Even with all the free beer and assembly line of handout promo merchandise (I got two different pairs of logo-branded cheap sunglasses), the most gracious display of niceties at South by Southwest on Wednesday afternoon might have been Tennessee honkey-tonker Jonny Corndawg’s shout-out to a friend at the American Songwriter magazine part. “He’s driving our van around while we play,” explained Corndawg, who is performing at SXSW with Dawes frontman Taylor Goldsmith as his guitarist.
Parking spaces were in short supply as the number of day parties continued to increase Wednesday. Among the brightest of the shindigs -- literally – was the Eventbrite party, featuring hi-fi lighting, white couches and free video arcade games. Oh, and music: Oregonian power-trio Unknown Mortal Orchestra played a riveting set of choppy, Gang of Four-ish noise-punk.
The Paste magazine party at the Stage on Sixth Street – thankfully an open-air venue, as the weather was 80 degrees and comfortably overcast Wednesday -- kicked off with two horn-laced rock bands, including New Orleans’ MyNameIsJohnMichael, which had a Cory Chisel-like frontman backed by a NOLA-style funk-rock ensemble. I also tried to catch San Francisco art-rock specialist Tycho at the Consequence of Sound party, but after a few minutes of watching he and his crew try to set up a giant movie screen at Red 7, I begged off. You really should think about skipping SXSW if you can’t play without video projection – or at least avoid the daytime parties.
There was plenty of action over at the "official" hub of SXSW, too, the Austin Convention Center, where Michael Kiwanuka played a beautiful set on the very unscenic Radio Day Stage. The London-based, Ugandan-blooded singer/songwriter is fresh from winning the BBC's "Sounds of 2012" poll and showed why with his lovely, Bill Withers-style soul voice and poetic writing style.
OK, now I'm running off to the first of Howler's sets this week, this one outside Austin's biggest record store, Waterloo Records, with the blowing-up-at-radio New York band Fun. on right before them. Should be... fun?