The volume turned up on Tuesday as the raucous SXSW Music Festival took the baton from the geeky Interactive conference, and thousands of rock and rap fans poured into Austin.
The Interactive confab drew to a close with its final panel on Tuesday afternoon - Neil Young rolling out his hi-fi online music store and player PonoMusic, Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armsien talking Portlandia, Chelsea Clinton giving a keynote.
And then the music began. This year's fest is once again packed with huge names unable to resist the promotional opportunity SXSW offers, all of them attaching their names to corporate brands. Coldplay headlined the iTunes Festival in its first ever night at SXSW on Tuesday, Jay-Z and Kanye West are playing a Samsung and Chevrolet sponsored event on Wednesday, and Lady Gaga will play for Doritos on Thursday.
For the music fan, SXSW is awesomely enticing, and a huge logistical challenge. You can enter a digital lottery to hope to get into the really bg shows, or try to plot out an evening in which most of your time is not spent waiting in line. On Tuesday, the queue for buzz acts like Australians The Preatures and Chicago emceee Chance the Rapper were prohibitive.
Out of the chute, the music fest was already seeming too big to manage, and on Tuesday night, there were only 46 venues with a full 8 till 2 slate of bands. From Wednesday to Saturday, that number will double.
I started out at Haven with Arthur Beatrice, a four piece British pop band whose lead singer is a woman named Ella Girardot. They were playing SXSW on their first ever day in the U.S., and were a pleasant enough gateway band to the fest, with an understated, moodiness like a less arrestiving version of The xx.
From there, I went looking to check out a Chicago band called Archie Powell & The Exports at Red 7 Patio, but they were playing two hours before Chance the Rapper, and thus there was no chance to get in.
Okay, nix that. When in doubt, go local. I then headed over to Trinity Hall at Old School to catch Pattern in Movement, the Philadelphia indie-soul duo of singer-keyboardist Andrew Thiboldeaux and drummer Chris Ward, who have a self titled new album out on the Home Tapes label due on April.
That turned out to be the right move, with the added bonus that I caught the last few songs by Leverage Models, the terrific indie dance band fronted by convulsively energetic singer Shannon Fields, who also record for Home Tapes. I tried to take some pictures of him but they came out blurry becasue he's such a jittery performer. Also, he had a great sign off: "We ask nothing from you but your happiness."
Pattern Is Movement then came on and took care of business most effectively. "I gotta say, Philly is in the house tonight," Ward said with a smile, before the bearded band moved into tightly disciplined, starkly soulful songs like "Suffering" from the new album that took on even more percussive power when Thiboldeaux banged on his own drum.
The showstopper was ther duo's tradmark cover of D'Angelo's "Untitled (How Does It Feel)," included on the forthcoming Pattern Is Movement, in which Thiboldeaux dsiplayed a supple, impressive falsetto. Not a bad start to SXSW music, after all.