Sunday, March 21, 2010

SXSW Friday: Best In Show

In a quest to spend the most time possible at the Mohawk, at 1pm I went to see Scotland’s We Were Promised Jetpacks at the Onion AV Club’s party. While their song composition and lyrical style seemed to resemble Tokyo Police Club, their brand of uptempo music was most adequately summarized toward the end of the set by the lead singer who said, “We have a couple more Scottish teenage post-punk emo tunes for you.” Take that music critics. Next door at Club DeVille Nicole Atkins Featuring Future Clouds and Radar played the Brooklyn Vegan party, Atkins’s powerful voice besting her petite frame.

On the other side of I-35, folks sprawled out in the park at the French Legation. In the back tent Mayer Hawthorne brought their 60s throwback tunes replete with button-down sweaters, collared shirts, and ties. With a little bit of funk and a dash of Jamie Lidell, they rounded out their set with a bit of reggae and the chorus of Biz Markie’s “Just A Friend.” A sure way to get the crowd singing and dancing along.

At 4pm, back at the Mohawk, Everybody Was In The French Resistance was attempting to explain that they were a “concept band.” As soon as the explanation took at detour into deconstructing Kayne West’s “Gold Digger,” it was pretty unclear what the concept was. The band’s musical elements had merit, but the singer’s style and reliance on “humor” in his lyrics seemed an odd match. “In Switzerland we sang, ‘Everybody was in the French resistance – except for you,’ ” he explained. An hour later another Scotch band, the great Frightened Rabbit took the stage, introduced by Eugene Mirman. Their passionate rock was definitely worth sticking around for.

Knowing that Band Of Horses was playing the intimate Central Presbyterian Church, a night after playing a packed house at Stubb’s, I rushed up early to get a spot in a pew. This would be the ultimate SXSW coup – seeing a big band in a smaller venue with great acoustics and getting to sit for two hours. Tyler Ramsey, one of BOH’s guitarists was doing a solo set, crooning beautifully in the quiet church. As his heartfelt tunes faded, South Carolina’s Company moved to center stage. “I hear there’s another band playing after us,” the lead singer said. He winked toward the audience and the band played a great warm-up.

At 9pm the church was full and by two songs into their set, Band Of Horses’ Ben Bridwell was “sweating like a ...” well, he didn’t finish that sentence. We were in church, after all. Starting off with the title track to their forthcoming album “Infinite Arms,” the more rock-influenced sound of their new stuff turned into fan favorites, with “Ode to LRC,” “Funeral,” and the delicate “No One’s Gonna Love You.” While the crowd was happy to stay seated and very hushed throughout the performance, they were equally glad when Bridwell prodded them to stand for the closing tune, “General Specific.” With a standing audience clapping and a wonderfully jazzy piano elevating the song, it felt like being at a revival. A-men.

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