Matson on Music
SXSW 2012 Thursday review: Colleen Green and The-Dream
Underneath Congress Bridge, I am told, are hundreds of bats; photo by me
More Thursday photos here
Entering humid, downtown Austin, Tex., at 9 pm for SXSW, I walked a few miles back and forth across downtown to check in with Seattle acts. Then I saw Atlanta R&B star The-Dream at Central Presbyterian Church, who took the stage at 1:50 am.
It was enough time to get oriented, to remember the festival ground-zero of Sixth Street looks like it's made of humans, not concrete, and the omnipresent ear-killing loudness at SXSW isn't one particular band, but many bands from all angles, all the time. Earplugs are a must.
Seattle label Hardly Art's showcase at Hotel Vegas on Sixth Street was removed from the the chaos eastward by about a mile. There, I talked with Seattle rock and rap bands TacocaT and Don't Talk to the Cops!, who regaled me with stories about how they had just collaborated on stage for the first time and how good it felt. They said they might form like Voltron again Friday at the SXSeattle or SiiickXSW showcases, which I will make every effort to witness. I like their music, but their punk-inspired band-friendship is also heartwarming, to me.
Sticking around at Hotel Vegas I had a very pleasant experience watching Colleen Green from Los Angeles, who wore sunglasses indoors while singing lazily and playing distorted, electric guitar over a drum machine. The machine did the hardest part of The Ramones' famous pop-punk sound — the incessant speed and force of the drumming. With that taken care of, Ms. Green tossed off catchy, Ramones-esque tunes one after another, singing, "I wanna be degraded."
Back out into the swarm of bodies on Sixth Street, I flagged down Seattle rapper Nacho Picasso. The gold-toothed, heavily tattooed rapper had performed earlier and said his set went well, but really wanted to talk about Trash Talk, the Sacramento hardcore punk band. Earlier in the evening he'd seen Trash Talk convince an entire audience to sit cross-legged on the ground before assaulting them with noise. It was Nacho's favorite performance at SXSW thus far.
Later, inside Central Presbyterian Church, only a hundred or so people showed up for The-Dream — one of the songwriters/producers behind Beyonce's "Single Ladies" and a hitmaking solo artist in his own right. He sang exactly like his recordings in a pinched, echoing tenor while gamely dealing with microphone feedback. His ace band let his synthesizer symphonies breathe, and could have been backing Prince with their array of keyboards and electronic and acoustic drums. The-Dream doesn't have a lot of star presence but seemed to know it, concentrating on the music (stage set-up took 40 minutes) and compensating by wearing Marty McFly's shoes from "Back to the Future," giant gray Nikes with light-up soles. He bantered with the audience into his gold-plated microphone, saying he liked sharing his tunes in an intimate setting. He played hits like "Shawty is a Ten," one of many fun The-Dream songs to sing along with. The small but dedicated audience joined in loudly and the experience was briefly cathartic. Floating back into Sixth Street on the gentle bump of "Rockin' That Thang," I left wanting more Dream.