Tuesday, March 12, 2019

SXSW 2019, Day 1 w Deerhunter, The Beths, PRIESTS, Sweet Spirit, Fontaines D.C., and Black Midi

Katie Alice Greer of PRIESTS

Welcome to Austin

As Rosi and I were walking through the Austin Convention Center to pick up our press badges for this year's South By Southwest Music Festival, I told her, "The key is to pace yourself. Don't try to do too much." I then promptly ignored my own advice.

My flight out of Newark was at 7:55 AM ET, I got to the airport super early; so I could meet Rosi before her flight which meant I was up at like 4 AM. Just before boarding the flight, I saw my friend Joe from Jersey City; and we grabbed a couple of seats together for the flight down to Austin. I was at my hotel by around 2 and having that conversation with Rosi in the convention center by 3. After some coffee and cursory planning for the week, we went our separate ways. Rosi headed over to Hotel Vegas for Strange Brew VIII featuring Thee Oh Sees, and I made my way to Mohawk for A.V. Club's "Just Another Manic Monday."

Mohawk runs 2 stages, an indoor and an outdoor. I posted up at the outdoor stage and didn't bother going back and forth so I could keep my spot. I parked myself just as Black Midi were starting. The London band are young and noisy, not doing your typical pop or rock. They've built a buzz for themselves without too much of an Internet presence, and their set was pretty relentless.

Black Midi

Fontaines D.C. followed them and were a revelation to me. I had no idea what to expect when they came out, and the Dublin band blew me away. Full-on post punk intensity. Singer Grian Chatten stalked around the stage full of stressed out energy. They had lots of fans who'd pushed up front, and I get why. Two bands into the week, and I already have a new favorite.

Grian Chatten of Fontaines D.C.

Old favorites, and Austin locals, Sweet Spirit were next on the bill. It's the second year in a row that Sabrina Ellis and Andrew Cashen have welcomed me to Austin (Last year, it was A Giant Dog at Hotel Vegas); and it's a tradition I'd love to maintain. The guy standing next to me had never heard of Sweet Spirit before their set; and, by the end, he was reaching over the monitors to grab their setlist.

Sabrina Ellis of Sweet Spirit

I missed The Beths at their sold-out Music Hall of Williamsburg show last week, so I was looking forward to catching them here. The New Zealand four-piece were spot-on live, delivering the songs from their excellent debut LP, Future Me Hates Me, with pop precision.

The Beths

It had been a while since I'd seen and shot D.C.'s PRIESTS. They're another band that brings the post punk intensity, and they are just an absolute blast to photograph. Funny moment: Guy standing next to me was talking to lead-singer Katie Alice Greer and asking if she'd play a song called "White Knights" or something. She said, "That's not one of our songs." He goes, "Oh wait. Apple music has your songs mixed up with this other band called Priest, and I've been listening to both!"

"Well, I hope you still enjoy the set," she said.


I thought about bailing after the first few songs from Deerhunter. I really wanted to see them, but I'd been up since 3 AM local time and hadn't eaten all day. It was starting to catch up with me. But, once they came out and started playing, I had to stick it out. All the noise, the vocal effects, the songs. Bradford Cox is pretty much a genius, and there was no way I was leaving.


Weirdly, a mosh pit broke out at a couple of points. Cox leaned over to some of the people in front and asked if they were ok. Then he said, "Don't mosh towards the stage. Mosh towards the exit."

When it was all done, I climbed up the hill back to my hotel and enjoyed a late-night (early morning) dinner of the honey roasted peanuts and Wheat Thins Chips I got in the goodie bag from the hotel. My feet already hurt, and I'm a little beat; but it was so worth it. I'll see if I can't follow my own advice going forward.

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