The fourth and final day of Pandora’s SXSW Discovery Den was heavy with diversity and ended with one of Austin’s heaviest hitters. Four days of hard work, some sweat, some rain, a lot of BBQ and so, so much music came to it’s grand finale last night.
Here are some of the highlights…
Zella Day introduced herself telling the audience that they’re “…very badass for standing in the rain.” The packed crowd reciprocated her love and modesty with hoots and hollers. If I had to compare Day to someone it would be a younger Aimee Mann and some of her songs have a beautiful darkness that sounds very informed by Fiona Apple. Her set opened with “The Outlaw Josie Wales,” a swooning, soaring amorous pop song that compares her muse to Clint Eastwood’s iconic western anti-hero. The standout song for me was “Milk & Honey,” it had the bouyancy of sunny California indie-pop. Another standout was her closing song, “Hypnotic,” a sultry insta-hit with a hard and heavy groove.
Palma Violets closed out the fist half of the rock day with their updated take on the UK pub-rock sound of the ‘70s and ‘80s.They took the stage with a confident, laddish swagger and suddenly it’s the mid ‘90s in my mind – I was taken back to Bottom Of The Hill in San Francisco watching These Animal Men and Elastica. Alexander Jesson played his bass slung way down low and frontman Samuel Thomas Fryer made his Telecaster sound tough, not too unlike the late, great Joe Strummer. With all the multi-part vocal harmonies sung on this stage over the past four days, it was refreshing to hear a band shout out gang-vocals in manic, dipsomaniacal unison. It’s about damn time somebody got the British bulldog barking again!
Black Angels are an Austin treasure. Not only have they been playing deep psychedelic rock since 2004, but they’re also curators of the Austin Psych Fest – this year’s event boasts a reunion of Texas psych-rock pioneers The 13th Floor Elevators. Before they even took the stage, it’s evident that everybody here loves this band. Even Bill Murray, he showed up to our party with some friends for the performance from these mind melting headliners. After a fog machine covered the stage in a heavy cloud, they took their formation and ripped right into heavy fuzz-laden guitar leads. Drummer Stephanie Bailey is the band’s engine, under her propulsive pounding, the Angels put their stamp on a timeless rock ’n’ roll sound born in the lysergic days of late ‘60s ballroom concerts. When the weighty, strobing set started to taper off, the band members slowly left the stage, one-by-one, leaving their guitars leaning against the amps, squealing in distorted feedback. Frontman Alex Maas was left at the Farfisa, cranked his drone-machine and sang a heady mantra that sounded heavily influenced by early Suicide recordings. Suddenly, he stopped and thanked the howling crowd. Take note, rock fans – this is how you end a show.