Tag Archives: The Hotel Cafe Showcase

Kristen’s Top 10 Sets of SXSW ’11

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I’m still working on my annual SXSW Mix. It’s shaping up to be mostly new artists that I’d never heard of before or that really came to my attention at SXSW this year. As excited as I am about all my new discoveries, it occurred to me that some of my very favorite experiences of the festival aren’t represented. As such, I was inspired to make a separate list of my top 10 sets of SXSW ’11.

1. Queen Caveat at Thirsty Nickel

It was their first set at SXSW and I was just SOOOO excited that they were there and that I was there and that everything was happening. The venue itself added the additional bonus of watching Lauren masterfully deal with an awkwardly placed banister AND allowed me to watch all the people walking past, stopping, and being drawn to the window by the music…LOVE watching new people fall in love with my favorite bands! It was a SXSW moment for sure.

 

2. The Silent Comedy at Peckerheads

I saw The Silent Comedy more than any other band at SXSW. Each set they did was slightly different but their final show at Antiquiet’s The Axis of Audio showcase was the most unique, featuring some new tunes as well as other songs not found in their typical setlist. It also helps that the set was dedicated to me (and Amanda and our TSC gang).

Check out the video our dear friend Trina (The Owl Magazine) took of TSC’s newer song “Wine”

 

3. Empires at The Trophy Room

Empires was one of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing play. They had grabbed my attention when they played in LA with Biffy Clyro and seeing them in Austin reminded me why I loved them so much. The way the band, especially singer Sean Van Vleet connects to the audience, drawing them in with an intense energy…it was one of those sets in which I became completely lost in the music.

 

4. Dead Sara at Lipstick 24

After a solid day of amazing music, it was incredibly difficult for a band to completely knock me off my feet (as many highly anticipated bands failed to do). Yet Dead Sara had me head banging and rocking out with their 1am set Weds night (or I suppose Thursday morning) at Lipstick 24 like no other. I think this was the hardest I rocked out all week…

 

5. The Kin at Antone’s


You know I love The Kin. Their performance at Antone’s was one of the most memorable of the week. I finally got to hear some of their new material, the audience was completely enraptured especially when they got off the stage to come sing a song on the floor, and Isaac managed to “re-create” his didgeridoo using some sort of pipe that could be found out in the street. When they played “Waterbreaks”, I was SO happy to be seeing them play again (it had been awhile…they’re based in NYC), it brought tears to my eyes.

 

 

6. Doll and The Kicks at Antone’s

I had NO CLUE that Doll & The Kicks was even going to be at SXSW, let alone be playing at the British Invasion showcase I was attending on Thursday. It was the best surprise of the week! Their new song “Skeleton” is fantastic and must be downloaded now…!

 

7. AWOLNATION at Rusty Spurs

I had never seen AWOLNATION before, but I’d been enjoying their tunes. I liked the band, but what really gets this set on my top 10 list was the intensity of the audience. I love being swept up in that kind of energy…it was insane without me ever feeling physically threatened. The perfect audience. When they played “Sail”, I was taken to another place…and I couldn’t even really see the stage!

here’s a taste:

 

 

8. Twin Atlantic at Antone’s


Most of the bands on this list are ones I’d seen (or at least known) before SXSW. It’s easier to really get into a set if you know the songs. But Twin Atlantic I had never really heard of before arriving in Austin. I had come across one of their tunes and that was enough to put them on my watch list. By the end of their set at Antone’s, they were my fave new discovery from SXSW.

 

 

9. Viva City at The Dart Music International House


Tuesday afternoon, before the music festivities officially began, we gathered to go see Viva City at The Dart Music International House. I saw this UK act several times over the course of my stay in Austin, and each time it was a crazy fun dance party, but this very first set marked the beginning of my SXSW experience and it will never be forgotten.

