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Music Blog

SXSW 2011: Stalking Wild Flag, Hanging with the Swedes

by Dan Nailen
- Posted // 2011-03-20 - One valuable lesson I learned on the final day of SXSW—when you’re looking for someplace cool, find the Swedes.

That bit of impromptu logic helped save me Saturday from simply melting into the Austin asphalt. After three non-stop days of running around, stuffing myself into overpacked clubs and sweating through multiple t-shirts, I was looking for something a bit subdued to start my day Saturday. Or at least air-conditioned.

I found it at Antone’s, a legendary blues club in Austin that hosted a Sweden day party Saturday to showcase some of the music of that faraway, fantastical country. For some reason I was expecting reindeer, some Swedish booze I’d never heard of and meatballs as part of the festivities, but instead got tacos, air-conditioning and free Imperial beers (which did sort of fit the bill of booze I’d never heard of, but it was EVERYWHERE in Austin, and it was cheap or free all the time. Suddenly Shiner Bock and Lone Star are “fancy” beers at SXSW).

And I got a serious dose of ass-kicking rock and roll, courtesy of The Soundtrack of Our Lives, a garage-rock crew that played the Zephyr Club exactly once, nine or 10 years ago, and it was one of the best shows I ever saw there. They were introduced by a fellow I can only assume is either the king of Sweden or a record-label exec, who described The Soundtrack of Our Lives as the “greatest band in Sweden.” I can’t argue, for a variety of reasons, but I’ll just stick with the fact that they totally blew the doors off of Antone’s at four in the afternoon—no easy feat when you’re playing to a bunch of hungover conventioneers and jaded Swedish groupies.

Visually speaking at least, the band is led by singer Ebbet Lundberg, a rather rotund fellow who dresses in a sort of priest uniform, along with guitarist Mattias Barjed, pictured above, who simply knows how to strike all the great rock-guitar-god poses (not to mention put together quite a bright ensemble). The songs veer into prog-rock territory here and there, but for the most part, The Soundtrack of Our Lives deals in poppy psychedelia as rooted in the Beatles as it is Syd Barrett. Besides their own killer tunes like “Sister Surround” and “Safety Operation,” the band did a cover of Nick Drake’s “Fly” that was excellent.

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The Soundtrack of Our Lives and the other Swedish bands (including a really solid rockabilly act, The Refreshments) were a fine intro to the last day at SXSW after a way-too-late night on Friday that screwed up my day schedule a bit. But the last day in Austin is always a last-ditch effort to see some old friends who work in the “music biz,” visit favorite clubs you’d had no reason to visit yet, and see some final bands that you’ve either heard good buzz on, been trying to catch all week, or seen earlier in the trip and want to see again.

For me, Saturday was entirely focused on seeing Wild Flag’s last performance of eight they’d done at the festival. Wild Flag is a new band made up of Carrie Brownstein (guitar/vox) and Janet Weiss (drums) from Sleater-Kinney, Mary Timony (guitar/vox) from Helium and Rebecca Cole (keyboards) from The Minders. As an utter Sleater-Kinney fanatic, the chance to see two-thirds of the last band I considered my “favorite” was a must-do, and I weaseled my way into a show they did for IFC that was filmed for airing later (no coincidence, since Brownstein is one of the co-stars of the channel’s Portlandia).

Suffice to say, it was a little bit of heaven, offering up plenty of those transcendent moments that music geeks live for, no matter what genre you’re into. Seeing Brownstein rocking her Pete Townsend windmills again was awesome, as were the new band’s songs, essentially evenly split for lead vocals between Brownstein and Timony. Among my faves Saturday: “Electric Band,” “Glass Tambourine” and “Future Crimes.”

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Old fave I never miss that I saw Saturday: Eddie Spaghetti, leader of the Supersuckers, doing his honky-tonkin’ solo material at the Red Eyed Fly, including a mean cover of Dean Martin’s “Party Dolls and Wine.” He’ll play Burt’s Tiki Lounge April 20.

Band I rarely get to see in SLC: The Soundtrack of Our Lives. Someone, bring the Swedes to town!

New discovery of the day: Carl Broemel, guitarist for My Morning Jacket, did a stellar solo show in a church, St. David’s Bethel Hall, full of looped guitar parts and gorgeous vocal harmonies that let me know MMJ isn’t just about Jim James. A couple of Broemel’s bandmates joined him, too, making for a three-fifths My Morning Jacket show that didn’t sound anything like My Morning Jacket on songs like “You Ask A Lot of Questions” and “What Kind of Man Are You?”

Culinary highlight of the day: I would have bet it was going to be the cocktail I ordered at a joint called The TenOak: The “Manly Cocktail” was Wild Turkey 101, infused with maple syrup and bacon. Alas, the bar was “out” of the drink (they must have thought I was too manly already, preemptively cutting me off like that). So it will have to be the White Bean Chili, full of pork and green chiles, I wolfed down at the Texas Chili Parlor.

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