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  South By Southwest 2009 - Day 3  



Austin, TX


Winter Sounds, Ulrich Schnauss, Longview, The Union Trade, Western Keys, I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness, School of 7 Bells, Ladyfinger, O + S, Lonely Dear, Headlights, Asobi Seksu

Reviewed by:
  PostLibyan and Tracers  
Photographs by:


  Day three of SxSW 09, and the crowds and the noise and the constant bustle were starting to get to me.  
  Unfortunately, during our long trek on the evening before, I had mangled my left foot, so I was a bit hobbled and painful during most of Thursday. The pain made me want to stay still, or at least off my feet, as much as possible, which definitely put a damper on my day show experiences. So, as a caution for those of you who might go to SxSW in the future: make sure to wear comfortable, well fitted shoes that are meant to both walk and stand in. On the previous evening, my Converse just didn't cut it.  

We started the day with a tasty Korean meal at Koriente restaurant. They have a tasty and very spicy bi bim bop that i highly recommend.

Grabbing an iced green tea to go, we wandered out into the random mayhem, mozying our way to The Thirsty Nickel where Athens day was supposed to be getting under way. We took our time, watching the crowds milling about, stopping and listening to random bands on the street.

We arrived at The Thirsty Nickel a few minutes early, and wonder of wonders the show had started early. We expected to see Winter Sounds start at 12:30, and apparently they went on at noon. This was a doubly weird occurrence. First, it was weird that a day show was running ahead of schedule, and extra weird that it was a day show involving people who run on "Athens time", a time zone unto itself…

Anyway, we only caught the last three songs of Winter Sounds set, including a rocking version of their anthemic A Call To Arms. The other two songs seemed new to me. The new material sounds good -- not really any different from the loud, spacious new wave of their previous album, but good nonetheless.

Winter Sounds, on time even!

  I thought The Winter Sounds came across well, especially during their more anthemic tunes. Certainly, as they played, more than a few folks ducked in from 6th street, just to see what this music was all about. And you've got to give credit to any band than can grab the attention of the jaded and over-loaded SxSW scensters.  

We stood around the club for a while waiting for things to proceed, and then "Athens time" occurred. Things fell apart, with one band seemingly setting up forever, while Dead Confederate also seemed to be setting up for an acoustic gig. After half an hour, when nothing really seemed to be happening, we decided to head out.

Tracers went back to take a nap, while i wandered off in search of some place to take some down time.

I wandered through the convention center, and then walked around the convention center. I ended up on the Red River side of the building. There i found the access point to Walker Creek. This is one of the streams that flow through Austin. Since the city is basically built in desert, by "creek" they mean, "a chasm with a trickle of water that every so often spills into a larger pool for a little while".

I sat there and watched the turtles frolic in one of the pools. I counted eight separate turtles, of pretty good size too -- about 6 inches in diameter. That seems like a good population to me. I used to live near Cochran Shoals on the Chattahoochee River. The shoals area includes a nice swamp, and i never saw more than 2 turtles in the swamp at any one time. Granted, i did not go slogging through it, and we have alligator turtles in Georgia, which can get rather scary. (A snapping turtle a foot in diameter is actually a pretty vicious creature…)

I saw a turtle.

Anyway, even there i could not get any down time, as even there the people came. Some band, i did not recognize them at all, came to do a photo shoot, bringing a photographer and some guy who sat, smoked, and occasionally yelled a direction…


Well, by then it was time to gather Tracers and head out to an off-site day show. It is good to make it outside the main drag every now and again, to the shows on the fringes. Today we were headed to "Space", an event curated by Austinian space-rock combo Experimental Aircraft, held at a place called The Carousel Lounge, 45 streets north of the main strip on 6th street.

The Carousel Lounge, it turns out, is a circus-themed bar in a suburban neighborhood, across the street from an animal clinic. Inside, it was steamy. Apparently the AC wasn't working, and the walls were painted with circus-y murals. At the stage end of the venue there was a giant papier-mâché elephant. A bright red elephant at that, and no i had not been drinking…

Red Elephant!

  As one of the random funny occurrences on this day, Postlibyan told me about the elephant at the back of the stage. I tried to peer through the extreme darkness of The Carousel Lounge to see it, but couldn't. So I thought he was kidding me. That is, until I went to the restroom and saw it for myself.  

