SXSW Dispatch: A Sampler Trio

(Originally written for Relix.com1)

Mac DeMarco , Hype Hotel, March 16

Mac DeMarco @ Hype Hotel. Photo by Allison Smoler.

Though it’s not over till Monday, SXSW has already birthed a slew of best-of and under-the-radar lists. But as lists go, they can be a little predictable. Here’s a freeform sampler of some of the stories floating around down in Austin, TX, that highlight just how scattered this thing called SXSW really is.

Battle of the Lo-Fi: Allah-Las v. The Jacuzzi Boys

Right after The Jacuzzi Boys cranked the distortion and the crowd up during their set at the Gypsy, L.A.‘s Allah-Las hit the stage at Hotel Vegas’s Psych Fest with groovier intent, but comparable fuzz. The audience was familiar, too: Many of the thrashers from the crowd of The Jacuzzi Boys managed the one-block stumble from one venue to the other for their second helping of garage rock. While the Allah-Las pulled a bigger crowd, The Jacuzzi Boys faithful had the rowdier reception, likely a result of the different ends they aim at with their lo-fi tendencies. Fuzz is the weapon for The Jacuzzi Boys, an ever-present driving force in their music that’s not half as present on their albums as it is live. The Allah-Las, meanwhile, merely use it as an accent, a bit of verisimilitude for their experiment in Buffalo Springfield revivalism—and a good come down from the frenetic Jacuzzi Boys.

Most Jarring Band Switch: Katie Got Bandz > Cayuca

SXSW’s Fader Fort is known for playing host to some of the “hottest” bands of the moment (depending on how much faith you vest in Fader), often with no regard for genre consistency. Such was the case on Thursday, when mixtape MC Katie Got Bandz and her four (count ‘em: four) DJs rapped incoherently for 25 minutes to a hyped-up hip-hop crowd only to turn the mic over to Cayucas, a band best described as California’s answer to Vampire Weekend. Worlds collided, but in an oddly copacetic way. Their single, “High School Lover,” provided the commingled hip-hop and indie fans with good, unifying points of contact: heartbreak, nostalgia and a great beat. While you wouldn’t expect these two bands to collaborate anytime soon, their fans did.

Busiest Act: Mac DeMarco

It was hard to miss Mac DeMarco this week at SXSW. Just about every showcase had DeMarco penciled in at some point or another, and by Wednesday, he was on every indie rock fan’s radar. You’d think playing several shows a day everyday for a week straight would wear on him by day six, but his performance at the Hype Hotel on Saturday had him putting it on the line in all of his high-energy, goofball glory as if it were his first go round. Still, such a rigorous pace would break even the most seasoned tourers wagon down—a notion DeMarco voiced himself near the end of his final song, “Still Together”: “I’ve got one more chorus for you guys, then we’re gonna play three more shows and then I’m gonna kill myself.” He’s earned his rest, and the legion of fans he accrued throughout the week: DeMarco was probably one of the best—and easiest to catch—at this year’s SXSW.

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