SXSW 2010: The Rest of the Best (Best Coast, Broken Bells, Demolished Thoughts, More)

Best of SXSW: Saturday w/ Real Estate, Best Coast, Fool's Gold, Demolished Thoughts, Broken Bells, Dam-Funk, and Billy Murray

Thinking back on SXSW's finale, I saw Real Estate more times than I probably should've (and that includes a Saturday day show). But that was in large part because the band's songs about aimlessly combing beaches, with the the sun beating down, was the antithesis of the hectic Austin atmosphere. No matter the show, the New Jersey group seemed relaxed, allowing their instrumental melodies to unfold at unhurried tempos. When the band played, we were on their time, and I loved every one of their shows. (I'll also admit to listening to Real Estate's record on repeat on the BART ride home. I'm completely hooked.)

Best Coast offered a similar respite from the madness. I watched her (Bethany Cosentino, who plays live as a three-piece) in the basement of a wine bar at a Black Iris happy hour. Being literally bunkered away from the masses made it easy to feel the intimacy in her music–her songs are littered with stories of boys she's been a fool for because, as she admits on her best tune, she doesn't like sleeping alone. Her voice was a little scratchy as she sang. She jokingly told the crowd she sounded like a “fucked up Courtney Love” because this was her ninth performance in four days, but she lifted the room (with a little help from the female fans singing along near me) when she got to her popular single, “When I'm With You.” Definitely one of my weekend highlights. 

Best Coast was followed at that early evening gig by Fool's Gold, who were in no way mellow, but they were excellent. The Los Angeles group packed nine members on the floor, a jumble of guitars and percussion and saxophone and African- and Middle Eastern- and Western pop. The band made it impossible to stand still–in part because we were in such close proximity to their dancing bodies, which snaked through the crowd, and because there was no stage between us. From the start the group had all of us in the room–perhaps 100 or so people–bouncing around, including the members of Best Coast. The industry part of SXSW faded quickly–I didn't see one person using a phone for once–as we were instead being transported to a humid basement bash. There was a genuine enthusiasm for the music being played–from the musicians themselves and those of us hanging around to hear it. 

The big industry gigs were fun too, though. Saturday was downright freezing, the temperatures dropping from the 70s to the 40s, but it was worth it to lose a little feeling in the toe and finger region to witness bands that haven't hit the tour circuit. Bay Area streaming music giant Mog hosted a packed day party with acts that had people lined up around the block.

Demolished Thoughts was an excellent punk supergroup (Thurston Moore on vocals, J Mascis on guitar, Andrew WK was supposed to be on bass but he had to drop out and was replaced by a member of Fucked Up) that delivered short blasts of hardcore covers to a crowd that produly beat the air and moshed in time. 

Moore's energy was infectious as he adopted the role of a kid a third his age. He read his lyrics off cheat sheets, and between songs he made up hilarious banter. “We've been on tour for six months with this band. We're just getting started,” he joked. “We need a place to crash tonight,” he added, continuing in character as he told the crowd the group was currently sleeping in a van behind the venue. The dudes (and it was mostly dudes) who were at the club and had grown up on hardcore sang right along.
One supergroup followed another, as Broken Bells took the stage to shift the energy from fight-the-Man to sensitive guy. Shins frontman James Mercer took the lead on guitar and vocals and hit producer Danger Mouse sat behind the drum kit (and played guitar and keys) to perform songs off the new group's new album.
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