SXSW Day 4: Seeking the Elusive Black Moth Super Rainbow
Saturday afternoon, sunny and 80º+—it seemed like a good idea to go to Waterloo Park and sample the musical and comedic talents that some enterprising soul had cobbled together. This would ensure that I'd be dead tired by the time the sun set. But that's cool—sometimes one does one's best work while running on fumes. Of course, those SXSW Day 4 Blues hit with a vengeance. But enough about me... Onto the entertainment.
Newly signed to Rick Rubin's Def American label, Howlin Rain play grizzled Southern rock redux, but with so much fire in its belly and soul (and with chops to burn, especially keyboardist Joel Rabinow) that the retro-ness of it all doesn't pall. Along with Ethan Miller's flagrant guitar solos and gritty, testifying vocals, Howlin Rain create ideal hot sunny day outdoors rock that almost makes this vegan want to eat a slab of bbq ribs while riding a Harley 100 mph on some south of the Mason Dixon line highway. Hee-yah, or something.
After this, I ambled to the comedy stage, where Aziz Ansari was yukking it up. He was followed by Reggie Watts, Hard N' Phirm, Paul F. Tompkins, Leon Allen and a woman from the Sarah Silverman Show whose name escapes me. Watts and H&P stood out with their spot-on musical parodies. Tenacious who?
Having my fill of standup shtick, I headed back to the main stage to catch Atlas Sound. This performance paled compared to the one I covered Friday night at Prague. The approach was more Pixies-esque indie rock than transcendent shoegazer/krautrock attack of the previous night. Perhaps front man Bradford Cox was shook up by the tornado that his hometown of Atlanta. Whatever the cause, the set was kind of lackluster.
Back to the comedy stage, a Youngstown, Ohio duo called Gil Mantera's Party Dream were jamming out some faux-homo-erotic, '80s synth pop—think Erasure for Midwestern closet cases. It was so awful, it made me want to kill the band and myself. With Neon Neon (LA producer Boom Bip and Super Furry Animals vocalist Gruff Rhys) canceling, I decided to walk back to civilization.
The evening's activities began with a jaunt to Pangaea, a swank lounge with exotic antelope skulls on its walls, kitsch tropical decor, bottle service, bathroom attendant and a surplus of bouncers. All so not perfect for the underground disco explorations of the DFA Records artists on the bill (Justin Miller & Jacques Renault, Still Going and Holy Ghost!) Their sleek, space-dusted dance music boomed sexily around the joint, but the dance floor remained empty. I bolted after 45 minutes to Taproom at 6, a working-class, unpretentious watering hole that's the polar opposite of Pangaea. There I caught the Holy Mountain Records showcase. Steven Wray Lobdell (Faust, Davis Redford Triad) was wringing everything from delicate, dewy notes to scorched-earth blasts from his electric guitar while a comrade manipulated his signal with a bank of electronics.
LA Weekly music editor Randall Roberts and I tried to re-enter Pangaea, but the line was not budging, so we headed to Lambert's to try to catch Why?, but they were putzing around for 20 maddening minutes, tuning up and checking sound as if they were Led Zeppelin at Madison Square instead of lo-fi rock shlubs at a small bar. I would like to officially say: Fuck Why?
Back at Taproom, we witness the grand Wooden Shjips (the "j" is there to smoke). Holy Mountain's most popular artist, Wooden Shjips manufacture mantric, minimalist drone rock with psychedelic keyboard embroidery and tasteful noise filigree. It's very simple yet very effective. At its best, Wooden Shjips' music evokes something like a hybrid of the Velvet Underground's "Sister Ray" and the Modern Lovers' "Roadrunner." Combustible propulsion doesn't get much better than this.
Nearing 1 a.m. now. Black Moth Super Rainbow beckoned at Thirsty Nickel. I'd missed them all festival and here was my last chance to see these psychedelic wonders who'd won over the Flaming Lips enough to open for them on their last tour. Alas, Thirsty Nickel shut its doors on a long line of hapless punters. I missed Black Moth Super Rainbow. Feel my dejection.
In a supremely bummed state, I roamed down E. 6th St. seeking succor, but neither Hollertronix DJ Low B's crass party jams nor Make Believe's peppy math pop could relieve my funk. I missed Black Moth Super Rainbow. I need a moment to myself...