Exhausted, jet-lagged and mind-fucked, the first day you arrive in Austin for South by Southwest is always a bit off a wash. At least for me, most of my time back in town is spent getting re-oriented and dealing with all the changes, some big (where the hell did all of these lasers and smoke machines come from?), many minor (the Hype Hotel is where the Pure Volume House used to be).
In all the ruckus, however, I was able to catch a few great bands on my first night in ATX.
I started out with what I knew best. That means **Reptar**. Yes, I went all the way to Austin to see Reptar and I'm damned glad I did. With the the addition of another percussionist and a second guitarist (*Flagpole's* own Jace Bartet), the band has a more full-bodied sound and the ability to spread out a little more to focus on extensive jam sections. I always knew Reptar had a little Phish in 'em (besides bassist Ryan Engelberger passing resemblance to a younger, hotter Trey Anastacio). I kid. Still, the band has really matured and seem to be significantly better live every time I see them. They played a brief 5 song set a **Side Bar**, but I am excited to see what they can do with a little more time on their hands. They have a massive ten shows booked this weekend so I'm sure they won't be too hard to track down.
Next I went to **Barbarella**. I checked out a bit of **Korallreven**, who sound a bit like The Tough Alliance on record but who sound like shit live. The venue's sound was atrocious but you could tell the Scandinavian group are more of a studio act than a live one, as are most "glo-fi" acts.
Buzz band **Pure X** was next. You could call them a shoegaze band that makes dream pop, but you'd be leaving out the fact that the band is hardly loud enough to live up to the heavy, washed-out woozy sound that characterizes most of the acts in that genre. But here's a question I've wanted answered for a while: *Why do shoegaze bands always have pink dreamy album covers?*
The headliners at Barbarella were **Nguzunguzu**. Now I’ve been looking forward to seeing Nguzunguzu for a minute. From their really dope megamix on Ayshay’s *WARN-U* EP to their massive third EP *Mirage*, the oddly-named male-female production duo have been on the edge of the avant-garde producing some of the most exciting original music and remixes in the electronic underground. Unfortunately, their 30-minute headlining slot at Barbarella was a major let down, although it was no fault of their own.
First of all, Barbarella is not equipped for bass music. All of the low frequencies were essentially inaudible and most of the bass was of the fuzzy variety that you get when your speakers blow out. Beyond sound issues, there were technical ones, too.
Every 5 minutes or so Nguzunguzu’s turntable would turn off and you could tell the group had no clue why. The momentum of completely bananas chopped and screwed-cum-footwork tracks and wonky bass experiments was completely killed when a quarter through a song, the audio would cut out.
DJ Asma (the woman in Nguzunguzu and M.I.A.’s personal DJ) kept it cool in her Jean Paul Gaultier t-shirt but you could tell she was peeved. It was only natural considering all the difficulties of their set that the group finished up early after about 20 minutes behind the makeshift DJ booth. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch them again later in the week, this time with more professional sound guys at the helm.