Unknown Mortal Orchestra has always personified the exotic, mysterious, and highly intense, even in those pop music moments, while at the same time being eagerly accessible. At the Auckland via Portland band’s 2013 SXSW performance at the Red Eyed Fly, frontman Ruban Nielson played to the crowd, already enamored with UMO’s self-titled debut, and at that time, the newly released second album, aptly name II, in an kimono-styled jacket. Between the light and flaky layers of multi-instrumentation coupled with Nielson honeydew vocal melodies, the experience seemed to release an imaginary fragrance of jasmine and frankincense in the warm Austin air.
Surprises are something of a tradition at SXSW. Mine happened when my friend Kris let me know Band of Skulls (he is part of the tour crew) was playing the PBS SXSW party at Austin City Limits (ACL)—and that afterward, I was completely blown away, as was friend Tisha and all the rest of us who were lucky enough to experience it all live.