Sunday, March 20, 2016

South by Southwest Music Festival 2016, Day 1

Event: South by Southwest Music Festival, Day 1
Location: Austin, Texas
Date: 15 March 2016

Introduction: Another year, another SXSW. I've noticed that the first official night of the festival tends to be fairly tame, and they seemingly purposefully refuse to book any major acts for it. If you want to go out, there aren't any obvious choices: you have no choice but to do some work to decide what to see. I went for a Chilean showcase at Friends that seemed to feature a bunch of atmospheric bands. I realized on the way that I had coincidentally also seen some Chilean bands on the first night of SXSW last year.

Boraj: A seven-piece band in the vein of atmospheric, spacey indie rock, including violin, saxophone, keyboards, acoustic and electric guitar, drums, auxiliary percussion, and bass. Despite the number of musicians, the music was rather sparse and minimal. Some sections picked up and rocked more, and many songs featured good, unusual rhythms, but I was a bit confused by some of the arrangements. It seemed like some of the musicians barely played anything. I liked the general sound, but as is common at SXSW showcases, they had to fight through some sound problems that clearly didn't help set the mood right.

[Boraj.]

Natisú: A trio led by a frontwoman handling guitar, keyboards, effects, and vocals, backed by a bassist and a drummer. The set started with some almost industrial beats and fuzz bass. They gradually moved into a more indie rock direction, but the bassist continued to play strong parts, the drummer often supplemented her sound with electronic pads, and the singer used a lot of effects and loops to keep things interesting. The less heavy songs tended to be a bit vague and unfocused, and I welcomed the return of the industrial sound near the end of the set.

[Natisú.]

Spiral Vortex: I wasn't sure what to expect with such a clichéd name (their highlighted track on the SXSW website was even called "Geometry"!) but they actually delivered solid psychedelic rock. They appeared as a quartet (bass/vocals, guitar/keyboard/vocals, keyboard, and drums) and they managed to merge their sounds quite well. The bassist had consistently great tone and used some heavy effects quite proficiently. This drummer also used some electronic pads. The keyboards were nice and thick and laid a great foundation for a big, hazy, warm sound. The vocals weren't particularly strong, but the music was superb.

[Spiral Vortex.]

Scores:
Boraj: C+
Natisú: B
Spiral Vortex: A-

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