Monday, March 24, 2014

SXSW 2014: Wednesday (Part 1)


There is some irony in the first band I saw at South by Southwest being a reunion band. Coachwhips, John Dwyer’s scrappy, noise-garage band from the mid-00s, had decided for whatever reason to play SXSW. Not to say they weren't great. Setting up on the ground rather than the stage, and plugging into their own amps rather than the venue's, the band immediately clicked into action and started rattling off song after song thanks, no doubt, to each one being usually less than two minutes. It probably wasn't the ideal situation to see them, a grassy & sunny field rather than a dark & dank bar basement, but it was fun and noisy nonetheless, especially when Dwyer got decent portion of the crowd to sing along and throw their hands up into the air when the band closed on “Peanut Butter and Jelly”.


Sophie’s performance was an indication that almost every producer/DJ should be seen indoors during SXSW. He was good, actually performing a set, changing and remixing his tracks so they emerged rather than it feeling like he just hit “play” on his rig. Unfortunately, his gooey club tracks didn't mesh with the setting, and his minimal set up and lack of lights/visuals just left everyone to stare at the kid with orange hair onstage. Though props to everyone in the crowd who danced super awkwardly during the whole set; you all very much made the set.

Perfect Pussy

I wound up seeing Perfect Pussy several times over the course of South By, largely because of the standard they hit with their first show. Over the four months since I had first seen them, they had gotten even better; more frantic, more intense in every aspect. Guitarist Ray McAndrew and drummer Garrett Koloski played their instruments with a jubilant but fierce furry, and bassist Greg Ambler & keyboardist Shaun Sutkus just flailed behind their respective gear. Vocalist Meredith Graves easily matched her bandmates intensity; her movements onstage feeling both precise and wounded at the same time while she screamed the lyrics with a menacing desperation that could be felt by everyone, no matter how obstructed they were in the mix. The band was so loud they would up blowing have the speakers on stage three songs in and had to pause for a moment. Not that it mattered; once the power clicked back on they launched right back into the same burst of energy they started with. It was 18 very glorious minutes.

Ex Hex

Springy. If you had to describe Ex Hex in one word, that’s the one I think a lot of people would go for. Which says something, as everyone in this band, particularly frontwoman Mary Timony of Helium and more recently Wild Flag, are practically veterans of the indie music world. Yet here they were, having fun as they played their chewy, power-pop tinted guitar rock, being indulgent as all hell, and loving every minute of it. You could tell how much this band was just friends finally getting together and playing some songs right; it leaked immensely into their songs and their stage craft.

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