SXSWhat up?

Feeling the love at the 2010 Austin, Texas fest

by Joni Sadler

The Splinters

Joni Sadler - Splinters

This quartet of equally cute and badass Oakland gals shake things up with catchy songs reminiscent of Slumberland Records’ glory days. Sassy lyrics sung in harmony with plenty of tambourine jangle and guitar fuzz made for a wickedly fun set and more than compensated for their early set time.


Joni Sadler - Darlings

Brooklyn pop bands might be a dime a dozen these days, but this young group managed to prove their worth with a short but sweet set at the Longbranch Inn. Playing unabashedly simple yet infectious guitar pop with cutesy boy/girl vocals and a sense of charming enthusiasm, these kids definitely saved the best for last with their finale of “If This Is Love.” Seeing a band this endearingly bookish let loose with such a vitriolic closer was a total treat, indeed.

JEFF the Brotherhood

Joni Sadler - JEFF the Brotherhood Joni Sadler - JEFF the Brotherhood

These Nashville bros (yes, they’re actually brothers) put on hands-down the best set I saw at SXSW. They made the packed Longbranch their turf with no holds barred as the guitarist opted to ditch the stage and play his squalling riffs in the middle of the crowd and — even better — standing on top of the bar. Set highlight “Bone Jam” had the crowd singing and flailing along with almost as much enthusiasm as the brothers themselves.

Thee Oh Sees

Joni Sadler - Thee Oh Sees Joni Sadler - Thee Oh Sees

Seeing these dudes twice in the span of three hours was a pretty wild experience, let alone the fact that both sets sounded goddamn great. During both sets (at the Longbranch Inn and on a bridge, respectively) John Dwyer managed to shred away with total abandon, looking as crazed and manic as ever. Vocals were howled, tambourines were smashed, and the crowd lost its shit accordingly.

Talk Normal

Joni Sadler - Talk Normal

Playing in a slightly unusual environment (on the lawn of a French historical site with plenty of families milling about), this Brooklyn duo was a little less abrasive than I had envisioned, yet they still succeeded in playing a thoroughly rad set of their trademark ragged post-punk. Using a setup of guitar, drums, and dueling vocals, these ladies refine the No Wave aesthetic to a haunting and minimal form. One can only imagine what they’d sound like fully jamming out in a sweaty basement instead of at a garden party.

Thurston Moore

Joni Sadler - Thurston Moore

Seeing one of the legendary figures of rock music play a solo acoustic set directly after Talk Normal was a pretty wild experience. Arguably better suited to the environment, Moore’s songs were subtle yet gorgeous and provided a nice breather from the plethora of rock shows happening all over Austin.

The Fresh & Onlys

Joni Sadler - The Fresh & Onlys

Like former tourmates and fellow Bay Area residents Thee Oh Sees, these guys played a couple of seriously fun sets during SXSW. Both their gig at Beerland and a later show at the Woodsist showcase highlighted their ability to fuse laid-back vintage pop with fuzzy psych jams in the sweetest way possible.

Woods/Real Estate

Joni Sadler - Woods Joni Sadler - Woods

A glorious mishmash of psychedelic folk, beachy pop and cacophonous noise erupted when these two bands joined forces on stage. It was sloppy and joyful and goddamn if everyone in the (very packed) room didn’t have a gigantic smile on their face. This is what I imagined Elephant 6 shows would have been like back in the collective’s heyday. Now, it seems, team Woodsist is giving a younger generation a chance to feel the love.


Cool Fest 9

Don't you wonder sometimes ‘bout sound and vision?

Photos: Joni Sadler // Words: Jesse Locke

Joni Sadler - Bill Nace

To steal some words of wisdom from Special Agent Dale Cooper, “Nothing beats the taste sensation when maple syrup collides with ham.” Happily, the organizers of Cool Fest 9 — hosted Dec. 19, 2009 at Montreal’s off-kilter art-space Eastern Bloc — seemed to share a similar ethos, bringing together the oft-unmixed ingredients of garage rock, performance art and pure skull-shaking Noise.

Joni Sadler - Holy Cobras Joni Sadler - Holy Cobras

Top notch tape label Campaign For Infinity was represented by an opening set from Total Crush that we unfortunately missed, followed by the wasted Hawkwind meets “Sister Ray” psych-outs of Holy Cobras. More fun than a barrel of drunkies.

Joni Sadler - Cat Pontoon Joni Sadler - Cat Pontoon

The pantsless Cat Pontoon confounded expectations with her po-mo — but far from po-faced — chanteuse routine. Narrating the set as both an Australian late night talk show host and gushing newbie pop star, she ended it all by shamelessly rolling on the floor.

Joni Sadler - Sick Llama

Long-haired Detroit noiseniks Sick Llama (above) and Cotton Museum both blew eardrums in spectacular fashion, with the latter’s set an especially physical feat that seemed to threaten the toppling of his tabletop’s pedals, samplers and other assorted gizmos.

Joni Sadler - Yamataka Joni Sadler - Yamataka

Yamantaka // Sonic Titan dropped jaws with their monstrous dragon mask and thundering rhythmic drones reminiscent of Liars’ Drum’s Not Dead. Unlike Angus Andrew and company, however, the duo instills their highly theatrical performance with fourth-world feminine freakiness via subtle cymbal chimes and hushed, hypnotic vocal chants.

Joni Sadler - Lori Napoleon

Lori Napoleon fused sound and light with her own brand of fireworks, showing off with a swirling science project of simulated synesthesia. Bonus points for unnecessary alliteration?

Joni Sadler - Bill Nace

An infamous six-string manipulator who’s collaborated with none other than Chris Corsano, Thurston Moore and saxophonist Paul Flaherty, New York’s Bill Nace brought the house down with the awe-astounding sounds wrenched from his prepared guitar. Squealing like a machine elf, Nace ended the evening’s jam-packed proceedings with a true sight and sound experience for any outer limits excavators.

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