Skulpey, from Slovakia (Photo By Gary Miller)
Ritz Lounge, Friday 16
South by Southwest contains sub-festivals that feature particular stylistic and/or geographical genres. For example, on Thursday night the Limelight hosted Japan Day, three venues featured Latin sounds, and Francophile world music held court at Ruta Maya. Friday was more of the same at the Tamizdat Showcase. As a Czech/ New York nonprofit arts agency, Tamizdat seeks out the best experimental and new music from Central and Eastern Europe. Their showcase at the intimate Sixth Street Ritz Lounge kicked off with Tamizdat prime mover and Skulpey singer-guitarist Heather Mount saying, "Thanks to everyone for coming out, and special thanks to all those who dragged their ass from the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, etc., to be here." Openers Skulpey compose intelligent and original rock: Think of the Muffs after a summer at Sonic Youth's training camp. The multinational trio led off with their well-crafted/syncopated "Splintertown" and "Justified." The crowd, at standing room only as the set took off, was a cross-section of SXSW regulars, record label worker bees, writing hacks, and a good chunk of Eastern Europeans. At the end of their nearly hourlong set, Mount said, "Stay around for some more good music from not here." Then came Poland's Ewa Braun, whose self-described "transcendental noise" populated the club until it was certifiably crowded. Their broad brush strokes were sometimes angry, sometimes epic, sometimes both. Their third number, an echoey cinematic affair, was driven by a drum ostinato until the tune bulldozed itself into disintegration. The second half of Tamizdat's showcase featured the talents of Polish sonic texturalists Projekt Karpaty Magiczne and the Prague-based techno-torch songsters Ecstasy of St. Theresa, both of whom put on sparsely attended, but nevertheless refreshing, short sets earlier in the day at the Thirty Three Degrees record store. These four bands were indeed a worthy lot, but chances are there's more where that came from. With successes like this, perhaps SXSW should highlight these sub-festivals in yearly themes, like Japanese trance or South American metal. It sure beats the hell out of that same old guitar/guitar/bass /drum crap.