The Monday of South By Southwest’s week-long takeover of Austin is always a strange day, as the Interactive portion of the festival (read: network-happy tech entrepreneurs and designers) comes to an end while droves of decidedly less put-together fans descend in preparation for the Music festival, which starts on Tuesday. This means that eager, jumpy music obsessives end up rubbing shoulders with well-appointed Silicon Valley types, the latter becoming tipsy on fancy cocktails and dropping words like “disruption” and “synergy” that music fans were familiar with long before the ‘90s tech boom made them trendy. It’s an odd mix, but these encounters make for exactly the kind of serendipetous weirdness that distinguishes SXSW from other, more thematically cohesive festivals. If you come for the music and can’t summon the gumption to sneak into one of the swankier Interactive closing parties, there’s still plenty of great unofficial (i.e., not formally affiliated with SXSW and always free) music to be seen on Monday night. The Austin-based choral folk band Mother Falcon, for example, host a well-stocked showcase at the Empire Garage featuring many local, unsigned artists eager for exposure and a big break. Many of those bands seem primed to achieve exactly those goals, in particular the rowdy, stomp-heavy folk/bluegrass band Hello Wheels. As four bearded, affable-looking dudes playing string instruments (plus the occasional trumpet), Hello Wheels could easily penetrate the current market for Mumford & Sons-like roots uplift. What distinguishes them from such peers, however, is that their vocal effects are more varied than straight-up four-part harmonies: they put each voice to productive use by trading off lead vocals and backing each other with rhythmic, almost percussive utterances. Additionally, the band’s arrangements are deceptively complex given how much pure joy the music summons; they get jazzy and funky on certain songs, with one member at one point playing a trumpet with one hand while banging a tambourine with the other. Though most crowd members (yours truly included) seem to have wandered in without knowing what to expect, Hello Wheels quickly have us all stomping and clapping along with them as though we were longtime fans.
The Monday of South By Southwest’s week-long takeover of Austin is always a strange day, as the Interactive portion of the festival (read: network-happy tech entrepreneurs and designers) comes to an end while droves of decidedly less put-together fans descend in preparation for the Music festival, w...
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