SXSW Entry #3: Andrea Balency, Torreblanca, Los Rakas

After the epic failure that was searching for free day shows, I was convinced it was an omen of horrible things to come on my first South By experience. Luckily, the first showcase located at Buffalo Billiard's alleviated all doubts and provided some great music. While in line, I did my share of creepin' on people's conversations just to get a feel for who people were most excited to see. Early birds, of course, were all talking (and for good reason) about Andrea Balency.

Per usual of South By showcases, the show started like 10 minutes late. When Andrea finally took to the stage, it was clear from the arsenal of vocal loops, effects, and keyboards that we would not be receiving a huge orchestral performance, but instead an intimate and experimental solo show. The first two songs were a little awkward, in that things began with a looped whisper instead of bang. Nevertheless she was still able to hold her own extremely well. By the time she played, "Delia," an epic french-language track, she had won us all over. Over the course of the 40-minute set she became a confident performer, commanding a huge selection of sounds to the point where it was easy to forget she was the only up there.

Torreblanca began his set promptly right after and delighted the crowd (and some very cool musician friends) by playing songs from his latest album, Bella Época. Accompanied by a full band (clarinet player, what’s up!), it was great to hear the big sounds from his record translated into a live setting. Even tracks I had pegged as fillers like “Dejé de ser yo” sounded incredible. In all honestly, I almost preferred it the studio versions where things sound a bit too clean and polished for my taste.

Following the show, my girlfriend and I stopped for some gyros and contemplated what to see next. When it was clear that waiting in line and spending more money for the ACL Live show was not an option, we abandoned our first pick (Next time, Terius) and went to see Los Rakas. We definitely made the right choice. As #PincheAndrew pointed out after, this concert really deserves its own post. Suffice it to say that Los Rakas were AMAZING. So much great energy from both performers and audience. These guys had us all dancing as they spit rhymes and navigated through beats from Dr. Dre to Kreayshawn. What was even more surprising was how many people were mouthing along to the lyrics (good to know i'm not the only one who's memorized a few verses from their version of "Gucci Gucci"). The Fonograma classic "Soy Raka" closed things off, and it was the absolute best way to finish the first night at SXSW. Almost like Austin's way of welcoming Club Fonograma.