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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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Local Natives- Who Knows Who Cares

La Blogotheque posted a wonderful vid of Local Natives yesterday performing in Paris. Their album Gorilla Manor was one of my favourites of last year. Check them out if you haven’t already.

Local Natives | Who Knows Who Cares | A Take Away Show from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.

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Katuwapitiya.com’s Top 10 Albums of 2010

So I’ve procrastinated on writing this list for a while, mostly because I felt like 2010 was a great year for music. There was a lot to choose from when trying to find 10 albums, much from artists that I’d never heard of before this past year. With that said, there were also a lot of disappointments from some of my favourites. Ra Ra Riot, Sufjan Stevens, The National, Stars, Gorillaz, Born Ruffians and Vampire Weekend all released albums that I was not fond of. In fact, I even hated some of them (Stars, I’m looking squarely at you). The bright spots definitely outshone the missteps though.

Katuwapitiya.com’s
Top 10 Albums of 2010

10. Mumford & Sons- Sigh No More

British accents, crescendos, relatable music. Like a lot of indie stuff in the past few years except you can show all your friends without some of them looking at you weird. You know which friends I’m talking about.
Highlights: Sigh No More, Awake My Soul

9. El Guincho- Pop Negro

The first time I saw the video for lead single Bombay, it was definitely a WTF moment. As confusing as the video was, the music really shone through. Infectious Spanish pop music with Afro-Carribean influences. 2010 was a random year for sure.
Highlights: Bombay, Soca Del Eclipse

8. Arctic Monkeys- Humbug

This album is on no other Best of 2010 lists. Mostly because it was released in 2009. With that said, it got panned by a lot of critics and magazines and I brushed it off as a mistake a year ago. At some point during 2010, I gave the album another listen and realized what I had missed out on. You should too. Darker with few catchy hooks, it was a departure from the Arctic Monkeys sound that I had grown accustomed to. But after some time to simmer on it, it’s an awesome album.
Highlights: Dance Little Liar, Cornerstone

7. The Black Keys- Brothers

Two guys making a lot of noise together and it finally worked on an album for me. An accessible sort of blues that has enough of a contemporary shine to really make me look forward to whatever they have coming next.
Highlights: Tighten Up, The Only One

6. Shad- TSOL

Real hip hop stand up. London, Ontario was responsible for more than a beatboxing pop-cover artist in 2010. Shad really has a knack for choosing beats that’ll get your head nodding and his lyrics become more and more refined with every album.
Highlights: A Good Name, Rose Garden

5. Local Natives- Gorilla Manor

Just a solid album all around. When I first heard the song “Airplanes“, I was blown away. Little did I know that it wasn’t even the best song on their album.
Highlights: Wide Eyes, Cubism Dream

4. Beach House- Teen Dream

Dreamy indie pop, this album immediately spoke to me. The airy vocals remind me a bit of Fleet Foxes except Beach House can at times actually outshine.
Highlights: Silver Soul, 10 Mile Stereo

3. Kanye West- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

I mistakenly wrote Kanye off a few years back. He’d started focusing on autotune, started doing even crazier shit and I just got tired of trying to explain his antics in my head. Then 2010 came around and I started hearing the singles on his new album. I still refused to be swayed. Then I saw him perform on SNL and I was taken aback. His cocky demeanor, his nonsensical lyrics, they were all still there, but it suddenly was working for me. I ‘got’ him again. Then he released an album featuring Bon Iver on three tracks and the complete 180 in my mind was complete. Even though he’s still releasing self-indulgent, pretentious 30-minute music “videos” and is still doing crazy shit, I’m now a fan once again. Let’s have a toast for the douchebag.
Highlights: Lost in the World, Runaway

2. Arcade Fire- The Suburbs

Everything clicked for Arcade Fire in 2010. I mean, they were big before but suddenly they had the same name recognition as Coldplay and Radiohead. They had youtube web broadcasts of shows, they had a number one album in the States and they deserved every bit of that success because The Suburbs is a hell of an album. It was better than Neon Bible and better than almost everything released in 2010. The lead single “Ready To Start” came along at a point in my life when I was ready to start a lot of things as well, one of those life-defining sort of songs.
Highlights: Ready To Start, Half Light II (No Celebration)

1. Titus Andronicus- The Monitor

I had never heard of Titus Andronicus before 2010 (besides the Shakespeare play) and a lot of people I know still haven’t. That’s a shame but it’s not surprising. The songs on this album are nothing short of epic but I wouldn’t say that they’re the most accessible. Buried under civil war references, Bright-Eyes-esque aching vocals and 4-5 minute long build-ups are bar-song rally cries and incredible hooks. The lyrics are dark but they contain a glimmer of hope, you just have to get through the entire album a few times to hear it. It’s complex, it’s simple, it’s the best album of 2010 and you’d be missing out if you didn’t give it a few chances. They’re also awesome live.

Listen to The Battle Of Hampton Roads below:

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