If SXSW feels different this year, it may be because of the unadulterated amount of free stuff. Exclusive badge-only events have all but been pushed inside in favor of free-for-all events that are often just that. The Fader Fort, the Pure Volume House, even Rachael Ray and Perez Hilton’s parties are all free, open, and in larger venues to accommodate the masses.
That’s why Thursday night I went in search of the most exclusive party I could find – the badge-only showcase at Lustre Pearle. Outside an old house near the freeway, kids stood behind the gates trying to get a look at what was going on inside – which was mainly people participating in random hipster activities like ping pong and talking about whether their band could be as good as the Temper Trap.
Inside the back tent, London’s The Boxer Rebellion played a brand of “Hot Fuss”-era-Killers rock, their lead singer looking like Zachary Quinto from afar. The alternately flashing red and blue lights created a hallucinatory effect, like wearing old-school 3-D glasses, while the tambourine kept time to “Watermelon.” If their energy was high and their sound was good, Australia’s The Temper Trap did them one better.
Taking the stage with heartily blaring guitars, I had to check the schedule to make sure I was in the right place. While The Temper Trap’s album has an element of softness to it, their performance replaced that softness with fire, evidenced from the very first song, “Rest.” Working trough “Fader” and the brilliant “Love Lost,” by the time TTT got to their biggest hit, “Sweet Disposition,” the lead singer was really into it, and so was everyone else. The set only escalated from there, working up to a total guitar rockout before wrapping with “Science of Fear.” Could your band be as good as The Temper Trap? Probably not.
By 12:30 I’d finagled my way into the less-exclusive patio of the Mohawk and stood wondering why my intestines were shaking. With a packed house and GZA and half the Wu-Tang Clan (okay, there are a lot of people in that, so maybe a fourth of the Wu-Tang Clan), one would think that all of this bass would get absorbed before it got to where I stood in the back. I was there to see London’s The XX, the ethereal indie kid faves. The boy/girl duo, both with close-cropped dark hair and all black outfits looked nothing like I’d imagined them. Their beautifully low-key tunes dispersed into the ether, and, escaping the crowded house, I did too.