The Worst Moments From SXSW 2012
You were a little flat at the end of your performance of "Happy Birthday" there, Wolf Violinist
Yawn - Bar 96 The pleasure of Bandcamp comes from the ability to peruse hashtags like "animal collective, avant-pop, beach boys, brian eno, electronic, of montreal, vampire weekend, yeasayer, avant-pop, dreampop, electronic, indie pop, Chicago" and theoretically end up with something that resembles those terms. (Don't forget "andrew bird" and "beirut," guys.) The downside is that music by the likes of the infantile Chicago quartet Yawn gets out there too fast. Tongue-wagging tastemakery takes over, and suddenly folks trying to fill out lineup cards at festivals end up latching onto goobers like these guys without seeing them perform.
Yawn's live act confirms they are a fraud. Thursday's appearance at Bar 96 showed them engaging in the art of trying as hard as possible to seem like they weren't trying. Imagine four unremarkable white dudes with unkempt hair having a rehearsal consisting of directions like "can you make your voice crack a little more when you add some unnecessary harmony to the second verse," or "make sure to introduce that song that obviously isn't slow as a 'slow jam.'" Further banter clunkers: "This is Terry Gross and you're listening to NPR"; "We're in Austin right now, but let's imagine we're in Africa." Even the guy convulsing and spazzing in place to these diluted ripoffs must have been a paid extra. Such earnest attempts to make flippant musicwell, it's enough to make you... yawn. Reed Fischer
The Endless Parade of Technical Difficulties - Every venue Look: Here's Sharon Van Etten playing at Mohawk with her vocals so submerged as to be inaudible! Here's Bay Area electronic soundscape-artist Tycho performing to a full crowd at Clive Bar through a P.A. with no sub-bass! Here's electro-noise duo Peaking Lights standing on the Red 7 stage in despair because they spent their entire set struggling to make, you know, sounds happen! Granted, an event as sprawling as South By Southwest is going to have its problems, but this year, it felt like every other set was marred by some kind of technical issue. It was routine to see artists spending their shows throwing up hand signals to their sound crew, only to get it right just as their timeslot was ending, or to play sets with crucial parts of the music inadudible through the house mix. The blame for this doesn't lie in any one place, of course: Londoners New Build made a point of saying that their soundman ran shows for LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip and thus knew a thing or two. Even after a barrage of gear-related frustrations, Dan Deacon graciously complimented his sound techs on their work, and implored his audience to thank them as well. (Deacon also gets the prize for making the funniest asides while sorting through the problems.) Still, with as large and expensive and corporate as SXSW has become, tech problems should be the exception, notas they seemed this yearthe rule. Ian S. Port
Youth Lagoon - Hotel Vegas Because there are thousands of performers at SXSW, it's possible to avoid things you don't like. But sometimes you can't. While working on another assignment on Friday, I happened upon Youth Lagoon at the Brooklyn Vegan party and quickly ran out of synonyms for "boring." It seems cruel to say it was the worst thing I saw last week, because singer-songwriter Trevor Powers is so young (22) and has struggled with anxiety. But from what I saw Friday, "navel-gazing" would have described his set politely. I hope he changes my mind someday. Chris Gray
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