Thursday, March 15, 2012
Wednesday at SXSW: Fiona Apple, The O’s, and Astronautalis (March 14)
Fiona Apple's set was just amazing.
With beautiful weather made for walking and dynamic shows everywhere we turned, Wednesday at SXSW was set up to be a glorious day. Heavy-hitting shows -- with long lines to match -- began Wednesday while free parties filled up the afternoons. The buzz was contagious.
It’s been years since Fiona Apple has toured nationally, and SXSW fans took no chances missing her opening set at Stubb’s on Wednesday. The line for the showcase formed hours before the show despite the fact that Apple hasn't released a new album in seven years. She swooped onstage in the dark, starting the set with “Fast As You Can” at her piano post. Despite her frail frame, Apple had the punch to go along with her biting words, and she still put on a righteous performance. She sang a few new songs for the sold-out crowd, clenching her fists and snarling through some of her signature, sharp lines. Her upcoming album, which has a 23-word title, is set to be out in June.
The O’s are not strangers to quirky venues, so their Americana show at St. David’s Bethel Hall didn’t disappoint. The relatively small sanctuary was an unconventional yet adequate venue for the roaring pair: The room was covered in giant wood panels with rows of wooden chairs to match with two looming, cathedral-style windows set behind the “stage.” The duo didn’t hesitate to deliver a rowdy helping of their sprightly folk music to the young crowd, which seemed intrigued and entertained. The pair added a transitional banjo and guitar jam session to the end of “Pushin Along,” showing off how fast their fingers can fly. There's still no new music available from the vivacious Dallas duo, but John Pedigo announced that they’re recording a new album this year.
Astronautalis, the free styling maniac from Denton, stole the show on the rooftop of the 512 bar on 6th street. His fluid lines and determined demeanor was welcomed in Austin, where fans packed the small venue. Charles Andrew Bothwell's voice was more gravelly than usual, which only heightened his performance and added legitimacy to his white boy rap. His passion and gratefulness showed through during “Thomas Jefferson” – a song he wrote to say he can’t and won’t stop performing. He also did an impromptu freestyle -- a signature of his sets -- written from crowd suggestions. The rap involved rabbits, opera, Greece, the marshmallow man from Ghostbusters, and gigolos at the White House. The uplifting hip-hop was just what we needed to close the night.