Anyway, as we got there, Ulrich Schnauss was just getting ready to perform. After he grabbed a quick cigarette, he played for about 15 or 20 minutes. He played a short set of his solo material, playing keyboards as his laptop cranked out sequenced beats. He played songs from across his career, short snippets of songs blended together, like a mashup of his own work. It was good head-bopping fun. I really enjoyed his set.

Herr Schnauss in action.

  Shockingly, I also enjoyed Ulrich Schnauss's set today. Yes it was short, but it seemed so much more engaging than I expected. Not that I recognized any of it, as it's not normally my thing. But I definitely stood there listening, bouncing my head along with the music.  

Afterwards came the event i had come here to see: Longview. This is the band that Herr Schnauss plays keyboards in, and i had only heard a few songs here and there. I was looking forward to see how they sounded.

First off, they were a five-piece band, including Schnauss on keys, a drummer, bassist, an electric guitarist with a ton of pedals, and a very tall German man with an acoustic guitar, who also sang.

Musically, they reminded me of the mellower moments of The Church. The vocalist had a vaguely Steve Kilbey-ish thing going on with his voice, and the music meandered lightly, with loping rhythms. The acoustic guitar seemed to dominate the proceedings, which might have been a mix issue. I certainly wanted to hear more of the electric guitar, and even more of Schnuass's keyboards.

Longview entertain the elephant.

  The vocals were certainly way way out front for Longview. Likewise, the acoustic guitar was also way way out front. I can understand Postlibyan's comparison to The Church. But, like him I really wanted to hear more of the keys and the electric guitar (it was a nice hollowbody), and especially more effects. When the vocalist actually shut up, I could hear something interesting in the band, but then it would fade with the next verse.  

I would say that Longview were pleasant, but not spectacular. Still, i am glad that i got to see them.

Longview were apparently the draw, because a lot of people cleared out after they finished. There were still a few bands to see, and even though the show was running late, we decided to stick around to see the next act.

  This is the point at which I ventured to the restroom and saw the elephant. You see the women's room was behind the stage, so that you had to wind your way past bands either loading in or out to squeeze through a tiny hallway to get to the actual bathroom. Of course, since I was too busy peering at the elephant in the darkness, what I didn't see as I was winding my way around Ulrich Schnauss, who busily dragging power chords and equipment off the stage. More importantly, what I really didn't see was the power cord Schnauss was yanking as I crossed. Therefore I promptly tripped over the chord, almost pulling all of his equipment on top of me. Luckily I caught myself (with a little help from Schnauss), so a disaster was averted. But, had I managed to destroy his equipment, it would have been a great story…  

This band was called The Union Trade, and they are a four-piece band from the San Francisco Bay Area, who played nice dreampop. The main vocalist reminded me of LG from Dead Leaf Echo, a good mid-range voice used simply. The guitars were heavily effected, and really soared.

Clever use of the e-bow by The Union Sound.

On the whole, i have to admit that i was impressed. They were very professional, setting up rapidly and getting under way with a minimum of fuss. They were giving away copies of their first album at the show, and we snagged a few copies for the faithful EvilSponge staff back at home. Look for a review here in a few months.

The Union Sound in action.

By now it was 5 PM, and Experimental Aircraft were still to go on. However, after sitting around in the heat at The Carousel Lounge, i was hungry, so we headed off in search of food.

Fortunately, we were near another of my favorite Austin eateries, Zen. We grabbed yummy sushi and some delicious soba noodles, and then headed back to the hotel. Time to get a quick cup of coffee before night shows begin.

We were beginning our evening at the newly redesigned Parish. We were going to see Western Keys, who Tracy seems to think we had seen before. I have no recollection of this…

  We have seen Western Keys at least twice before (we have two reviews up - here and here to be precise.). In fact the last time we saw them (as SxSW, no less), Postlibyan and I had the exact same conversation that went something along the lines of me thinking we had seen them before and Postlibyan assuring me he had no memory of this. On this evening, we replayed the same conversation (along with me pointing out that we were replaying the same conversation) in the elevator at the hotel. For some reason, this seemed to amuse and confuse the kind of scruffy looking gray-haired guy with whom we shared an elevator. Postlibyan later told me, laughing, that this was J. Mascis. Well, at least we entertained someone!  

