South by Southwest started it’s annual music festival with official showcases on Monday. Of the shows I was aware of, I was most excited to go to the Mohawk in Austin and catch acts like Shamir, who I have been a fan of since 2015 when I first saw him at Fun Fun Fun Fest that year, and later at Day for Night that same year. I also had the chance to catch Bully, a grungy female-led band that has always reminded me of the Pixies’ Kim Deal, as well as Silsbee, Texas’ own Lomelda, a group you have to listen to if you even slightly like the music of Frankie Cosmos.
A lot of has changed in Shamir Bailey’s world since the last time I had the pleasure of seeing him live a little over two years ago at the first iteration of the Day for Night festival. Shamir split from his management team, and started moving down a different path musically. I call myself a fan of his music, but I guess I had no idea about this, because as I walked into the Mohawk right as Shamir and his band were finishing their soundcheck, I noticed him carrying a guitar. It was something I had never seen from Shamir before. The signs were everywhere leading up to the show; he was playing with Bully, a rather aggressive sounding band in their own right, as well as announcing a tour with lo-fi legends, Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Bailey’s Ratchet, was this amazing piece of nu-disco, house-esque beats that soared with Shamir’s unconventional falsetto, I just couldn’t see how it would transition to guitar-driven tracks. How wrong I was, instead of playing guitar-driven renditions of his previous music, Shamir showcased his lo-fi indie-rock sound he unveiled to the world on his third full-length effort, Revelations, which was both aggressive and touching. A majority of the set seemed to lean on tracks from Revelations, playing tracks such as “90’s Kids,” and “Straight Boy,” as well as tracks from his then-forthcoming, Resolution project. In between songs, Shamir would comment on the subject matter of the songs he played, which mostly revolved around depression, anxiety, straight guys, love, and heartbreak. One of the most compelling song-writers of this generation, Shamir is able to make music that not only resonates with listeners but with himself, which seems to be the reason for the abrupt about-face in his sound. More power to him, I have never been shy about my love for indie-rock, especially of the lo-fi variety. So despite loving his old sound, I can’t help but find myself being drawn ever closer in Shamir’s orbit. If you listened to Ratchet and didn’t enjoy it, I highly suggest you check out his last two albums.
The Nashville based band was one of my deep-search Spotify finds from about a year ago, first hearing the song “Trying,” from the band’s debut album, Feels Like. From the opening guitar licks, I immediately heard shades of the Pixies’ “Debaser” and “Gigantic,” the latter of which became an even more pronounced influence on the track after hearing Alicia Bognanno’s brash vocals. Although I hadn’t had the chance to dig deeper in the group’s discography prior to their set at the Mohawk, I was still looking forward to their set. Opening with “Feel the Same,” the first track on the group’s second and latest full-length, Losing, the energy of the crowd instantly reached a boiling point, as by the end of the two-minute song a small mosh pit had formed in the crowd. There was little to no crowd interaction between songs during the band’s 40-minute set. Playing songs from both of their two album’s, as well as their debut single “Milkman,” highlights included “Trying” and “I Remember,” both from Feels Like. The songs followed one another before the band closed with a cover of mclusky’s “Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues.” Other songs played included “Guess There,” “Either Way,” “Seeing It,” and “Running;” all of which appeared on Bully’s latest album. “Trash,” “Picture,” and “Six,” from their debut were also performed. I honestly got lost in the technical prowess of Bully’s performance, they are noticeable energetic, even for a grungy band, and entertaining to watch, and know how to get the crowd into their show without having to resort to campy banter. Bully truly was a joy to get to see play, and I still regret not trying to catch another one of their SXSW shows. If you’re a fan of the Pixies, specifically “Gigantic” and the more Kim Deal heavy tracks, you will love Bully.
The East Texas town of Silsbee is not the first place I think anyone would imagine that the folsky sing-songwriter stylings of Lomelda would hail from. At least on first listen. The band sings songs akin to artists like Frankie Cosmos and Snail Mail, but with a starker and more lonely sound. When I first heard Lomelda, I was digging through the 2,000+ artist line-up that made up the SXSW Music Festival. Of those 2,000 artists, the group’s sound immediately stuck out. It felt like a less bright Whitney or Soccer Mommy, but still just as emotionally enthralling of those group’s best tracks. On the indoor stage of the Mohawk, Lomelda’s front-woman, Hannah Read, poured her heart out on the stage in one of the most intimate performances I have ever seen. The emotional catharsis manifested itself during performances of tracks like “Interstate Vision,” from last year’s Thx, as well as “Brazos River,” a track that holds a sentimental value not only for Read but for myself, considering the proximity of the river to my hometown. The song deals with the past, the friends we had, the memories we made, the love we lost, the plans we made but never went through with. Her music takes you to a place that feels warm, nostalgic, yet sad. Her music feels like growing old, but not knowing how to deal with it. It’s both exciting and terrifying at the same time, it feels like life. Of all the artists that I found digging through the figurative haystack that was the SXSW Music Festival line-up, Lomelda was the brightest, pointiest of all the needles.
Just Another Manic Monday presented by The Onion/A.V. Club was a perfect way to start a week that would turn out to be one of the craziest of my life. With that said, this is just the beginning of our SXSW coverage, we have a ton of interviews that are on the way as well as more showcase coverage, and photo galleries. So keep checking the website and see what I ended up getting into over Spring Break. Thanks you reading!