SXSW Music 2012: Santigold + Best Coast + Grimes + YACHT

Dennis Shin

Recapping some of the SXSW fun featuring Santigold and Best Coast and the troubles for Grimes and YACHT.

Santigold and Best Coast, Spin Day Party, Stubb’s, March 16, 2012

In a cluttered SXSW day party landscape, the Spin party, with its no-nonsense focus on top tier and emerging artists in a relatively laid-back afternoon environment, creates a level of intimacy that avoids the hipster sprawl of events such as the FADER Fort. In years past, the party has featured the drama of Courtney Love, debuts by Bloc Party and Mick Jones’ Carbon/Silicon, and surprises such as Moby jamming with OMD on "Enola Gay". Spin deftly utilized two stages to manage a smooth flow, creating intimate environments for the long anticipated return of Chairlift, the colossal disco orchestra Escort, and turns by Big Pink, Big K.R.I.T. and G-Side. Main Attrakionz, a major revelation at CMJ, offer up a stark contrast between hard-hitting realities from the streets and other worldly production cloud rap production.

Chairlift - Photo by Eric Voake for Spin

Main Attrakionz - Photo by Eric Voake for Spin

Attention usually flags at the three quarter mark of such events. Last year, the Kills, one of the most mesmerizing live acts in a club setting slogged through a ragged set, the band conceding that their out of sorts performance reflected why they hated playing in daytime. No such worries from Best Coast’s Bethany Consentino, who seems preternaturally capable of creating a sunny environment over all manner of obstacles. In the past, Bethany has won over hecklers attempting to derail her with slings directed at her cat Snacks, and famously played throughout a torrential downpour at Lollapalooza. A group of kids hellbent on mayhem throw out some “Steve Nicks” chants, but Bethany will have none of it, merrily blitzing through a set that includes tracks off forthcoming release The Only Place.

Best Coast - Photo by Eric Voake for Spin

The performance highlight was the long-awaited return of Santigold, who will be releasing Master of My Make-Believe, the follow-up to their 2008 smash debut this spring. Santi White, who famously drew an overflow crowd to a Lollapalooza side-stage in 2009, showcases her versatility as a singer, performer and songwriter, drawing from her days with long-time collaborator John Hill in punk band Stiffed, to offer an irresistible fusion of electronica, rock and dub. Their live set pieces are a delight. Her two backup dancers show up on stage as ladies in the waiting to Santi’s Princess, transforming into cheerleaders, and then wielding sledgehammers in choreographed coolness paralleling the martial shadowboxing of Public Enemy’s S1W. And when all else fails, they bring on the dancing horses.

Santigold - Photo by Eric Voake for Spin

Santigold - Photo by Ryan Muir for Spin


Grimes / YACHT - Clive Bar

One of the more frustrating moments for any artist is when technical issues go awry, conspiring to derail a live performance. This is magnified at marathon industry conferences where artists play multiple shows in a day with limited opportunity for sound checks, in settings varying from a disco to a parking garage rooftop to an open field. Indie musicians plug and play and make a go of it, and if it doesn't all quite work, it's off to the next venue. For artists highly dependent upon technology, this can be maddening. Last year, artists such as Glasser and Datarock dealt with technology meltdowns by avoiding human meltdowns, winning over fans with their good cheer.

A lesson in coping with these challenges can be seen in the deft response of YACHT, who played back-to-back sets with Grimes, at the Clive Bar, on what appeared to be an outdoor beer deck and dealt with similar technical glitches. YACHT's issues occurred almost immediately, while Grimes experienced some difficulties after she had established some early momentum. Those who have seen Claire Boucher of Grimes will recognize her exacting attention to detail and the many hats she wears: singer, DJ, and sound engineer. Her tendency to utilize sleuth-like instincts to remedy a problem on the spot creates the appearance that she has momentarily lost track that she’s on stage. While she ultimately makes a strong recovery, there are moments of indecision -- when the sound shut downs again she her asked "Am I done?", thinking that the venue had pulled the plug on her for going over time.

YACHT’s breezy reaction offers some perspective. When their keyboard had issues, they stopped entirely, shrugging off the problem as an excuse to spar with their audience for sport, as they do in this improvised Q&A. Admittedly it's easier for veterans such as YACHT, the core of Jona Bechtolt and Claire Evans packing a steely constitution, than an artist making her first impression. In any event, artists should figure that in a festival environment, 1/3 of the crowd is likely in your corner regardless while 1/3 is likely not paying attention and completely unaware of the mistake. The remainder is most likely bemused by the situation. YACHT’s exuberance, reflected in the ridiculous ease with which Evans surfs atop the crowd once things get going, speaks volumes. Overtime, it’s not achieving perfection, but how one responds that matters most.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.