My Wednesday night at SXSW ended with seeing Kendrick Lamar at the 1100 Warehouse for the Spotify Live event. How in the world could I sleep after that? For both I and Kendrick to be away from our hometown in a city that — up until this point — had felt so much like the melting pot of LA was quite cathartic, and I went back to my hotel room that night simply dazed by what I had just witnessed.
And yet, I still had another three days of SXSW to go, with what was planned to be the biggest of those days the very next day.
3/14: All Day Waiting At The Warner Sound Showcase
All photos by David Fisch
This was the one day out of my five at SXSW that I knew full-well going in exactly what I wanted to have happen. In trying to figure out my schedule for the festival in the weeks prior and knowing that I might not get into any of the showcases, I found out about The Warner Sound, three days of day and night showcases that featured artists signed to Warner Bros’ labels. Headliners included Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Paramore, and — wait for it — The Flaming Lips.
The Flaming (expletive) Lips. There was no doubting it: I was going to see this band. Period. I had never seen them before, and I am too big of a fan to let this showcase slide by (plus the rest of the line-up was stellar).
Knowing what happened at the 1100 Warehouse the night before and understanding that larger acts inevitably resulted in long lines and constant uncertainty about getting in, I decided early on Thursday that if I wanted to see one of my favorite bands of all time perform, I’d have to get to the venue much further in advance. I headed to The Belmont early for The Warner Sound showcase presented by Nikon, which, mind you, had hosted both Tegan and Sara and Paramore the night before to over-capacity crowds. When I set out on my quest to see The Flaming Lips, though, I didn’t think I’d be there five hours before doors even opened.
Lianne La Havas @ The Belmont
To my surprise, I got to The Belmont (blocks and blocks north-west from the Convention Center) just early enough to catch the last act of the daytime showcase: Lianne La Havas. This was the first I had heard of her or her music, but apparently she’s been making a name for herself since her debut release last year. She had a sweet blend of folk and soul that suited the daytime slot nicely, with lyrics that were impressively vulnerable and honest. She ended her set admitting that she didn’t want it to end and, quite frankly, neither did I.
The Belmont was then vacated to prepare for the night’s showcase, which was to include the likes of Atlas Genius, Frightened Rabbit, The Joy Formidable, alt-J, and, of course, The Flaming Lips. There were already barricades set up for wristband and badge holders, so I decided right then and there to wait in line and be amongst the first three people with wristbands to get in.
I chatted with locals about the bands performing and about my growing up in LA, which they were all quite interested in, but the highlight of these five hours of waiting in line was when Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips actually approached those of us in line and expressed his love for us. You can bet that after that moment, I knew that waiting in line for as long as I did was going to be completely worth it. Eight o’clock finally arrived, and we entered The Belmont. I somehow managed to work my way up to the front and center of the highest ground, meaning I had without a doubt the best spot for the entire evening.
Guards @ The Belmont
I actually thought Guards’ would be a DJ set until I saw the full band take the stage. Theirs is a sugary sweet, melodic pop sound that I don’t have much of an affinity for, but at least I got a chance to see them.
Surfer Blood @ The Belmont
I remember downloading the track “Floating Vibes” on an iTunes playlist back in 2010, and I certainly remember liking it. When I finally matched the song to the musicians on The Belmont stage, I gave a nod and grin. Most of the songs in Surfer Blood’s set came from either their debut album, Astro Coast, or their new album, Weird Shapes, set for release this year. It sounds like they plan to continue on the same sonic path that they started on three years ago, and I am quite fine with that.
Atlas Genius @ The Belmont
While I thought the full-length debut Atlas Genius released this year wasn’t nearly as strong as their 2012 singles (“Trojans” and “Symptoms”), the band’s performance was still nice to catch. They played to the best of their strengths, and I believe they were worth seeing just for the couple of singles that will remain on playlists and record platters for quite some time.