Live Music + Gig Reviews

SXSW 2009 @ Austin, Texas – Day 2

19 March 2009

Smatterings of free food and booze make good steed for Day 2 of SXSW 2009, and being an industry event there’s plenty of it going round. Fruit platters and sandwiches anyone? Even weak American beer tastes that little bit sweeter when it costs $0.

The afternoon is spent at the All That Glitters party, at what appears to be some sort of posh hotel, although it never becomes very clear. It’s hosted by the good folks of ‘Sup magazine (something of a US hipster bible) where the likes of familiar favourites The Mae Shi and Micahu And The Shapes play crowd friendly sets (despite the latter being introduced as the former, by our bemused and possibly intoxicated drag compere).

But it’s the crop of NYC talent that’s the talk of the afternoon. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart are everywhere at SXSW, playing something like three shows a day. Sounding arguably soft and – dare I say it – bland on record, live they are a different band entirely. Shoegazey distortion and powerful vocals make the four-piece a mighty force. It’s just a shame they only get 20 minutes.

Suckers are another unknown, but they’re pretty excellent for the most part, even if they do slip into sub-Pogues territory at some points. Ultra hip Telepathe have taken some misguided advice and recruited dancers, although the term is used loosely. It feels out of place and unnecessary but it doesn’t detract from the hypnotic beats and excellent tracks from the Dance Mother record. Some more (or any) stage presence wouldn’t go amiss though.

It’s a retreat back to the Beauty Bar after that where the excellent IHEARTCOMIX showcase is in full swing, with thedeathset causing mayhem with their shouty electro punk (and a fun Nirvana cover) and Designer Drugs‘s DJ set causing mass hysteria in the patio (with Trail of Dead‘s Conrad among the revellers). It makes for a refreshing break from the guitar overdose.

The intriguing Juiceboxxx, who comes across as part BARR part Eminem, spouts some intelligent rhymes but is slightly marred by the self-deprecating tirades he delves into between songs. “I’m not 15 anymore man! Why am I still doing this?” he asks a bewildered crowd who are fully behind him, giving the performance an air of danger and unpredictability. Impressive.

HEARTSREVOULOUTION follow but they take an age to get going and vocalist Lo throws diva tantrums when the crowd don’t shut up to listen. So it’s decided that Emo’s shall be the next port of call for the much hyped Passion Pit. There’s a huge queue and clearly some punters are left disappointed but such is the nature of some events at SXSW.

They take a while to get going but once a few technical problems are solved (and the soundman finds the volume knob) it’s something very special indeed. Whereas on record the band could be mistaken for the near-forgotten sample pioneers The Avalanches, live they pull off tremendous force. The closing Smile Upon Me is a joyous affair, the crowd going nuts and the band beaming smiles. Triumphant.

A quick look round a very empty Red 7 afterwards sees Mika Miko falling on deaf ears, so it’s decided an early night is the way forward.

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