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Friday afternoons at SXSW are the most party-packed, but why pussyfoot around when Spin Magazine takes over Stubb’s, bringing on their annual bash just past noon, with a lineup more mouthwatering than the BBQ and slaw?

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This year, the unstoppable Crystal Method spun for the lunch crowd, (which included Bloody Social singer/Calvin Klein model Jamie Burke, who wasn’t shy about consuming a fresh plate of food), until it was time for Cut Off Your Hands.  Frenzied singer Nick Johnston whipped around the stage with his tambourine and woke up the crowd as they poured through the gates.  These New Zealanders knew they had to get the party started, playing their hit-filled set (song “Expectations” was a standout) at a feverish pitch without stopping to breathe.

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Boston’s preppy Passion Pit was on next, a buzzy crowd favorite who blissed out fans with New Orderesque melodies and dreamy, layered pop that proved perfect for the breezy afternoon.

All that free-flowing beer and mid-day bliss led to hunger pangs, and since we’d promised to stop in at Latitude 30 for The Scotland showcase, we ducked out of Stubb’s and went down to San Jacinto for a short break.

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Leave it to the Scottish and the British Music Embassy to treat us to some fine Tex-Mex as Edinburgh’s arty Come On Gang, led by feisty lead singer/drummer Sarah Tanat Jones, provided the high-octane lunch score.

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Though the inventive Found (dubbed “Scotland’s strangest new band” by The Scotsman) didn’t sway us as much as next up, Glasgow’s My Latest Novel, the music, the packed, yet cool room and Scottish accents everywhere were a choice diversion before heading back to Spin.

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The sun was in full force and Black Lips were finishing up their set when we re-entered the Spin party, which at this point, was in full swing.  The soaring and slick Glasvegas were on next, spreading their feedback-driven, shoegazery euphoria through the crowd.  Drummer Caroline McKay, (the second Scottish female drummer we’ve seen today), pounded out a steady backbeat that was matched by the cinematic sweep of the Spector-styled guitars and singer James Allen’s intense, heart-on-his-sleeve lyrics.

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Echo and the Bunnymen gigs we’ve seen in the past, (and we’ve seen quite a few), have been either a drop-to-your-knees hour of pure pleasure or a reunion show that seemed played by rote, with a lackluster Ian McCulloch and band fulfilling their roles as jaded stars, musically, but not passionately.  Luckily, those less-than-stellar shows of yore were erased from our memories by their winning party set at Stubb’s.

Fan comments on McCulloch’s decision to wear a dark, woolen pea coat in the Texan heat were soon drowned out by the first punchy notes of “Rescue” (with that biting, Will Seargeant guitar) and “Crocodiles”, two early 80′s songs everyone wanted to hear. Throughout the set, McCulloch may have barely moved except to smoke, but there was a sense of connection between the man and his music.

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The audience responded in kind, instantly riveted, sweating like fools and dancing non-stop.  When the Bunnymen veered off on a trademark tangeant, interspersing the chorus from The Velvet Underground’s “Walk On the Wild Side” into a possibly new song, “I Need It Too”, it made for a psychedelic respite in the set. Needless to say, hits “Lips Like Sugar”, “Killing Moon”, “Back of Love” and the mesmerisingly menacing “The Cutter” nearly put us fans over the edge.

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The Spin party was winding up, so there was just time for a break before crossing South Congress to get to La Zona Rosa for The Scottish Council showcase.  Set openers We Were Promised Jet Packs endeared themselves to the Scottish-loving audience with a slow-burner of a set that progressed to chord-heavy, epic sounds at its peak.  One standout was the song “Quiet Little Voices.”

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Danananakroyd: what do you get when you mix the energy and ferocity of Enter Shikari with the quirkiness of Late of the Pier?  A sweaty, fun show with a band voted best act of the festival. Tonight, they went so far as to make the audience switch sides, (which seemed like it would be a disaster), but it worked out pretty well.  No punching and moshing, just polite people willing to give the absurd idea a chance, switching sides.

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Camera Obscura, this time all the grander, since seen in a proper venue rather than a grassy lawn, played their classic, melodic Scottish folk music and fans were beside themselves.  They were also the the most dapper band of the showcase.

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The twins fronting The Proclaimers, who ended with their barn-storming song “500 Miles”, played a spot-on set for the Brit-filled crowd.  Unfortunately, our humble photographer, a bit weak after standing for hours  in one spot, caught a quick cat nap on the side of the wall after she was kicked out of the pit.

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Scottish stalwarts Glasvegas proved that hype works, as the crowd emptied out quickly right after their brilliant show.  Singer/guitarist James Allen was extremely gracious to the audience, reminding us how nice  to witness a frontman who doesn’t act like a prick.

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Headliners Primal Scream, one of the many reunion-type acts at SXSW this year, played their sexy, soulful rock staples to a crowd that couldn’t get enough.  Well-suited singer Mani was such a hit that the audience couldn’t stop shouting their praise and comments (some quips of which were lost on us due to the heavy, whiskey-thickened, Scottish accents).

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Though Primal may have only done one song from Screamadelica, “Moving On Up”, they were a worthy finish to a full-on Glaswegian night.

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As if this set wasn’t enough of a Friday topper, a couple of us ran to Pangea’s Billboard showcase in the midst of it all to catch Graham Coxon, playing tunes from his upcoming solo album, The Spinning Top.  After Austin, Coxon went straight onto tour the UK with his notorious friend, Pete Doherty, so SXSW was the  warm-up for new songs like “This House”, “All Has Gone” and forthcoming single, “Sorrow’s Army”.

We got a good view at the foot of the stage and were content to soak in Coxon’s meditative, acoustic new set (of songs based on a narrative following a man from birth to death), a far cry from the last time we’ve seen him performing our favorite short, angsty bursts like “Freakin’ Out”.  As Coxon has stated on his MySpace page, the point of his new material is “to show how exciting acoustic instruments can be, how dynamic and rich and heart-thumpingly raw they can sound at a time when acoustic music seems either too cute or too soppy.”  Kudos to him, he’s done it.

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At one point in the night, the self-deprecating artist says, “I feel like I’m a lunatic playing stupid songs…”, but of course, it’s quite the opposite, talented bloke that he is.–MVW, Tear-n Tan/Scottish Council photos by Tear-n Tan, others by Eileen Murphy

 
  1. we missed you at sxsw! bob boilen of npr’s all songs considered found us and said we were his favorite new find, and put us on the show. sweet. britt (spoon) was also representing at our show.
    love ya!

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  2. Shackeltons rule and should not have been missed! When are you back in NYC?

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