SXSW 2019: Live music magic on Stubb’s stage
The Daily Cardinal arts staff visit SXSW 2019 to review all things music and film in Austin, Texas.Image By: SXSW
I spent my Thursday night at Stubb’s — one of the largest stages at SXSW. The first of five sets started off with Durand Jones & The Indications. The Indiana natives fuse funk and soul, heavily drawing on the 70s with complex vocal runs and horns. Jones’ main goal: get the crowd moving. Picking up and slowing down from smooth, longing tracks like “Is It Any Wonder?” to soulful “Long Way Home,” the setlist showed off the band’s range to a mostly unfamiliar crowd.
Frontman, Durand Jones, tried to loosen up the trumpeter and saxophonist (who weren’t regular members) by playing a game of call and response — always an audience pleaser. Jones’ charisma injected fervency into every striking note that was cause for several applauses. Along with drummer Aaron Frazer, who didn’t spare the crowd of a fun solo, the two jammed out hard to warm up the venue for several more hours of music.
As night fully enclosed the stage, out came Cherry Glazerr into the pink light. The appropriately named, dreamy Los Angeles-based, indie-rock band is just the type of group that thrives at SXSW. They have a few albums under their belt but so much potential — the trio consists of frontwoman Clementine Creevy, Tabor Allen and Devin O’Brien — by cultivating a unique punk-infused feminist ethos. They opened with heavy bass and Creevy’s piercing vocals in “Had Ten Dollaz.”
Not wasting time with introductions, they quickly dove into the next few songs “That’s Not My Real Life” and “Self-Explained,” both tracks that utilize Creevy’s sweet, feminine vocals up against — at times — abrasive rock. As the crowd grew, so did the band’s audacity and animation. By the end of the set, Creevy was indulging on guitar riffs and O’Brien couldn’t play bass in one spot for more than a second. Wrapping up with “Told You I’d Be with the Guys” the band was just as unhindered as their style.
Following up was Car Seat Headrest, whose cult following of teens began to cluster against the barricades preparing for the set. Fronted by the lanky shaggy-haired Will Toledo, who embodies the band’s quintessential fan, as well as guitarist Ethan Ives and drummer Andrew Katz. With a bit of a slow start, they opened with a new song: “Can’t Cool Me Down.” Fans were eager for the classics that they delivered like “Drugs With Friends,” “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” and “Bodys.” Toledo’s voice was pitchy and awkward — just as it should be — while singing about Tilikum, messy love and general angst.
While the trio stayed fairly sedentary on stage, there was no taming a massive circle of fans who bopped in unity and even moshed while Toledo yelled: “Don’t you realize our bodies could fall apart at any second?” It’s no surprise that CSH sounds great live, given how unpolished, garage-sounding production adds to the endearment of every song. Sounding imperfect and real is their thing. Before heading out, Toledo slowed things down with “Stop Smoking (We Love You)” — a kind of sad, weird but perfect farewell.
Next on the stage was King Princess. Just before coming out on stage she found out that Alicia Keys had given her a shoutout. Dedicating the set to Alicia, her genuine gratefulness to the audience was unmistakable. With a continuous smile and trying to get as close to the crowd as possible “without eating sh**," she was just as happy as the fans to be up there performing.
Though the success of “1950” is just over a year old, she was comfortable on stage with her identity. “So you guys know I have, uhh, this song about pussy?” She joked, addressing the “industry people” in the back who might be thrown off if she didn’t warn them before singing the single “Pussy Is God.” A relaxed, earnest presence in her songs and on stage, it's no secret as to how King Princess has built such a strong following.
The last set started at half past midnight. I had been standing in Stubb’s for four hours, my feet and head killed, and I was in desperate need of a caffeinated performer to help me forget that. A natural and captivating performer, to say the least, Lizzo strutted out on stage in a sequin set and bright red cowboy hat. She didn’t waste any time showing off her powerful vocals, greeting the tiring crowd with the grandiose single “Cuz I Love You” which sounds just as impressive live. Lizzo takes to the stage like a well-seasoned pop icon, simply taking pauses to let the crowd applause her presence.
Keeping with her theme of self-love, she peppered in body positive mantras and relationship advice between songs. With the addition of two dancers, she belted one high-energy bop after another from “Scuse Me” to “Fitness” which had no shortage of twerking and audience sing-alongs. Forcing everyone, even the bar folks and VIPs to chant with her during “Boys,” Lizzo commanded the entire venue from the second she began singing with her distinct humble-diva persona.
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