 

 

10. Brian Wright at St. David’s Sanctuary

That whole evening at St. David’s Sanctuary (one of the Hotel Cafe showcases) was quite magical (see story), but I think my favorite set of the bunch was Brian Wright’s. It’s hard to describe why the set moved me so much. I have seen Brian play plenty of times, but something about this place and time and my specific mood really elevated his performance and songs. It was truly a perfect SXSW moment.

 

Seriously, is it time for SXSW 2012 yet?

 

~ Kristen

SXSW Day 4: A Story

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So if you have ever been to SXSW you know that by the 4th day, you have pushed your body beyond every possible limit you thought you had. Day 4 was not quite as crazy as the previous days…a lot less running around (band choices were highly determined by proximity), not quite as much dancing (early morning Viva City and late night Little Red Radio aside), and more attention paid to things like eating and hydrating. At a certain time of the day we kind of hit a wall. There was a lull in the schedule. Resting in some way was a popular option. I, however, couldn’t bring myself to NOT be around music for any prolonged period of time.

I noticed a conveniently timed tweet from Joey Ryan saying that him and Kenneth Pattengale (AKA The Milk Carton Kids) were playing a set in about an hour at The Hotel Cafe showcase and it was open to the public. Previously I was under the assumption that these showcases were badges and wristbands only so none of them were on my schedule. But I located Saint David’s Sanctuary and made my way in.

Seeing that The Hotel Cafe feels like my home away from home in LA, I wasn’t surprised to find that the Hotel Cafe Showcase produced a similar vibe. It took place inside a church so seating was plentiful and MUCH needed at the time. The rows of pews extended quite a ways back, but each and every artist was somehow able to reach out and connect to every person in the room. Plus, the venue provided for plenty of humorous “church” references throughout the evening.

When I first walked in, two women were on the stage playing keys and cello. I was unfamiliar with them, but the peaceful and soothing sounds they were producing were exactly what I needed at the time. Turned out, the keyboardist was German artist, Agnes Obel.

After Agnes was The Milk Carton Kids. Of course I’ve seen Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale numerous times, but this was my first official Milk Carton Kids experience.  As they played several of my favorite tunes, I glanced around the church. The Audience seemed so moved and so intent on the music it was almost as if they were stunned into silence. A silence only broken by bouts of clapping or laughter brought about by Joey and Kenneth’s unique sense of humor and general stage banter.

I only intended to stay for this one set, but then I saw Brian Wright setting up and I just couldn’t leave. I’ve also seen Brian Wright many times, but this might have been my favorite of his performances. I don’t know if it was the venue, the fact that it was at SXSW, or my general mood, but his first song literally gave me the chills. By the end of the set, he had the audience standing (not a trivial accomplishment) as he led them in a chorus of “Halleluiahs” made even more poignant by the church setting. It was one of those magical moments…a song sung a particular way at a particular time with a particular audience that will never be captured in that exact way ever again. Magic!

At that point, I knew I wasn’t leaving until I absolutely had to. It continued to be a night of magical moments. Jim Bianco also took advantage of the setting to sing this song about sinning, but I feel that his bringing his band into the aisle for “Sing” was the transcendent moment of his set.  Holly Conlan sang my favorite of her tunes (“OK”) and then brought Joey Ryan unto the stage for a duet that was so beautiful it nearly brought me to tears. Then Laura Jansen took the stage and mesmerized the audience with her gorgeous voice.

After Laura, I forced myself out the door (I had other places to be). On the way out I ran into Cary Brothers and Brooke Fraser (both to perform later). It was hard to leave, but I am just so grateful for that tweet that led me to at least attend the event for a little while. Seeing a showcase of singer-songwriters amidst a sea of mostly rock bands and dance parties made me appreciate my Hotel Cafe experience even more.  These artists’ ability to captivate simply with the power of their voice and beauty of their songs is a true testament to their talent. Even though my goal of SXSW was to discover new artists, I don’t think the experience would have been complete without my little oasis of The Hotel Cafe showcase.

 

~ Kristen