And J. Mascis needed some entertainment. He seemed to spend the days loitering in the lobby of the hotel looking confusedly at his iPhone...

Anyway, Parish is a pretty cool venue. It is the upstairs portion of what was Parish back when we saw The Faint there. It's still a big space, with a great sound system and a really cool, elaborate light system.

Blue and red gels on the lights at Parish ...

or yellow and purple.

  On this evening at least, I thought The Parish was a neat venue. It reminded me a bit of The EARL back home (albeit The Parish has worse restrooms, but close enough).  

Western Keys are an Austinian four piece, with a keyboardist.

Note: keyboardist. That is why the band is Western KEYS.

The show kicked off with the drummer making wise cracks about being too busy performing to respond to the work email from someone in the crowd… And then they proceeded to play a set of pleasant, light pop. The guitars chimed, the organ droned, and the keyboardist and guitarist harmonized nicely. I was particularly struck by the basswork here -- it was complex, yet understated, and really drove the songs along.

Nice basswork.

I enjoyed this set very much. Maybe i will see them again, and remember it next time!


I really enjoyed Western Keys on this evening. They reminded me a bit of Say Hi, with a little less synth-pop in the mix. And everything bounced and flowed quite well. It was good old-fashioned Indie rock, just the way I like it, with nice melodies, jangly guitars, and a tight rhythm section. Quite enjoyable, and maybe Postlibyan will remember them this time.

The vocalist of Western Keys is trying hard to ignore the disco ball.


We stayed in this venue for the next band, I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness. This is another Austin band, and i wanted to see them for many years. Last time they played SxSW, it was impossible to get into the show. Since then a few years have passed since the band was buzz worthy, and i was finally able to see them.

He chose darkness.

The band is a five piece act, with three guitarists, a bassist, and a drummer. To be honest, i had no idea what the makeup of the band was. It has been ages since i looked at the liner notes on the vinyl record i have from them. Oh, i listen to the album, which is really great post-punk, but i have long since forgotten the exact composition of the act. I did want to note that they have some really nice gear, including two very beautiful hollow-bodied guitars.

Two beautiful guitars under the flash ...

and in stage lighting.

Musically, i thought they were excellent. Many of the tunes were new, and they came across well. Very similar to the stuff the band did back in 2006, but of equivalent quality. They did play According To Plan, which is my favorite tune by them, and i found that be really glorious live. In short, i really enjoyed seeing I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness. I am glad i finally got to see them, and the new songs sound interesting. I hope the new album comes out soon.

The show went according to plan.

We headed out to The Radio Room, specifically the gravel pit at the back of the venue. We went there to see School of Seven Bells. I really enjoyed seeing them open for M83 a few months back, so was looking forward to the chance to see them again.


Postlibyan doesn't do enough injustice to "gravel pit". It reality, it was like a giant Litter box (I'm sure there were stray cats around Austin thinking, "For me? You shouldn't have…."), with various lumps and bumps throughout the area. This made it particularly difficult to get a stable footing, especially with my injured foot, and certainly that did little to improve my mood. And what also didn't help was the number of drunk people staggering around and slamming into me, even though things were well-lit enough that my little short self was entirely visible. Ugh, the crowd was really annoying.

Even School of 7 Bells were irritated, they were just irritated with their gear.


Alas, it was not to be. We stood around for about 15 minutes after they were supposed to start, watching the band attempt to solve some sort of technical issue. Then they started a song, and after a few minutes stopped it again to continue to work on the technical issue.

A nice shot of one of the perpetual sound checks School of 7 Bells seemed to do.

After ten more minutes of lack of music, we decided to move inside and see what was happening at the other stage.

  Pardon me, but one would think that, if your set entirely depends on individual technical effects, you might think to have redundancy built in? I understand that bad things happen (see The Besties, on day one). But at some point, if you have even marginal sound, you just have to go with it. That's part of being in a live act. Things don't always go as planned, so get with the program, School of Seven Bells.  

A four-piece punk act was thrashing about on stage. The bassist thought they were a metal act with his poses, but the two guitarists played nicely crunchy power chords.

This band actually figured out how to use the soundsystem!

