SXSW Day 2 – Jonquil, The Civil Wars and more

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I start slowly at SXSW. One band on day one. 3 bands on day two + some comedy!

After picking up my music badge, I ventured over to see a band that is of interest mostly because of their bass player. Who happens to be actor Michael Cera. There was a pretty big crowd gathered outside in the 80-degree weather for his band, called Mister Heavenly, and I took advantage of a solar-powered carousel to relax during their soundcheck. I only heard a couple songs so I’m not a fair judge, but it sounded like they’re still finding their footing, joking nervously with the audience.

After a dinner break, I went straight to the IFC House to catch some comedy. Tuesday is the awkward night when the Interactive portion of the festival is ending but the Music portion has not yet begun, so musical options were limited. And the chance to see Dave Foley, Michael Ian Black and Aziz Ansari was too tempting to resist. (Black won my heart right off the bat by ripping into Texas pride).

Then I checked out The Civil Wars. Chris Douridas has been championing the band and they’re a huge hit on iTunes and it’s easy to see why. They are a dynamic duo whose voices are so much stronger together than apart. They leave you hanging on every note and it’s just gorgeous simplicity – two voices, one guitar (though my favorite  moments were when they sang a capella). Sometimes that is all you need to wow an audience.  (and it is hard to believe they are married to other people once you see their onstage chemistry!) They play a live set on Chris’ show this Saturday.

I ended the evening on a high note with Oxford’s Jonquil. I actually had a chat with frontman Hugo Manuel right before they hit the stage and it ends up it was their 4th show ever in the U.S..  They seemed ready to take on the States with their energetic pop with calypso-like guitars (ala Vampire Weekend.).

They reminded me a lot of UK’s Two Door Cinema Club – both play music that just puts a smile on your face and makes you feel good.

Hugo, wearing jean shorts and sneakers and playing keyboards, got up on his toes every time he was singing high notes. It was very charming. I also learned later that he is also the musician behind Chad Valley – another act I was hoping to check out this week! The band played a cover of The xx, a crowd favorite, but they had me sold on their original material.

Jonquil – It Never Rains by Jonquil