Ric Leichtung is one of the founders of Adhoc.fm, a daily independent music and visual arts publication brought to you by the brilliant minds behind Altered Zones (RIP). Check them out on Facebook and Twitter!
Let's just get this out in the open: it's total bullshit that anyone should ever have to pay $750 to wait in line to see bands in overcrowded, poorly run, and shamelessly sponsored concert halls, patios, and dive bars. But beyond the heavy price tag and the 56-foot vending machine/sky-raping phallus Doritos constructed on E 5th and Red River is that many of these bands don't see a cent for playing of these showcases. If you're a band at SXSW and you're going to play for free, you might as well play in your own element to people who care about who you are and what you do, rather than a bunch of Harold and Kumar bros who passed on Cancun because they couldn't find their passports under their puka shell necklaces.
But you don't really need the badge--the best places to see music during SXSW are in the outskirts of the 6th street area at the warehouses, house parties, and impromptu shows on the Lamar Pedestrian Bridge or behind the Wendy's on 6th and Brushy under the freeway. Here are some of the best shows I've seen at my first day at SXSW.
It's rare that you'll find much metal down in Austin, but luckily Brandon Stosuy, the writer behind the metal column Show No Mercy, hand-picked eight bands to play at ND Studios. San Francisco's Deafheaven was the band that resonated most with both with the genre's rabid followers, and with the uninitiated as they switched between ambient post-rock guitar work and black metal. Respec's projections of early Japanese war films, one of which featured a warrior walking around with an arrow in his neck, fit really well with frontman George Clarke's screams of anguish. Just looking at Clarke's neck of raging veins and purple face, you'd think the was some kind of monster.
These Toledo-based punks have been making noise for a while now, releasing tapes and seven-inches with Siltbreeze and HoZac over the past 5 years. At the sound of their soundcheck, which teased a shitgazed rendition of the Kinks' "All Day and All of the Night," the audience swarmed the front of Beerland. Once the frontman got their attention, he took the opportunity of asking for weed after the set, which only fed the crowd's level of stokedness. The Areolas only played a few songs, but along the way they put forth equal helpings of noise, psych, and sloppy punk. Extra points awarded for the X Ray Spex-style sax freakouts.
Impose and affiliates of Brooklyn DIY venue Shea Stadium put together a hell of a hip hop showcase that boasted Main Attrakionz, eXquire, and standout Danny Brown, who already has pretty a serious following despite being a thirty-year-old dude from Detroit with a fucked up haircut. The rapper was in top form last night as all of the white people crowd forgot what race they were, waving their hands in the air and shouting Brown's infectious ad libs all throughout his set.