Jesca Hoop meets Neil Diamond

Day two at South By Southwest 2008 began with the Keynote speech by Lou Reed (covered in an earlier entry). Following Lou Reed I headed six or seven blocks north to catch Jesca Hoop doing a live radio broadcast with Nic Harcourt. One of those free shows that drew only a handful of insiders, fans, and the curious. It was only noon, a bit early for many festival goers.

Jesca HoopJesca Hoop
Jesca Hoop’s cd Kismet was one of my favorite releases from 2007, I was happy her live performance was more than equal to the recorded versions. Her songs are lyrical, rhythmic and adventurous. The band included a background singer, may have been her sister, who added the vocal dynamics so embedded in her music. Jesca waved her arms, used her hands, and moved with each lyric. Her partner sang with her hands never leaving the pockets of her sweatshirt, elbows at her side.

jesca's singerjesca's singer

jesca sings with her handsjesca sings with her hands

Spoke with Jesca after the show. She grew up on her parent’s music. I asked how Neil Diamond, one she mentioned, effected her style and writing. “He doesn’t.” she said.

It would be interesting to hear her do a Neil Diamond tribute album done Jesca Hoop style, dedicated to her parents. Mention that to her if you ever see her.

She signed my sketch of her, commenting that it is what she will look like when she’s forty. A futuristic sketch!

Headed to the National Public Radio party at The Parish next. The line was around the block to get in. Some current bands that have garnered great popularity. Thankfully, being a member of the NPR family of stations at WRUR, Mike Black was able to get us on the guest list and we walked right in.

The Shout Out Louds played a couple songs as we entered and they ended. Would have liked to have heard more, and plan to check out their cd.

Not having a camera (discussed in an earlier blog entry, What, No Camera?) I became aware of those around me capturing each show who could maybe share their photos with me via the wonders of email. Such was my luck during Jens Lekman, the next performer.

jens lekmanjens lekmanStanding next to me, a bit shorter, with a sound recorder in one hand and a camera in the other was Leital Molad, Senior Producer of PRI’s Studio 360. They were doing a special on Swedish bands, and you can’t get any more Swedish than Jens Lekman. She graciously accepted my card and promised to send a couple pictures. Next day they arrived.

Jens had the ultimate touring band. On one side a blond percussionist, on the other a violin and a cello. Three beautiful women, subtle and sensitive in their accompaniment. All very Swedish. My new photographer friend only sent photos of Jens. Oh well.

The songs were little classical folk songs. Sophisticated in a European way. Turned out to be an excellent show, which was carried on WRUR that afternoon live. Maybe you had the chance to hear it - if not you can catch it here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=88159198

We left the Parish momentarily to see Buddy Miller, which can be read about in the entry titled “Secret Agent Man”.

The band that had peaked in popularity that week was Vampire Weekend. They had just appeared on Saturday Night Live, were covered on NPR’s All Things Considered, and were the most talked about band of the moment. So expectations were high, I think.

We returned to the Parish following Buddy Miller in hopes of catching Vampire Weekend. The line was longer, but the guest list still worked so we walked right in. Gotta love NPR.

Bon Iver still had half a set to finish as we arrived. Gentle songs, no Swedish girls. My photographer had left.

Vampire Weekend came up next. Guitar driven riffs; odd, infectious rhythm shifts, melodic and sparse. In their own way they pay tribute to the classic three minute song style of pop radio, but in a current, off-centered way. (photos were taken with a cell phone, low res)

Vampire WeekendVampire WeekendLike most bands that suddenly hit it big, they have been touring constantly for a couple years after graduating (?) from Columbia University. The touring paid off in tight, effective live translations of their sharp, three minute songs. A thoroughly enjoyable set. Listen to it yourself and see better photos at: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=88162162

This ended the afternoon of free shows. The official festival shows began a couple hours later in the hundreds of clubs around town.