The vocalist had a pretty good voice, and in the gaps between songs he was self-effacing, more or less making fun of the fact that his band, Ladyfinger, was actually performing music to a crowd of about 30, while 300 or so people stood around watching School of Seven Bells try to figure out why they weren't getting sound out of the sequencer. This is, when you think about it, pretty silly.

Ladyfinger's bassist obviously wanted them to be more of a metal band.

But honestly, they weren't bad. Their songs were catchy, and the band was having a blast playing, which made their performance shine just a little more. I enjoyed seeing them.


I really really liked Ladyfinger. Their crunchy punk with a lot of melody just suited my mood after standing in the gravel pit. I didn't know any of their songs, but several of them were quite good and reminded me a bit of that good early 90s melodic punk, ala Down by Law or the like.

Ladyfinger's self-deprecating vocalist.


After Ladyfinger were done, we wanted to catch a few songs from O+S in a venue with good sound and adequate set up time. I enjoyed seeing their day show the day before, but there were some issues due to their inability to find parking. Tonight, they were already loaded in, and set up was a breeze.

O + S's bassist/sound director.

They started tonight's set with New Love, and it sounded great. Orenda Fink and her blonde co-singer harmonized seamlessly, while the rest of the instruments soared around their vocals. We stayed to see another song, which was just as good.

Ms. Fink seems pleased by their better sound at The Radio Room. I think.


With a real set up, O + S sounded amazingly good. The larger venue and more intricate sound system suited their full sound. In particular, I thought the bass sounded really strong, and contrasted very nicely with the breathy, dreamy vocals. I wish would I could have stayed for all of their set.

O + S in action.


However, if we wanted to see Asobi Seksu, we knew that we needed to wait to get in to Polyvinyl night, so we headed out to go wait in line to get in to the patio out back of Habana Calle. However, i would definitely go see O+S again.

When we got to Habana Calle back patio, there was indeed a line. There are two venues, the patio and the downstairs room, both on the other side of an iron fence. For fire safety reasons, they have to tightly control who is let in, and since the two venues share one entrance, that limits the amount of people who can see either set. Really, i have to state that although i love the food at this establishment, it utterly sucks as a venue.

Not only is there the entrance issue, but each stage has its own problems. For example, at one point i had to use the restroom, which is located inside. Some generic rock band was on in there, and they had a decent sized crowd, which meant that it was approximately 9,000 degrees Fahrenheit inside. The outside stage is funnel shaped, with the stage itself being in an artificial grotto that spreads out to the viewing area. Not a bad design, except that the stage is on pretty much the same level as the viewing space – with this type of design you either need the stage elevated, or the viewing area elevated, as in an amphitheater. With everything on the same level, the effect is that you can see diddly squat, and you can't get up front to see better, because the funnel shape traps the crowd in place. This was especially awful tonight, as the two bands we wanted to see, Headlights and Asobi Seksu, consist of the vertically challenged. Yuki Chikudate and Erin Fein are such small women that only the first two rows of people in the crowd could even see that they were there.

  I really really really hate Habana Calle 6 as a venue. As Postlibyan mentions, there is no real stage, so for someone as short as me, I could be listening to DJs for all I can see.  

So, to sum up: go eat at Habana Calle 6, but don't go to see shows there.

Okay, so – we got there and had to wait in line to get in. No biggie – we expected that, which is why we left the otherwise enjoyable O+S set. And waiting in line was not that bad. It was a lovely night, not too hot and not too chilly, and the waiting area is on a patio along the walkway that stretches along the part of Walker Creek that parallels Red River Street, so it was nice and scenic. Plus we could hear the outdoor stage very well.

Lonely, Dear in action.

At the time, Lonely, Dear were performing. I have heard a song or two from this act, and was curious to hear more. They are a Swedish ensemble, and they play catchy pop music. There was ample acoustic guitar, male and female voices harmonizing, and catchy rhythms. We caught perhaps 15 minutes of their set, the first half in line, the second half on the inside of the fence, where i was able to raise my camera and get a few shots of the folks on stage.

The vocalist in Lonely, Dear does not normally look this creepy. I hope.

The female vocalist seems amused.

I was pleased with their performance. I think i need to hear more from this act.

  There was a band on stage? Who knew? Seriously though, I thought Lonely, Dear sounded pretty good. They are quieter than a lot of Polyvinyl bands, which made it a bit hard to hear over the chattering crowd, but I think I would enjoy them in a better venue.  

