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It's a day where the playbook starts to get scrapped and you just run to see the thing you keep hearing about or that happens to match the mood you're in.

JEFF LEVEN'S SXSW JOURNAL, DAY #3: THE TIPPING POINT

Blair, Monte Negro, Weather Underground, The Helio Sequence, White Denim, Summerbirds in the Cellar and More
First off, a correction and a helping of crow:  in my Day 2 dispatch, I incorrectly identified Skeletonwitch as being on Relapse when, in fact, they are on Prosthetic.  In my feeble defense, I do write these things at 5 in the morning, but still for a self-identified metalhead, it was a moment of embarassing confusion regardless.  Sheepish apologies all around.
 
So (fact-checkers start your engines), anyway, day three of SXSW tends to be the tipping point, where the first round of burnt-out attendees head home or the point where some people have finally handled all their official obligations and are now free to just party. It's a day where the playbook starts to get scrapped and you just run to see the thing you keep hearing about or that happens to match the mood you're in. Your feet are trashed, fatigue has completely set in, and this is usually when all the great stuff happens by accident.
 
For me, today had a few magical and spontaneous moments in addition to hobbled arches and baggy eyes. The first was a really inspired flash of last-minute improvisation.  After her full band set, my artist Blair was tacked on to do a solo gig at the Little Radio party right before Autolux went on. The catch was that this mini-set involved putting a microphone and Blair on the bar as they changed out gear on the main stage. With sun beaming into the room and glinting off a hundred Tecate cans, she played a warm and fluid few songs and climbed down grinning from ear to ear. 
 
Later in the evening, after a few stops at the Windish/Pitchfork party, the Monte Negro set at the Batanga party, the Paradigm party and the Frank151 party, I headed out to the Enchanted Forest, which is pretty much what the name would lead you to imagine. Nestled in a random corner of the southern part of town, the Enchanted Forest is a sprawling labyrinth of folk art installations, torches, a creek and a stage, all with the feel of a pseudo-commune. 

With dogs running back and forth across the creek and a massive flamethrower torch ejecting random bursts into the sky, LA's the Weather Underground took the stage for a loose, slightly ragged but vibe-heavy set as a small crowd of free spirits danced and whirled in front of them.  Vocally, their singer evokes the Dave Pirner side of Tom Petty (with whom they share management) and the music casually evokes elements of everything from Buffalo Springfield to Billy Bragg (briefly covering the latter on route to a rendition of "Dear Prudence").  A flagship example of the more earnest side of the "Keep Austin Weird" movement, the Enchanted Forest was truly enchanting and created a special space for the band to summon the ghost of Cassady in the type of place he might have called home.
 
Leaving the week's most unique venue, I drove by Antone's, only to find the Vampire Weekend line had reached Arctic Monkeys proportions.  Instead, I ventured over to the Sub Pop showcases, where I found myself quickly lost in the enveloping presence of The Helio Sequence, who were mind-blowingly good. With their rich chords and driving rhythms drifting over me and the 90ish-degree day fully evaporated into a crisp and beautiful night, time stood still for just a little bit and a half-week of hard running around centered itself on contact.   
 
Aside from The Helio Sequence, Sub Pop's SXSW features a host of other great bands, including Fleet Foxes, Grand Archives and Blitzen Trapper. That particular threesome actually played the Troubadour a few weeks ago in a night that somehow recaptured the room's history and rechanneled the fabled Laurel Canyon ethos through the slightly angled filter of the Pacific Northwest's indie culture.  With both Grand Archives and Band of Horses dishing out fantastic records, it looks like Carissa's Wierd has become this decade's Uncle Tupelo and Sub Pop has once again reinvented itself--this time as the key destination for gorgeously harmonized, ethereally rootsy acts in the mold of CSNY or, far more recently, Iron & Wine.
 
While the '60s always seem to be coming back in some fashion, the '70s aren't down for the count, either. With gestures to Grand Funk Railroad, White Denim threw down with a hard-charging set and, coupled with Parlor Mob, Dead Meadow and Howlin' Rain, make a solid case for the notion that expansive riff-based guitar rock is officially back in business.  Not that artfully textured keyboard-assisted rock is out either. One of the day's other standouts was Florida's Summerbirds in the Cellar, who dazzled the Fly South day party with keenly crafted songs and elegantly offered hooks.  
 
Anyway, for those looking to just go with the flow today, there were a lot of great destinations to reach as this year's SXSW heads into the home stretch.        
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THE NEXT HUGE CATALOG STORY
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