Wednesday morning in Austin was chilly and gray—but by the time Yahyel took the stage to open our first day of FLOODfest, sponsored by Life Is Beautiful, the sun was peeking through the clouds at Cedar Street Courtyard. The venue recently reopened post-renovation, hosting their first live show since December this past week. The sunken courtyard with outdoor stage now has a roof cover, so music lovers can get fresh air and stay dry (if it happens to rain) at the same time.
Five-piece electronic group Yahyel hail from Tokyo, Japan—but their futuristic sound could easily be sourced to a planet far, far away. Next up was Sunflower Bean, a Brooklyn-based trio of indie rockers who thanked the growing crowd for arriving so early. Lead guitarist Nick Kivlen wore a Piet Mondrian–inspired guitar strap with primary colors chopped apart by black lines, plus a tiger-embroidered beret; singer Julia Cumming opted for a velvet evening dress. Cumming urged the crowd closer to the stage as they played new single “Twentytwo,” a song lamenting the harsh societal expectations placed on women as they age (“Busted and used / That’s how you view your girl / Now that she’s twenty-two.”)
In the Valley Below, the rock group from Los Angeles, followed them in vaguely formal wear; Jeffrey Jacob Mendel (vocals, guitar) wore a crisp white suit and vocalist Angela Gail Mattson opted for a leather pinafore dress and lace collar. Mattson tinkered with a small keyboard to her side, leaning over to press casual keys with her right hand whilst singing. Though In the Valley Below explores the dark, weird underbelly of LA livin’, their last song of the day was “Peaches,” a mix of synth-pop and folk with romantic lyrics like, “We won’t live too long / So let’s love for one song.”
Then Lucas McFadden—or Cut Chemist, as he’s known professionally—took the stage, armed with only a baseball cap, bright yellow headphones, and a rag to wipe the perspiration from his face. McFadden played some new stuff from Die Cut, his first solo album in twelve years, and at one point asked for a moment of silence to honor Stephen Hawking, who passed away on the morning of his performance.
Hinds, from Madrid, celebrated the birthday of their drummer Amber Grimbergen by taking the stage with a fun energy to the darkening evening. The crowd thickened, and several fans close to the stage danced exuberantly, mouthing Hinds’ every lyric. Between bouts of sisterly banter with her bandmates, lead singer Carlotta Cosials conversed with Cedar Street partiers on the mic in a cheerful Spanish/English hybrid. Toward the end of the set, Shamir joined them for a song, donning a butterfly hair clip and flower-embroidered jeans.
Dr. Octagon closed out FLOODfest day one, though he made a dramatic (and slightly late) entrance. First, fast-fingered turntablist DJ Qbert and hip hop producer Dan the Automator warmed the crowd, positioned on opposite ends of the stage with their respective turntables. When Kool Keith showed up in a winter hat topped with a pom-pom and a jacket coated in shimmery foil flowers, he stood between the two men and rapped classics like “I’m Destructive” and “Earth People,” amping the crowd with a group stretch-session. Post mic-drop, Dr. Octagon enthusiastically encored with the very strange “Halfsharkalligatorhalfman”—a bit of whimsy to close out the evening.
Special thanks to Deep Eddy Vodka, Original Penguin, Fender, and our official radio partner Sirius XMU, who are broadcasting live from FLOODfest all week.
Below, check out photos from FLOODfest from Carlo Cavaluzzi.
FLOODfest Day One