SXSW 2014: Final Day Recap
Saturday dawned clammy with rain showers at South by Southwest, which made for humid going as it warmed up on the last day of this year’s festival. With the end in sight, though, bands that had spent the week essentially performing one set after another let loose in the rock ’n’ roll equivalent of a grand finale.
It started just past noon at the annual Aussie BBQ, a daylong showcase for bands that made the trip to Austin from Australia. As attendees lined up at steam trays for free grub (burgers and sausages wrapped in tortillas), Melbourne’s Money for Rope kicked off the show with a set of energetic songs powered by a pair of drummers and laced with elements of psychedelic rock and soul.
The Black Lips (pictured above) played a sweaty set to a packed-in crowd later in the afternoon at Do512’s “Big One” day party, where the band stormed through a set of high-octane melodic punk tunes offered at a breakneck pace.
Next up was Gary Numan, who was in peak form. Backed by a live band on drums, bass, guitar and a bank of keyboards, the synth-pop innovator performed a riveting set of dark, pulsing electro songs. He danced and writhed between vocals, which he alternately intoned in a clear, ringing voice and in a twitchy murmur. Though Numan last year released a new album, 'Splinter (Songs From a Broken Mind),' he made room in the set for his 1979 hit 'Cars' as well.
Early in the evening, singer and songwriter Christopher Denny played a solo acoustic show in the still, quiet sanctuary of St. David’s Episcopal Church that left some in the rapt audience — and, briefly, Denny — in tears. The Arkansas musician picked out parts on an acoustic guitar as he sang gut-wrenching lyrics in a battered, high tenor voice that had a Roy Orbison-like feel when Denny sang near the top of his range.
Later, Temples treated the crowd packed into Latitude 30 to a set of hooky psychedelic rock swamped in reverb and cascades of jangling 12-string guitar on tunes including the T. Rex-style boogie of 'Keep in the Dark' and 'Shelter Song,' a flower-power anthem born 45 years too late. The band looked the part, with singer James Edward Bagshaw sporting a mop of curly hair and a leather jacket trimmed with fake fur.
Around the corner and down the street, Houston band the Tontons closed out their SXSW with one last show at the Dirty Dog. The band cranked behind singer Asli Omar as she sang in earthy, expressive tones on soulful indie-rock songs with robust guitar parts and steady drumming. The band had issues with the sound, but as Omar pointed out in a different context during the show, at least everyone was in Austin at SXSW and “not in war-torn Uganda.”