SXSW’s tendrils reach even unto the Chihuahuan Desert. Mexican Summer, a record label out of New York City, stopped at El Cosmico on their way to Austin today, featuring a showcase of mazy psychedelic bands. My SXSW fatigue has more to do with the gigantic crowds and horrible traffic than with the wealth of music and movies available, so I was more than happy to sample some new music deep in the unpeopled comfort of the desert. It was a cold day, and the 30 or so other concertgoers were similarly bundled up in urban-inflected Carharts, leggings, and felt hats. Al Stewart played on the PA while I diligently wove a beer blanket out of the local Big Bend Brewery suds.
Arp played a set of low-key, intelligent pop that reminded me of a more guitar-inflected Lilac Time. I’d listened previously to their latest album, More, on Spotify, and had enjoyed its quiet melodies and chamber-pop horn arrangements. Live, they were a little more subdued, though it made for pleasant listening as the sun warmed my back under El Cosmico’s budding trees.
The main reason I came to the showcase was the next act, Weyes Blood (aka Natalie Mering), who looked to be freezing to death in her kundalini yoga pajamas. She braced herself against the wind and sang a haunting set of songs in her deep, resonant voice, accompanied either by her guitar or a backup tape of fuzzed out sythesizers and other noise. I fell instantly in love with her gorgeous voice, and I fell even deeper when she closed with a cover of Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talking” (one of two famous songs from Midnight Cowboy), which her voice turned into a lonely howl. I’ve already downloaded her short oevre from Bandcamp, and I can’t wait for more.