You’d think that with around 200 live venues in Austin, SXSW festival might have enough places for bands to play without resorting to gigs in streets, parks and churches. But it’s good news for us that they don’t – because the likes of Herman Düne and Low couldn’t be better suited to the gorgeous surroundings of St David’s Episcopal Church.
Anti-folk duo Herman Düne played possibly my show of the festival so far. Certainly their lyrics continue to fascinate me – on paper so clumsy and contrived, but in the flesh able to paint moving pictures of love and loss. On I Wish I Could See You Soon, David-Ivar Herman Düne sings: “Now that I’m across the sea I wonder if/You’re gonna wait for me/Or if you’re gonna find a new boy to spoon/I wish that I could see you soon.” What the duo lose without the recorded version’s backing singers (or “angels”) they gain with a display of virtuoso solo guitar work.
I can’t find much trace of the song Tell Me Something I Don’t Know online (please respond below if you can track it down!) but on it Düne sings something along the lines of: “So we went to a record store/Every band there sounded like someone I’d heard before/She said ‘You should have been born a hundred year’s ago!’/And I was like ‘Well, tell me something I don’t know’”. It’s hardly poetry but in a few short lines it does detail how a couple can know each other like the back of their hands.
In keeping with the techy vibe of SXSW there are interactive elements to the show – a rather feeble crowd are instructed to sing “I hear strange music” backing vocals – and the humour far surpasses that of Brother: “We’re playing more shows, where the songs will be different. Who knows, the people playing them might be different as well.”
As Herman Düne depart a considerable queue grows for Low – which serves as another chance for them to dismiss the myth that they’re a “quiet” band. Huge, stomping bass guitar bashes against deft guitar parts, shaking us near out of our pews. The Mormon trio begin their set by dedicating Monkey to “all the people in Japan who might be missing someone right now” but tonight’s gig is more a celebration than anything else, perhaps of the fact that nobody else makes music with dynamics as finely weighted as this.
Shortly before the end I head to another beautiful religious building - the Central Presbyterian Church one block away – to catch the closing songs of Sea Of Bees. These church shows have been spell-binding but, as polite applause ripples through the crowd to signal the end of their country-tinged set, I realise that a) I’ve never been to church for this long before and b) I could probably do with a beer right now. It’s time to atone for all this good Puritan behaviour and catch Black Lips at Emos …