While the third day of SXSW showed some of the darker sides to the festival, day four was thankfully a lot more laid back.
Austin is unrivaled on a Friday at SXSW. As I arrived downtown, I walked around, checking out all the street musicians and finally deciding I would join the exodus off 6th Street and check out Divine Fits, Jim James, and The Flaming Lips across the river at Auditorium Shores on Lady Bird Lake. Thousands of people flooded the lakeside park to get a far-off glimpse of the bands, and it was a pretty excellent sight as the sun went down, the stage lights lit, and Austin’s beautiful skyline hovered over the water.
Jim James did not dissappoint as he gave an outstanding performance, playing songs from his debut solo record Regions of Light and Sound of God. The Flaming Lips took the stage next, and Wayne Coyne was up to his usual tricks, as he was outfitted in a strange getup of lights while holding a baby doll. Coyne mostly played songs from his forthcoming album The Terror. During one song, Coyne brought Sarah Barthel, lead singer of Phantogram, on stage to sing on a song with the band. Apparently, at her request, she would only sing if Coyne was pulling her hair while she was on stage. Barthel sat down next to Coyne standing at the mic, and sure (and weirdly) enough, as she held a microphone and sang her parts, Coyne had a handful of her hair in his grip.
After the show, I headed back downtown to see Sleigh Bells and Flying Lotus, who were playing on Trinity St. Unfortunately, I was not permitted entry due to overcapacity, so I quickly decided I would head over to Mohawk, where Vans was putting on a decent showcase. I arrived just in time to see Ducktails as they played songs off their latest album, The Flower Lane. It was a packed house at the Mohawk indoor stage and only became more popular as rising indie punks Parquet Courts made a strong showing, followed by DIIV playing their first show since Z. Cole Smith’s negative statements regarding the festival. As Smith took the stage, a few people were yelling “Brooklyn” and “Fuck South by Southwest!” in the audience, and Smith gave a half-smile as he set up.
I could say so much about DIIV’s performance; it was inspiring. Smith and the band sounded so much more cohesive than I had ever witnessed before. The crowd was smaller now, as everyone had left to see Thurston Moore’s new band Chelsea Light Moving at the outdoor stage, but those who were left frenzied about, jumping and shouting in the sprawling guitar solos that Smith so generously gave as he danced about. DIIV played two new songs as well, one untitled and the second called “Dust”. As they closed their set in the traditional manner with “Doused”, the small crowd roared with delight, and shouts for an encore bombarded the stage. As DIIV tore down their equipment, they were met with praise from fans, many who came up to them and told them it was the greatest show of the week.