The opening day of the annual South by Southwest festival is in the books, and while fans, journalists and industry folks were still busy arriving and staking out the best spots for margaritas, there were still plenty of parties and showcases to whet the musical appetite Wednesday. Here are a few highlights from the opening round of the year's biggest rock fest:
• Kill the Daylight: The line for the Levi's/Fader house snaked around the block in the moments before the Kills took the stage on Wednesday afternoon. They opened their set with "U R A Fever," the first single from their new album, Midnight Boom, and picked up steam — and crowd enthusiasm — over the next couple tunes. Oddly, the room was nowhere near as crowded as I expected given the size of the line. Hopefully the Levi's/Fader folks, who consistently throw one of SXSW's best daytime parties, will have the kinks worked out by today.
• Friends With "P": Peter Morén of Peter Bjorn and John played a solo gig at the Parish last night, as part of the Almost Gold showcase. I suspect that people eyeballing the festival guide didn't recognize Morén's name from his popular indie rock group, because it was a fairly low-key crowd. Morén, meanwhile, seemed slightly uncomfortable onstage without Bjorn and John, but only in between songs when his monologues rambled on and on. The performance itself, however, was lovely in just the way you'd hope: Apparently, Morén decided to do a solo project after having too much extra PB&J material, and the sparsely orchestrated tunes he played last night sounded like they could have easily fit in on Writer's Block. He definitely needs to work on editing his own banter, though.
• King of the Night: Kaki King slayed the crowd at Club DeVille just before midnight. Playing with her full band, the diminutive guitar virtuoso demonstrated how finger-picking is really done. The instrumental numbers often sounded like something you'd hear at a Pinback show, if that band had honed its chops on bluegrass and Ani DiFranco. Truly an impressive set, with a bang-up closing number: a riotous punk jam sung by its author, the Bubonics' Sara DeCastro.