Hellllllo Club Fonograma! Recapping the first night of SXSW shows, the only term that I can think of to describe the experience would be “exhaustingly awesome.” I mean, I don’t want to complain about seeing a mess of bands that I’ve literally drooled about seeing for years in an intimate setting, but do you realize HOW MANY MILLER LITE’S WERE SPILLED ON MY SHIRT LAST NIGHT?!! I think my shirt absorbed an entire six-pack last night…
No matter, cause otherwise, last night was very worthwhile. The first show I caught was Nacho Vegas, at a venue best known for comedic drag shows. I’m not sure if this was the reason why the bands’ mics were draped in feather boas, but regardless, it made them look cooler. I’ll be honest, I’ve never really heard much of Nacho Vegas’ music before, I mainly went to this show based on the high recommendation by this site’s fearless leader Carlos. But what I heard I liked.
Nacho Vegas’ set was propulsive and almost-hymnal at points. They reminded me a lot of El Cuarteto de Nos, if that band were fronted by the guy from Babasónicos. Some of the more mellow songs lost me for a while, but they made up for it with a blistering finale, with screams of “Otro dia maaassssss!!!!!!!!!!” ringing through the audience. Overall, good show; someone please send some recommendations of where to start with this guy’s catalogue.
From there, I moved on to Natalia Lafourcade’s “surprise” Billboard en Español showcase. This time, playing on a proper stage to a more-than-enthusiastic audience, including yours truly, Natalia delivered a diverse set of tunes from the upcoming Hu Hu Hu, and let me tell you: that album is now officially my most-anticipated record of 2009. Earlier, I said that the new songs sounded like Bueninvento-era Julieta; well, throw that thinking out. It appears that Natalia has found her own distinctive shade of indie-pop. If I had to compare the sound to another musician, I would say that of Andrew Bird—coincidentally, a musician that Natalia told me that she’s been listening to a lot lately. The new songs are intricate and rhythm guitar-based, accentuated by pounding drums, xylophones, and bells. One standout, “Ella es Bonita,” sounded almost twee. It was transparently sweet, but not saccharine. The same could be said for her re-imagining of “Casa,” tonight performed with only an acoustic-guitar and accordion. If I wasn’t still giddy about meeting Natalia earlier in the day, I would write that I fell in love that night (OK, I kinda did, objective journalism my butt!). Of course, it was “Azul” that closed out this show. Natalia modestly introduced it by saying “This is not on the radio,” but her and the band played it with an urgency that suggested that it was the biggest song on the planet. It was like a grand Sufjan Stevens track, except with cojones and no over-bearing whimsy. In a live setting, it’s soaring and majestic, full of highs and lows, as if it were telling a story—in short, the logical bridge between 4 Estaciones del Amor and Hu Hu Hu. I can’t wait for that record.
After wandering around catching a few other bands (including the Decemberists performing their prog-as-f*** new album in full), I ended my night with Los Fancy Free at a venue that looked like somebody’s driveway. I had only heard loose YouTube singles of theirs before tonight, but every song they played sounded familiar and fun. If I had to describe it, I’d say that they sounded like 2001-era Babasónicos, but without keyboards! Dancey like Phoenix, but with the aggression of the Futureheads. Cacophonous, but infectious. This is a band I would highly recommend seeing in a live setting, or at least throwing into the playlist at your next indie-rock dance party.
MP3: "Dry Martini SA" - Nacho Vegas