SXSW Music Day 3: Purity Ring, Titus Andronicus + Chad Valley

Purity Ring: Friday, 3pm, Mess With Texas, 1100 Warehouse:

My very first experience with Purity Ring had occurred less than 24 hours before their Friday set at the Mess With Texas festival at the Pitchfork showcase. I was extremely impressed with the group’s performance, and though the acoustics of the 1100 Warehouse were nowhere near the quality of those at Central Presbyterian Church, Purity Ring delivered another knockout set in front of an even bigger audience.

Corin Roddick is a hell of a producer, combining the best elements of electro-pop with the frantic nature of southern hip-hop beats and a heavy dose of propulsive bass inspired by the current wave of dubstep. The results are nothing short of stunning. The beautifully captivating eeriness of songs like “Belispeak” and “Ungirthed”, a theme that has carried over into the several new songs they played, mask Roddick’s careful attention to the most basic tenants of pop music. Live, Roddick one ups himself by programming several paper lamps to light up in accordance with the music, oftentimes requiring him to strike one of the lamps in order to get a desired sound, making the music itself an audiovisual experience the likes of which I’ve never seen before.

Meanwhile, vocalist Megan James possesses a full and rich voice that act as a sweet counterpart to the arrangements, though it is oftentimes manipulated carefully and concisely by Roddick. Her lovelorn and sometimes cryptic lyrics fit the songs perfectly, and she has a great sense of control over her voice. Purity Ring have built a strong following over the last year on the promise of their early releases, and if the quality of their live show is any indication, they are only going to continue to get better as we eagerly anticipate their proper debut album.

Titus Andronicus: Friday, 4pm, Mess With Texas, 1100 Warehouse:

For a band that did punk better than about 95% of other like-minded groups straight out of the gate, Titus Andronicus just keep getting better as the years progress. While the band may only consist of two of its original founding members, front man Patrick Stickles and drummer Eric Harm, one experiencing the band for the first time would never be able to guess it. The cohesion and dedication to the spirit of what Titus Andronicus represents was on full display as they ripped through a set filled with exceedingly promising new tracks and a few old standbys.

After beginning their set with the blistering, mosh inducing “A More Perfect Union”, the band played close to twenty minutes worth of new material that should ensure another excellent full-length sometime in the near future. The always endearing (and recently beardless) Stickles declared 2012 to be the year that pop-punk returns from its “dormant slumber”, and those sentiments were echoed in songs such as the excellent “My Eating Disorder”, which featured a cathartic cry of “spit it out” as it came to a close. Throughout, Stickles provided plenty of witty banter, and the group looked extremely loose and comfortable with their position as one of the bigger acts at the festival.

The band was taken aback when they found out they had about ten minutes left after getting through the new material, so Stickles declared that it was time to “take a ride on the Titus Time Machine”. “No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future” and “Titus Andronicus” were the perfect ways to end the group’s set, and they got the audience worked up into a sweaty and feverish frenzy that was only punctuated by Stickles singing the latter while crowd surfing. Titus Andronicus are without a doubt one of the best punk bands of this generation, and their set was more than a testament to that fact.

Chad Valley: Friday, 9pm, Latitude 30, NME/PPL Showcase:

One of the best surprises of the week came in the form of Chad Valley (aka Hugo Manuel of Jonquil), a rising producer/singer who provided an exciting set of Ibiza-inspired pop. While it’s not hard to get lost in the easy going vibes of his music, Valley’s live set was filled with loud and propulsive songs that filled the small space of Latitude 30 with plenty of sunny synths and danceable beats.

On top of his inspired and lush arrangements, Valley displayed his surprisingly expressive voice by belting out just about every second that he sang. He was seemingly going for it on every track, whether it was calling card “Now That I’m Real (How Does It Feel?)”, early release “Up and Down”, or any of the other songs in his set, and it gave his performance an edge that brought his work into a new light.

In fact, Valley is one of those rare artists whose recorded material is made stronger upon experiencing it live, as the little details and nuances begin to reveal themselves in a concert setting that may have been unrecognizable while sitting at home with a pair of headphones. His set defied and exceeded all of my expectations, and like the Rural Alberta Advantage a few SXSW’s ago, I was forced to reevaluate everything I had known about Chad Valley and embrace his music in the context of his performance.