While our North American Editor drives the long road to Austin one might think DIY is restricted to longing glances at Twitter to work out what is going on at SXSW. Not so. The Big Beat’s Mike Taylor gives us eyes and ears on the ground for a few of the acts he checked out on Tuesday.
Jamie Woon played what I believe was his first ever US show last night, kicking off Pitchfork’s lineup at Emo’s Jr. He played an abbreviated set - although standard for SXSW purposes - that saw several songs discarded from his printed setlist, jumping straight to closer ‘Lady Luck’ near the half-hour mark. A decent enough performance in front of a chatty room, especially at the back, Woon definitely has the pipes. Make no mistakes, the guy can flat out sing. The opening numbers smoldered with his silky, neo-soul crooning atop the ‘microstep’ laid down by his ably competent backing band. A few mic glitches hampered the performance. Woon definitely has commercial appeal, and I saw him as the type of act who’d do well to reach for an opening slot on the upcoming Sade tour. He has an adult kind of restrained cool that should play extremely well to that audience. Don’t think his sound or frankly, his major label status, will permit him to chase indie kids for any length of time.
Weekend was next, outdoors on the larger Emo’s stage. The San Franciscan trio have all of the sound, but perhaps not yet all of the songs. Singer Shaun Durkan howled into the mic as much as he actually sang during the performance. Still, the Joy Divisionesque sound throbbed throughout the venue, theirs as authentic a post-punk sound as has been revived in recent years. Not much in the way of interacting with or involving the audience, the sense being that Weekend is still a work in progress. The foundation has been laid. The direction they head will be interesting to hear.
Finally, I ended the evening with Psychic TV. A band I first saw a lifetime ago (1988), they were appearing about 18 months after Genesis P-Orridge announced his retirement from performing. Don’t know what caused the change, really. The (wo)man has been through a lot, primarily the death of his life partner Lady Jaye Breyer in 2007. Nonetheless, the first time I saw them, they led me on a pulsating, psychedelic mindfuck that remains one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, the PTV of then is not quite the PTV of now - an unfair expectation, really - and the shortened SXSW set limitation really never gave the band a chance to fully flesh out their performance. And, as expected, the music has changed. Hyper, tribal beats were replaced by songs of love and loss, mournful at times. The 4-piece PTV band was, it should be noted, absolutely electric: tighter than a set of lugnuts on a ‘57 Chevy after years in the Texas sun. The band attracted a variety of, ahem, veteran concertgoers seeking to celebrate the gothic industrial noise of their 80’s glory and to them, they didn’t disappoint.