SXSW 2012, Thursday March 15th

Niki & the Dove

My SXSW 2012 began on Thursday, March 15. In retrospect, being there Wednesday would’ve been worthy. Pianos (NYC) co-hosted a showcase full of great independent acts on the upswing – including Hooray for Earth, Fort Lean, Haim and Tiny Victories – that I was saddened to miss (and reminded of by my peers). On the plus side, stopping to play a show in New Orleans at the HiHo Lounge Wednesday night allowed for me to get acquainted with and discover new bands that were doing the same, one of which – Zoo Animal – caught my attention later at SX, too.

It was a practical sprint from S. Congress, where I was staying, to the Convention Center to pick up my badge and then to the Filter/Rainey St. area, where I was determined to make it in time for Niki & the Dove at the Culture Collide/Fender outside stage at 1pm. I did, and it was divine. Niki & the Dove were on the top of my list of bands to see this year – bands that haven’t listed extensive North American tour dates. Anyway, the sound was great, and the tenting helped. Electronics were tight and not lost to the atmosphere. This was also the case at both the S.O.Terik and Dickies, which both hosted some great electropop persuasions. Niki & the Dove impressed with seamless use of live looping (vocally, too) and sequencing, all analog and all warm. The drummer’s atypical beat patterns filled pockets of spritey synth magic. And the intensity of Malin’s performance brought chills to me. I could tell that the three-piece truly enjoyed what they were playing, and I grinned for the duration of the short set. It was a highly inspirational moment, and right off the bat.

The Deli’s On/Off party, co-hosted by my friends at Sneak Attack Media, had a pretty solid, if mixed genre, lineup. Madi Diaz, from Nashville, was one that I hated to miss, but the pre-noon slot was simply not doable. Gangstagrass and Body Language were fitting sets, both bands that I’ve sporatically taken note of but am not a huge fan of, and Athens’ (not Atlanta, as listed) Reptar was a nice wrap up. The fact that it was seven blocks deep in the east side didn’t help, but I think the lineup and inside/outside stage situation was one of the better Thursday offerings if you were looking for somewhere to camp out and relax.

I caught The Soil & the Sun at Let’s Get Messy’s day party at 512 Bar. It was the last band of the day. They played in the main room, and had an unusually thick and clear sound for the utilitarian soundboard setup and small, open-to-the-street room. Chicago based, I think the story is that they began as a duo, using more electronics in the past to fill the ambiance for their experimental style, ambiance now filled with many organic, acoustic instruments. And so The Soil & the Sun’s sound now sits somewhere between that electronic mysteriousness and that organic warmth. I wish I’d seen them in the past, for comparison reasons, but catching it Thursday was a welcomed delight.

One of the great things about SXSW is that, if you plan properly, you can eat and drink for virtually free. The key is to plan ahead, get to these events early and carry a wad of one-dollar bills for tips. At 5:00pm on Thursday, I made my way towards the Convention Center where, across the street in a small lot, the AMOA-Arthoouse Reception was being held. This was basically a sign-off, the art events having taken place earlier in the week. But it was a great way to show support, and with the aid of free Reeperbahn Burgers (veggie burgers included) and St. Pauli Girl brew.

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