Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Thursday, Mar 19, 2009
Photos: James Edward Crittendon

The NPR Showcase definitely stands as one of the festival’s marquee events. There’s been some grumbling here and there that NPR is like an old man trying to act hip to what the kids are into, when all it really wants to do is scream, a la Abe Simpson, “I’m an old man. I hate everything but Matlock!” But whatever their motives, you can’t argue with the results…


I thought Ladyhawke‘s performance was fairly revelatory. From the moment the dance beats began pummeling us, Ladyhawke’s set was a vibrant mix of skeleton-rattling bass, skittery funk chords, and washes of keyboards. To my ears, the band did a much better job of connecting than they have on record. 


If Ladyhawke represented the crowd’s chance to dance and get down (when they weren’t heads-down twittering or updating their Facebook statuses), then the Heartless Bastards were all business with loud, grinding alt-country/garage rock. Songwriter/guitarist/vocalist Erika Wennerstrom led the band through songs from their recent record, The Mountain and seemed right at home on the stage at Stubb’s Bar-B-Q.


 


One thing about Stubb’s. The stage is set in this large earthen hollow. Boxed in by the venue’s large wrought-iron gate and a ring of walls and outer buildings, it looks like a giant chicken-yard where the chickens have scratched away everything living. When civilization falls, the Stubb’s amphitheatre will be where the rulers of Austin hold their mutant gladiator fights. The Avett Brothers seemed right at home (granted, though, you could put those four in an Intel clean room and they’d manage to stomp dust out of the floor). Playing an abbreviated set that mixed new songs with old, the band was reasonably subdued. With their set clocking in at roughly thirty minutes, they wouldn’t have had much time to get into full-flight punk/bluegrass mode, anyway. The new songs, from their upcoming Rick Rubin-produced major label debut, sounded strong and even added a piano into the mix. It should at least comfort fans who were afraid the band would lose their “Avettness” (apart from Seth Avett losing his hillbilly beard).


 


If the surroundings weren’t quite where you’d expect to find the Decemberists, they quickly grabbed the night as their own by performing their new record, The Hazards of Love, in its entirety. Hazards is a concept album in the classic sense, telling the tale of Margaret, a young girl who must face rakish men, treacherous plants, and devious woodland royalty. It’s a beast of an album, and lead singer Colin Meloy commits to it fully, swinging from fey British folk to heavy metal roar as his story demands, exhibiting a willingness to include a forest queen that would make 2112-era Rush blush. This is drama on a grand scale, sounding like it takes place in the woods outside of Sweeney Todd’s neighborhood. The seven-piece band of multi-instrumentalists did a fantastic job of replicating the record. Meloy’s backup singers—one dressed in a white diaphonous robe for the role of Margaret, the other in a tight black dress in the role of the Queen—roared through their parts, and “The Rake’s Song” became an instant highlight when five members of the band attacked it with synchronized drumming.


 


 


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Thursday, Mar 19, 2009
Photos: James Edward Crittendon

Former Hüsker Dü member Grant Hart took the small deck/stage at Creekside Lounge to deliver a short set consisting of just him and an electric guitar. Quite frankly, he didn’t look well, with a bandanna over his head and an ashen complexion. But that’s just idle speculation, and his songs were as strong as they ever were, displaying Hart’s longtime fondness for ‘50s and ‘60s style rock hooks and making you remember what a vital contribution he made to Hüsker Dü’s legacy. The crowd was of a decent size, and devoted, and Hart seemed to recognize the bond between himself and his fans, even taking a couple of requests.


 


 


Tagged as: grant hart, sxsw
Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Thursday, Mar 19, 2009
Photos: James Edward Crittendon

Joe Pug’s making some waves right now in singer-songwriter circles with soaring, confessional fare like “I Do My Father’s Drugs”. Live, his mix of Dylanesque singing, John Prine-style finger-picking, and Springsteen-like guitar movements, made for an interesting folk performance. The room was a little echoey, despite being full of people downing free beer, but Pug held his own, maintaining the forcefulness that makes his debut EP such a strong listen.


 


 


Tagged as: joe pug, sxsw
Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Thursday, Mar 19, 2009
Photos: James Edward Crittendon

I’m always a little suspicious of any songwriter with a “wounded bird” persona, but it’s part of the territory in the world of singer-songwriters, many of whom are truly wearing their hearts on their sleeves and exorcising their demons. So it was definitely endearing when Furman, who seemed like a skittish rabbit when talking to the crowd, defended the sincerity of all of the bands playing SXSW and declared, “This is our band and we’re the best band here”. Under the shadows of the lone sycamore tree that shades the Creekside Lounge deck, Furman and his band, the Harpoons, offered an infectious blend of sensitive singer-songwriting with straightforward Modern Lovers-style punk pop.


 


 


Tagged as: ezra furman, sxsw
Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Thursday, Mar 19, 2009
Photos: James Edward Crittendon

Mufreesboro, Tennessee’s Glossary are a favorite band amongst the alt-country community, and it’s easy to see why: They write good songs and they can raise a ruckus on par with the Drive-by Truckers. Playing a set consisting entirely of new songs, Glossary came across as more fluid and more melodic than they ever appear on disc—especially when it came to the guitar interplay. With luck, the upcoming new record will finally reflect this. For this day show, Glossary were solid, but didn’t display much of the abandon for which they’re known.


 


 


Tagged as: glossary, sxsw
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.