. House Of Balloons (The Weeknd) and Strange Mercy (St. Vincent) are up there as well.

Due to the lack of a lot of stand-out albums, I thought it would be more interesting to look at some of my favourite songs from the past year, so I present:

Katuwapitiya.com’s
Top 11 Songs of 2011

11. tUnE-yArDs- Gangsta


It seems like tUnE-yArDs has a love-it-or-hate-it sound because every time I rave about this song, I get some weird looks from my friends. Love the way it kicks off and the unexpected directions it takes you along the course of the song. A pleasant surprise that definitely gets your head nodding.

10. Gardens & Villa- Carrizo Plain


The dreamy country twang that starts off “Carrizo Plain” is a nice intro to a slow and steady build. The climb to a refrain of “you and I are intertwined” paired with understated harmonies makes this song a favourite of 2011.

9. Fucked Up- Queen Of Hearts


I don’t think I really “got” Fucked Up until I was at their NXNE show and got kicked in the face in a moshpit while Damian had his shirt off yelling at the top of his lungs. Even though it isn’t really a genre that I listen to often, “Queen Of Hearts” has just enough of a “something else” (possibly the female vocals) that makes it a favourite.

8. Danny Brown- Die Like A Rockstar


Garish in-your-face flow and killer production on his entire mixtape, XXX, Danny Brown made a huge statement in 2011. This was no better evident than on “Die Like A Rockstar”. Sort of like what I wish Tyler The Creator’s Goblin would have sounded like.

7. Future Islands- Balance


Though their album On The Water was largely forgettable, “Balance” had something fresh and addictive about it that made it impossible to not replay. The 80’s Bowie “China Girl” vibe, the fantastic video, and the unique vocals really made this an endearing track.

6. Kendrick Lamar- HiiiPower


At first Kendrick Lamar‘s flow on tracks like “ADHD” really put me off. Then I sat down and gave Section 80 a thorough listen. Needless to say, I was absolutely blown away by some tracks. Conscious hip-hop like back in the days of Non-Phixion. His flow on this track is what I wish Kanye’s verses on Watch The Throne would have sounded like. Food for thought, bitches.

5. The Weeknd- What You Need


With his three 2011 mixtapes, The Weeknd is single-handedly saving R&B. Though each release had its strengths, House of Balloons was undeniably my favourite. On this track, the production and Tesfaye’s voice just envelops you in an atmosphere that makes it impossible to confuse what you want and what you need. Smooth is an understatement.

4. Adele- Someone Like You


Disarming in its premise and beautifully executed, songs like this make you realize that sometimes, all you need is a voice and a piano. With that said, it works best when that voice is Adele‘s. I don’t think it’s possible to watch her perform this track and not be moved. Her staggering success in 2011, which was otherwise dominated by LMFAOs and Pitbulls, really is awesome and well deserved.

3. St. Vincent- Strange Mercy


Unique and incredible, I’ve never heard anything like this track before. The unconventional artistry of lines like “your Hemingway jawline looks just like his”, the unexpected anti-cop climax and the brooding undertones, there is just so much to love about this track.

2. Hey Rosetta!- Welcome


One of the best bands I’ve ever seen live, I’ve struggled to enjoy Hey Rosetta!‘s recordings as much as when I see them in person. With that said, there’s always a few tracks that blow me away in both settings and “Welcome” is certainly in that camp. Trademark crescendoes, a beautiful breakdown and the lyrics are a treat.

1. Lana Del Rey- Video Games


In a year full of enigmas like WU LYF and The Weeknd, I feel like Lana Del Rey‘s old Hollywood image has caught some unfair criticism. Whatever you think of the premise, it’s impossible to not get caught up in the swirling strings and captivating words of “Video Games”. It doesn’t hurt that she’s gorgeous (depends on who you ask though). Makes you rethink the gaming. For a while.

Honourable Mention:

Clams Casino- Motivation, Frank Ocean- Swim Good, Feist- Comfort Me, Braids- Plath Heart, EMA- Anteroom, Lykke Li- I Follow Rivers, The Antlers- Putting The Dog To Sleep, Fleet Foxes- Montezuma, Drake- Marvin’s Room (without that 4th verse from the album), The Black Keys- Little Black Submarines, Adele + Jamie XX + Childish Gambino- Rolling In The Deep (Remix), Shabazz Palaces- Swerve.

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