SXSW 2013: James Saddles Up

Wednesday is spent dreaming of ways to get into NPR’s Yeah Yeah Yeah’s show at Stubbs. When that becomes depressing, I start searching for leads regarding the location of the secret Kid Cudi show on Facebook. By the time 7 p.m. rolls around, tuning out the noise of possibilities, I’m dressed and ready to hit the festival. My sights are set on the Perish Underground, where Saddle Creek Records is holding their SXSW showcase.

There’s six bands on the bill for a measly $10, which I’m happy to hand over. Inside, the space is fairly intimate with a solid following coming to support the show.

I have time to see two acts tonight before I have to head out: Jake Bellows and UUVVWWZ.

UUVVWWZ plays fast and loud out of the gate. Amid the chaos of her band mates tossing about, Teal Gardiner’s silky voice manages to hold everything together. To her left, a woman is signing her lyrics in rhythm, and it’s an amazing sight. There’s something about sign language married with a pulsing kick drum that makes the whole display look like an elaborately choreographed dance. I’m mesmerized as I come to the conclusion that the signer is rocking as hard as anyone in the room.

Before UUVVWWZ’s ruckus, Jake Bellows of Neva Dinova performs a more subdued set. Spare guitar playing and simple backbeats accompanying Bellows’ soulful voice shape this set. In between songs Bellows, who has a poet’s heart, is self-deprecating and funny like a musical Kyle Kinane. This notion strikes me as odd, since Bellows’ beard makes him look a bit like Kyle Kinane.

Bellows’ set is what I came here for. Surprisingly, it’s more upbeat than I would’ve expected, as is his stage persona. I think about how melancholy Bellows used to sound.

My friend Danny texts me about the show from Oklahoma. Listening to Bellows now and texting with Danny reminds me of being twenty. I think about all the times when I couldn’t sleep, Danny would drive up to find me on the bench at 4 a.m. on Lindsey Street thinking about nothing specifically somber. Seeing Bellows having fun and having fun myself, maybe it’s true that people chill out as they get older.

Toward the conclusion of Bellows’ set, I see a woman walk in from the back where I’ve been watching the entire show.

“I just turned really old,” she says to her friend.

“You were old before you got here,” he says, smiling.

In the words of Bellows, drinking blood don’t keep me young.


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