The visceral, stormy psychedelic rock of Sleepy Sun was very much a part of SXSW this year; the San Francisco band had five gigs in three days. Sleepy Sun is on the brink of releasing a powerful new album, Spine Hits, due out on April 10 on The End Records, and they're in the thick of a long tour which takes them in New York on April 9 (Glasslands Gallery) and April 10 (Mercury Lounge). We asked bassist Jack Allen if he'd blog about the good, bad and ugly of this year's SXSW and he turned us on to mind-and-hair blowing bands (Howlin' Rain), cool Austin bars (Blackheart) and, most tauntingly, amazing avocado tacos.
I’m pretty sure every musician has a love/hate relationship with SXSW. It’s great getting to see all the friends you’ve made through travelling the world, and you can’t complain about the getting to see that much amazing music for free. At the same time, it’s four days of exhausting sensory overload that highlights everything that’s wrong with the music industry today. That being said, we had an awesome time this year. Here are some of the highlights:
Best Show We Played: Ache Producciones Showcase at Buffalo Billiards
We’ve been lucky enough to play in Mexico a few times, and it is hands down my favorite place in the world to play a show. This was the official showcase of the production company responsible for bringing us down there. We hopped on this bill in hopes of returning to Mexico this year (hint, hint). This was the first night of SXSW so everyone in the band and crowd was excited instead of exhausted. That energy, and getting to see friends we hadn’t seen in years, made this my favorite.
Best Show We Saw: Howlin’ Rain at Valhalla
The fact that at a festival like SXSW, where thousands of bands from all over the world play, we went out of our way to see a band from our hometown we can see any time we want, should speak volumes. We arrived at the venue at 1 a.m. with just enough time to hug some friends and grab a couple Lone Stars before they started. They proceeded to blow everyone’s hair back with the first chord of the first song, and the entire room was grinning the whole time. A highlight was singer Ethan Miller putting down his guitar and getting all Joe Cocker for a ballad, walking out into the crowd, up on the bar, and slowdancing with our guitarist Evan. It’s hard to stick out at a festival with so much music, but Howlin’ Rain did it effortlessly.
Best Meal We Had: Fried Avocado Tacos at Izzoz
At our first SXSW in 2009, we rented a house in the South of Congress neighborhood of Austin and stumbled upon Izzoz. I think we ended up eating there every single day. It’s the first place we head to whenever we arrive in Austin. The fried avocado tacos are definitely a favorite. Honorable mention goes to our new favorite: Ruby’s BBQ next to Spider House.
Favorite Bar We Went To: Blackheart
Our friend Brenna (who was nice to enough to put us up for the duration of SXSW) had recently open a bar, and we decided to stop in on our way home after catching Crocodiles destroy everyone’s hearts and ears at The Stage. I fell in love with this place right away. The bar is in a converted house on the awesome up and coming Rainey St., and has an amazing house party vibe to it all. [Blackheart] also has a huge backyard with picnic tables which reminded me of one of our favorites in San Francisco, Zeitgeist. When we walked in, Austin band Not In The Face were playing a set to an enthused set of crowdsurfers, and Evan ended up jumping up and playing some harp with them. I’ll definitely be spending a lot of time at this place