After they were done, we waited around waiting for Headlights to take the stage. It was during this break that i took my sweat-inducing restroom break. It seemed chilly when i got back outside, but that is due to contrast.

Headlights took the stage on time. I could tell because i heard them, not because i could see anything without shoving my way forward to the steps along stage left, where there was a small "photographer's area". (And even there i kept getting shoved out of the way by a youngish looking woman in fishnets with a big camera!)

From the photographers area at the side of the stage, i actually had a good view of the drummer.
It is hard to get pics of drummers, normally.


Headlights mainly played stuff off their last real album, and I was happy to see that they translated better to live performance than it did on album. It was like they had worked out all the kinks and kind of had a feel for the music.

Headlights in action. (Not viewed by Tracers.)

Likewise, although I couldn't see a durn thing, the sound was quite nice, with the vocals mixed nicely and the keyboards quite prominent in the mix. I do think Headlights, with their happy pop and extraordinary vocal interplay, are one of those criminally underrated bands who everyone should hear at least once.

Erin Fein, invisible to not only Tracers,
but anyone more than 2 people back in the packed crowd.


They sounded great. I thought that their last album was not their best work, but the songs really shown in concert. And they played through their catalog, including a really lovely version of Tokyo from their debut EP.

Headlights harmonize.

Another very nice set from an enjoyable band.

We then stood around waiting while Asobi Seksu set up. This band is basically a duo of James Hanna and Yuki Chikudate, but they have a different rhythm section every time i see them. What would today's be like?

The answer: tight. The drums in particular sounded great, as the current drummer played an understated style that was loud and drove the songs along, but never seemed out of place.

  Honestly, I was more interested in seeing how the material from Hush would come across live.  

Asobi Seksu played a nice mix of songs from both their new album, Hush, and its classic predecessor, Citrus. Hush did not grab me as immediately as their previous releases had done, but as i have continued to listen to it, i have found a complex yet subtle beauty in the songs. Live, they came across very well, even Me and Mary, which i did not like when i first heard the 7".

Yuki, and Mary.


Asobi Seksu did a good job of presenting material that ranged that gamut from their oldest songs up through their newest songs. In listening to it all on record, you can definitely tell which songs belong to which album. On this evening, however, it all blended together seamlessly, as the newest songs were filtered through the "classic" Asobi sound. It made everything more accessible, or rather made it all more familiar. As an example, as Postlibyan mentions, Me and Mary sounded more like a traditional Asobi Seksu tune, which made it more enjoyable.

James Hanna never stands still during a show.


Asobi Seksu played a good long set, ending with an excellent freakout, James Hanna torturing his guitar and stomping all of his pedals (that took a while, mind), and Yuki Chikudate taking over the drumming for some rather intense thundering sounds from such a petite woman.

Yuki Chikudate rocks the xylophone.

I enjoyed seeing them, but i would have enjoyed them a lot more in a better venue, perhaps with an elevated stage so that one can actually see Mr. Hanna at work. Oh well, these are the limitations of the SxSW experience.

Still, as i trod back to the hotel, i was tired yet content. Only one more day….

Related Links:

Read the entire SxSW09 review:
     Day 1 featuring Dancer vs. Politician, Twin Tigers, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Vivian Girls, Harlem Shakes, (Themselves), Fol Chen, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, A Armada, The Besties, Rotary Downs, Venice is Sinking, My Education, Maserati
     Day 2 featuring O + S, The Carrots, Death is not a Joyride, Foot Patrol, Azeda Booth, Ohbijou, My Latest Novel, Tungsten Coil, That Petrol Emotion
     Day 3 featuring Winter Sounds, Ulrich Schnauss, Longview, The Union Trade, Western Keys, I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness, School of 7 Bells, Ladyfinger, O + S, Lonely Deart, Headlights, Asobi Seksu
     Day 4 featuring Natccu, Great Northern, Low Line Caller, Peel, Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, The Love Me Nots, Efterklang, An Horse, Lou Barlow, Say Hi, The Rosebuds
   Extra: Photo gallery.
Band links for today:
   Winter Sounds:
   Ulrich Schnauss:
   The Union Trade:
   Western Keys:
   I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness:
   School of 7 Bells:
   O + S:
   Lonely Dear:
   Asobi Seksu:


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