I started my day early because I want to see how many bands, free drinks, and tacos I could cram into one day. For the record, 10 bands, 8 drinks, and 7 tacos (if the 4 tortillas from the one order of the Don Juan count as four separate tacos).
The day began with a sinful breakfast with my cousins starring the Don Juan, the king of all breakfast tacos from Austin staple Juan in a Million. It’s an absurd amount of eggs, potatoes, and cheese (and bacon for the carnivores) served with at least one tortilla. After that ridiculously filling meal, I headed over to the BrooklynVegan day party to get my day drinking on. Free Jameson, vegan snacks, and some of my favorite emerging bands? Uh, yeah. Of course I’d be here. Shugo Tokumaru kicked off my day of music with his mellow but rockin’ Japanese jams, but most impressively, his bandmate Yumiko’s deft command of random instruments and toys ranging from an accordion to a kazoo to a toy xylophone to a melodica was laudable and memorable.
After that set, I dashed over to the Hype Hotel to see CHVRCHES, who apparently weren’t on until much later that day. Seriously, why don’t people ever post set times online during the festival? But I stuck around to try some of Cabin Fever‘s maple-flavored whiskey. Oh my GOD. What the hell? Why would you make whiskey taste like candy? That is some dangerous business! Taco Bell sponsored Hype Hotel this year, so they were also giving away samples of their Doritos Locos taco, which are the regular Taco Bell tacos with a Doritos shell. Thankfully, none of the ones they offered were vegetarian, so I dodged that (probable) diarrhea-filled bullet.
Anyway, after some technical difficulties, Brooklyn’s very own St. Lucia took the stage and simply killed it with their South African-tinged brand of sunny synth-pop. Unfortunately, because their set was so delayed, I only caught about half of it before I dashed off to see another Brooklyn band, indie rockers Black Taxi.
I first came across Black Taxi at SXSW a few years ago, and the band’s live show has only gotten better and crazier with time. During their short set filled with old favorites and catchy new songs, the packed room filled with familiar faces––um, almost everyone I knew in Brooklyn was at this show––it was nice to see this band destroy the stage even on a sunny Texas afternoon.
I rushed over to see another friend band, indie pop group Avan Lava, shortly after that. Though an afternoon show in at a bar that isn’t a music venue (or so it seemed) isn’t ideal, the five-piece brought their fierce Brooklyn energy and masterful dance moves to a small but enthusiastic crowd. Day shows are rough, but Avan Lava still killed it.
After their set, Jo from Avan Lava and I discovered our mutual love of Local Natives, so we bolted across town to try to catch their show at the Cedar Street Courtyard only to find that it was so crowded that fans spilled out of the club and into the streets. Though we could hear their lush, beautiful harmonies crooning their heartbreaking tunes, we decided to dash a half mile over to the Stage on Sixth to catch the end of folk star Josh Ritter‘s set. Maybe I was pretty drunk at this point, but I can’t remember much of it. We zipped back to Hype Hotel again to catch the end of Austra‘s set, whose doom pop was enhanced by an epic light show. Props to the people in charge of lighting the stage at Hype Hotel! It was seriously amazing all week.
I bid adieu to the lovely members of Avan Lava so that I could catch Bernhoft, the Norwegian pop star who I have been obsessed with this past month or so. When I got to the Liberty Tavern, I was not disappointed. The one-man band’s masterful command of his two guitars and a loop pedal left the room in stunned silence as Bernhoft belted his heart out. Additional band members were unnecessary as this one man performed every part with passion and pitch-perfect precision.
I was pretty damn exhausted from walking a half mile to get from show to show, so I was thrilled to find that the good people who run the @SouthByFreeNOMS Twitter account posted that the Chi’lantro Taco Truck were giving away free tacos. WHAT? I only ate from that food truck an embarrassing amount of times last SXSW, and none of those were free. Korean BBQ tofu taco, I love you. Your Korean/Tex-Mex fusion tastes even better when you are free.
After inhaling my free taco, I power walked about a mile over to Rainey St to go to Rachael Ray’s Feedback party. What’s Rachael Ray doing hosting SXSW parties? I do not know, but in years past, there have always been great food, drinks, and bands, so I thought I’d trek over there and see what’s up. Upon arrival, I found that with my RSVP, I had access to unlimited varieties of Blue Moon on tap, some special sangria, tons of wine, and a bunch of other things I forgot about. There were games, food (with meat so I couldn’t eat any, sadly), and some rockin’ bands who I forgot to jot the names of. I remembered one of them was from San Antonio though. I forgot how exhausting walking from venue to venue was, so it was nice to just sit for a moment, have a few beers, and relax before I had to walk over a mile to my next show.
I begrudgingly chugged my free Blue Moon and scurried over to Lambert’s to see Brooklyn bands Computer Magic and Body Language, both of whom I love but for very different reasons. Computer Magic was testing out a new drummer who I thought supported her bedroom synth-pop nicely, but then as always, Body Language got me off my feet and dancing like a mad woman. I don’t know what it is about their untitled new song that they close their sets with––maybe it’s the cowbell or the crazy beats that make your ass shake involuntarily––but that song, whatever it may be named, will be a future club hit for sure.
At this point, I’d probably walked like 7 miles that day and had seen 10-11 bands, so when a taxi pulled up right as I stumbled out of Lambert’s, I hopped in––I was too drunk and tired to wait for the bus or to walk back.
SXSW recap and select photos by Rebecca An