SXSW Music: Day Five Recap

Saturday marked the last full day of SXSW Music, with some events lingering on through Sunday but most visitors planning to leave town late Saturday and early Sunday.

During the day, Waterloo Records, an independent record and music store integral to Austin’s music scene, hosted bands at a stage set up in the parking lot outside the store with signings inside following each performance. The lineup featured Lissie, New Madrid, Kaleo, Grizfolk, Soul Asylum, and Bombino, running from noon to 6PM.

The parking lot filled up as Kaleo took the stage. Kaleo, a band from Iceland, has seen huge success in the US (they are also a phenomenon in their home country) with their song “All the Pretty Girls”. Currently on tour in the US and Canada with a brief stop in Australia for a blues festival, Kaleo is expected to release an EP this year with Atlantic Records and Arctic Monkeys producer Mike Crossey. Lead singer JJ Juliusson’s vocals are always stunning, with rich gravelly tones in his chest range and a strong upper register characterized by a haunting shrillness. Rubin Pollock, a striking physical presence with his towering height, pale skin, and dark curls, navigates the guitar with expertise, quietly stepping forward for agile bluesy guitar solos that prompt the audience to erupt in cheers.  Kaleo gave a strong performance, technically tight and with vocals full of emotion. Their strength lies in their ability to maneuver across different genres – the blues-rock that they love comes through strongly on tracks like “Way Down We Go” and “Pour Sugar on Me”, but the delicate “All the Pretty Girls” stays gentle and they perform the melodic Icelandic ballad “Vor í Vaglaskógi” with exquisite sensitivity. Though their performance was flawless, it would be interesting to see some deviance from their recorded tracks in their live sets.

Grizfolk was the perfect act to follow Kaleo, with both bands being 4-5 man indie-rock bands with a solid understanding of how to work a live audience. They performed a similar set to the previous night at Tap Room, finishing with the driving “Hymnals” and pushing their new album Waking Up the Giants with its lead single, “Troublemaker”. Grizfolk left the stage sweaty and triumphant as fans cheered and lined up to have their new records and CDs signed by the band. No matter the venue size or type, Grizfolk always seems to attract a fiercely loyal crowd of fans. Their v-neck t-shirts, black jeans, and varying amounts of facial hair unsurprisingly attracting a largely female fan-base.

Soul Asylum, an ’80s/’90s alt-rock band, attracted an older (though no less fiercely loyal) crowd. Soul Asylum’s second most recent album was released in 2006 following the death of bassist Karl Mueller (due to cancer), but just a week ago they released their latest: Change of Fortune.

Bombino, a singer-songwriter and guitarist from Niger, sang in the Tuareg language (Tamasheq). His technical skill as a guitarist is a centerpiece of his music, which frequently addresses Tuareg geopolitical concerns (although unfortunately most Austin listeners weren’t able to pick that up).

In the evening, Grizfolk performed again at the Pandora Discovery Den, where lines formed hours before the doors opened as people tried to soak in the last few sounds of SXSW Music and catch Bloc Party’s set at midnight.

As the sun set Saturday night, temperatures dropped into the 40s and SXSW experienced its first sub-80s weather of the week. Music-lovers and company executives (not mutually exclusive) headed home with sweaters and jackets, to take a much-needed year of recovery after a week full of presentations: both Obamas, beats, twang, celebrities, free-flowing alcohol, and an ungodly amount of breakfast tacos. See you next year, SXSW!

Read the Days One, Two, Three, and Four Recaps.

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