Sometimes it feels like the entirety of the music experience at SXSW is one giant, convoluted speakeasy. You’re just one password, one wristband, and one bit of access away from greatness. Timing is everything, so it’s incredibly frustrating to run to a showcase only to realize the band you adore or were looking to discover had already played without much warning and all you could hear was how good they were thanks to the people around you. In this regard, SXSW is a giant exercise in the bullshit acronym FOMO, or, fear of missing out.
Paste was, for many, the first taste of FOMO for the week. Sure, a line-up had been announced, but nothing had been said of who would be playing when and if they were at the indoor stage or outdoor stage. I might be missing something or talking to the wrong people, though. Still, happening upon new music is the silver lining of this and newcomer Lydia Loveless was a sound reward for my efforts.
The fiery frontwoman made a case for country music as far more than its current incarnate of Lynyrd Skynyrd-humping beer-sponsored noise. With a croon veering on a twangier Liz Phair, Loveless properly prepared the outdoor stage at Swan Dive for the next vocally strong group, the Sam Roberts Band. The backing band that makes Sam Roberts more than a singer-songwriter is a somewhat new, but a welcome addition to fully round out the acclaimed Canadian singer’s sound.
I’d been actively avoiding the inside of Swan Dive for production reasons that are almost too embarrassing to mention. Remember last year’s daytime showcase when the venue’s audio guy forgot to plug the XLR into Why? frontman Yoni Wolf’s microphone? Sadly, sonic issues once again plagued the stage, this time affecting PAPA. Despite delivering as solid a set as can be expected under those conditions, there were gaps in songs where the feedback was sharp and explicit. Though the band soldiered on, the lack of sound quality definitely hindered their set.