(ED. note: This post comes fromEight Forty-Eight music contributor Althea Legaspi, who‚ regularly gives reviews and reports from the Chicago scene. Like other music lovers,‚ Althea spent last week at the South by Southwest Music Festival so we could know what bands to watch out for...)
In a week when some 1900 musical acts descend on Austin for the annual South by Southwest festival, it's hard to narrow down highlights, harder to choose one showcase over another, and impossible to see it all. Such was the daily struggle, and Saturday night's festivities were no exception. At Fader Fort, off the beaten path, an invite-only crowd awaited the ill-kept rumor of Kanye West and his G.O.O.D. showcase. It was 8 p.m. and there was no sign of him. In the meantime, PJ Harvey was scheduled to play at 10. So we waited and waited and around 9:15 decided we better get in line for her show if we were to get in. We had just walked out when friends began to text me that Mr. West had taken the stage. This is how things roll down in Austin: you're always on the chase, and along the way you enjoy some moments.
All of this to say that had I not left when I did these lovely photos of PJ would not have been procured as the photo pit for her show was heavily monitored, and only a select few were allowed in. PJ Harvey's performance was a clear highlight of the fest. It was a special treat for any Chicagoans in attendance as she has not played the Windy City since she announced her retirement from live performing in 2004. Since then, however, she has had a smattering of dates overseas and a couple appearances in the States.
It was a theatrical display, Harvey clad in a white dress peppered with restraining belts and donning a plastic, feather-like tiara. While the majority of the set comprised forthcoming material from A Woman A Man Walk By (out March 30), a few songs hailed from 1996's Dance Hall at Louse Point -- including the blistering "Taut" with Harvey's peals of "Jesus save me" becoming a crowd mantra. And while Harvey donning a guitar and playing her personally penned tunes is preferable, sans guitar she remained riveting. Moving from coy, hand-to-mouth demure muse, gracefully posing and smiling; to sultry, sexy maven; to unleashing pure fury and dropping the F-bomb for "A Woman A Man Walked By" -- with every turn/persona she was thoroughly captivating.‚
I did catch a few up-and-comers worth keeping an eye on. Glasgow's Glasvegas (they play Bottom Lounge on April 6) and UK's Victoria Hesketh of Little Boots played multiple sets and lived up to the buzz. America's Passion Pit, The Pains of Being Pure At Heart and Airborne Toxic Event all have a lot of hype surrounding them as well. The former two put on good shows, but are still short on material (averaging 20-minute sets), and the latter are worth checking out, though a bit too slick for some tastes.
Of course, Chicago was well represented as always at South By Southwest. We caught sets by Scotland Yard Gospel Choir‚ and Sybris, both of whom have been featured on Eight Forty-Eight. Schubas 13th annual day party began with Chicago-by-way-of-Maryland-and-South Carolina's singer-songwriter Joe Pug. Bloodshot Records kicked off its 15th anniversary celebrations at SxSW. Tinted Windows (who hit Double Door on April 30), a colloboration between James Iha, Bun E. Carlos, Adam Schlesinger and Taylor Hanson sounded like it should've been a good power pop extravaganza on paper, but fell short of its collective talent. However, the return of Red Red Meat was both welcoming to the ears and a high point of South By Southwest 2009.
See you next year, SxSW!