Cougar Microbes headed to Austin, TX to experience SXSW 2014 in all it’s glory. Over the course of 4 days we witnessed some phenomenal performances in venues all around town covering every genre and sub-genre imaginable. As we had anticipated in our festival preview piece some of the biggest highlights came from those artists we weren’t expecting.
This is how it went…
Creepoid – Sailor Jerry House
We set off with a hint of preemptive nostalgia knowing that this would be the last day but thanks to Creepoid’s alternative rock we were soon re energised. Taking inspiration from early 90’s hero such as the Pixies, Sonic Youth as well as the timeless My Bloody Valentine saw this Philadelphia four piece knock us off our feet with how loud they were playing . The individual members each appeared to be entranced by the sounds they were producing providing an electric live performance that bordered on an exorcism.
Lion Babe– Butler Park
With the weather having been wet and cold over the previous couple of days it was a welcome relief that our walk over to Butler Park was bathed in sunshine. This was ideal to sit in the grass and catch Lion Babe, whom we have been biggin up for a while, going about seducing a huge crowd. Jillian Hervey, flanked by by trusted producer Lucas Goodman, starts her performance offering complex yoga poses before beginning Indie Beyonce performance. The duo grow in confidence with every track with “Treat Me Like Fire” proving to be a sure fire hit. If the audience were possibly unaware of Lion Babe before they hit the stage they were definitely well aware after.
Kishi Bashi – Cheer Up Charlie’s
Cheer Up Charlie’s was full to the brim when Kishi Bashi hit the stage and it wasn’t just because of the venues fabled Golden Ticket drink. On paper elements of electronica, a banjo, rock n roll drums and a violin should not mix… but Kishi Bashi, formerly a member of Of Montreal, not only makes it work but creates some wonderful musical moments sounding like a euphoric Beirut. While it is clear the man is a violin virtuoso it’s Kishi Bashi’s warm vocals that won us and the packed crowd over leaving everyone hugely thankful to have witnessed this euphoric show
Terry Poison – Speakeasy
For Tel Aviv based Terry Poison this is a return to Austin and they seemed hungrier than ever. Their music has gone through a few variations over the years but this updated lean lineup seems meaner than ever. With their apocalyptic electro-pop finely paced for this kind of performance frontwoman Louise oozed confidence as she danced around in a floral one piece without missing a note. At one point she climbed up on to one of the dinner tables which seems like the signal for several phones to pop out to immortalise the act. Guitarist/Keyboardist Anna seemed entranced by the show dropping calculated notes and provided a perfect vocal foil to Louise while bassist Bruno was coolness personified keeping the band fine tuned throughout. A superb cover of Lana Del Rey’s ”Blue Jeans” was possibly only surpassed by their own brilliant single “Gorgeous” which saw the room explode in unison.
Holy Ghost – Samsung Presents @ Milk Music Box
Holy Ghost! stage set up was awe inspiring and that was before a single note was played. With a backdrop of electronics and instruments the normally spacious stage at Milk Music Box seemed absolutely crowded. The 6 people on stage where each kitted out with their own synth keyboard and each ready to deliver their excellent post-dance racket. Credit has to go out to key members Nick Millhiser and Alex Frankel who like the instruments around them were positively electric. Frankel was especially lively alternating between crooning, drumming enthusiastically and hitting keys multiple times delivering the ultimate performance. . With so much energy on display the venues floor was rightfully shaking.
Cut Copy -Samsung Presents @ Milk Music Box
As endings go few could have been more spectacular than catching Australian dance outfit Cut Copy at their euphoric best. This show was an authentic revelation with new and old gems peppering the set to scintillating results. The bands jaw dropping performance was as powerful as anything I’d ever seen. Guitarist Tim Hoey deserved particular praise bringing to mind a certain Jonny Greenwood with his introvert/extrovert delivery regardless of whether he was assaulting his guitar, accurately beating a synth or simply offering a solo from deep within the crowd.
Frontman Dan Whitford could be justified for feeling euphoric while overseeing the thing that he had started as a bedroom project soaring through the speakers. As the band’s mantra and recent album title ‘Free Your Mind’ flashed on the neon screens behind the 4 piece the audience took this to heart and participated in the best rave to happen in the entire country tonight.
This concludes our SXSW coverage for 2014 but we can’t wait to be back in 2015. Austin has once again offered the most fun and fulfilling festival experience we have been exposed to and we were delighted to be a part of it. Keep Austin weird!