Friday, March 20, 2009

Dispatch from SXSW: Escape from 6th St. (Astronautalis, Busdriver, Camera Obscura)

Posted By on Fri, Mar 20, 2009 at 10:02 AM

I've been in Austin for eight days now and leave tomorrow, so needless to say, the chaos of downtown Austin -- particularly 6th St. -- is starting to give me some serious sensory overload.

That may explain why our journey away from 6th yesterday was so refreshing. As I mentioned in my last post, my two friends and I are all SXSW newbies, and we're here with no badges, no bracelets, and pretty much no discernible plan whatsoever for what shows we're going to see. Sixth is sort of the epicenter of the madness, and our goal yesterday was to find as much good music away from the insanity as possible.

The journey started at a hip-hop showcase at Bird's Barbershop, quite possibly one of the coolest venues I've ever seen (it's a real barbershop. I even stepped in some hair that hadn't been swept up). We got there just in time to catch Astronautalis, one of the best-kept secrets in indie hip-hop.

Astronautalis drops verse in a barber shop.
  • Astronautalis drops verse in a barber shop.

Astro spit rhymes to a crowd that, by the time he finished, was overflowing out the door. Besides his penchant for rapping about American history, he's probably best known for his freestyle, where he solicits topics to rap about from the audience. He did two completely off-the-cuff freestyles, covering everything from Twittersex to unintentional consequences to Octamom.

Give Astro some room!
  • Give Astro some room!

The next stop was good for my soul. The French Ligation -- basically a historic park with lots of shade trees and grassy areas to hang out -- played host to about a dozen bands, including Camera Obscura, the Thermals, Cursive, Pete and the Pirates, and Efterklang.

Camera Obscura
  • Camera Obscura

Efterklang
  • Efterklang

We took off before Cursive took the stage, but Camera Obscura, whose guitarist was out sick, was a pretty big let-down, while Efterklang, a Danish folktronica group, completely blew me away. After that, we headed back to 6th and caught a few semi-KC-related parties, including the Lose Control party (organized by Nomathmatics) and a nameless band that I thought was called Electric Grandmother, but apparently was not. Guess that one's going to have to remain a mystery.

Unknown band at Nomath's Lose Control party.
  • Unknown band at Nomath's Lose Control party.

Like most nights here, yesterday's festivities devolved into booze-fueled hedonism around midnight. I love the crowd-packed insanity of 6th, but if you're visiting SXSW for the first time, I highly recommend hitting some shows away from the madness.

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