SXSW First Day Roundup: Banks, Weeknight, Polytype and More

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SXSW First Day Roundup: Banks, Weeknight, Polytype and More

After Delta changed our flights from a comfy direct to one that takes off at 6 am and includes a layover in Atlanta, we knew this would be a long day. We arrived in Austin around noon (including a one hour time difference), but could fortunately check into our hotel right away and pick up the badges at the nearby conference center.

Open Air Stereo at Darwin’s

From there, the madness started: we went to lunch to a random bar, Darwin’s on E 6th, (which has very nice service, an excellent home-made salsa and decent gyros), listened to the band, playing across the street and watched another band setting up at a stage in the corner of Darwin’s. They, Open Air Stereo, turned out to be our first SX show. Not bad at all: straight-forward rock with good songs to sing along. On the way home, we wanted to find out, if we need wristbands for seeing shows at the Hype Hotel, a joint showcase by several cutting edge music blogs and yes, we do for the day shows (just stand in this two-block-long line on the other side of the street). The night shows, though, require badges. That’s SXSW: a mixture of official and unofficial showcases, with varying requirements for credentials and online RSVPs. Thorough preparation is mandatory here.

Weeknight at Headhunter

First band in the evening was Weeknight from Brooklyn at Headhunters, a dive-y tiki bar on Red River Street with room for maybe 30 people. They are some sort of reverse boy-girl duo: she operates the machines and drums, while he sings most parts and play guitar. Brilliant – we have to see them again at home.

Polytype at Iron Bear

Next on list was Polytype from Utah at The Iron Bear. They could have been from Brooklyn as well: mixing skillfully electronics with guitar and bass into catchy songs.

Banks at Haven

After chilling at Buffalo Billiard while watching Wardell and Catch a Ghost, it was time for the first must-see show: Banks at Haven, starting midnight. Smartly, we were there 40 minutes early and had to stand in line for exactly that time to get in to a stuffed nightclub without A/C. It was hot, miserable and no way to get close enough to take some decent photos. But Banks was fabulous: she’s accompanied by a guitarist/keyboarder and a drummer, which gives the show the exact right amount of authenticity. Banks herself, while looking like an aloof diva on official photos, is a sweetheart who was genuinely excited to play SX, even though the sound broke down a couple of times, leaving the audience with just the muted sound of the high hats. She’ll become a star, if she wants or not. We called it a night around 1 am, but there was no sign that the debauchery on Austin’s streets would abate anytime soon: there was still live music to hear at various places. Now, let’s get ready for day two.