Thursday at SXSW saw everything from Danish revelations to Orange County punks and Perfect Pussy, who played a bridge at 2am and ended it by chucking their bass in the river. Here’s NME’s Barry Nicolson and Jenn Five to tell you more…
BN: “My Thursday begins with a flurry of emails and text messages from friends, relatives and colleagues asking if I’m OK. For a moment, I’m indignant – just how drunk do they think I was last night? – but I soon discover the extent of the tragedy at Red River street, which I hadn’t known the night before. Personally, I feel a little strange about enjoying a day of beer, BBQ and live music after everything that’s happened, but to say it’s coloured the mood of the festival would be misleading: 6th street is still a carnival of colours, sounds and weirdness, and none of the bands I see on Thursday even make mention of it. People seem determined not to let it bring them down.
“With that in mind, I head down to The Side Bar, where I stumble across my big revelation of the week. Baby In Vain are three girls from Copenhagen – none of whom look older than 16 – who play doom-laden stoner-rock that has me scooping my jaw off the floor within seconds of walking in. The lead guitarist, Lola Hammerich, is not only possessed of a badass name, but she can play like a motherfucker, casually tossing out big-balled riffs that would cause Tony Iommi to question his manliness. I can’t urge you enough to check these girls out.
“Casual Sex are on after them, and despite bassist Pete Masson telling me he’s worried about coming across as wimpy by comparison, the Glaswegian quartet decide to ham it up even more than usual, with frontman Sam Smith stopping the show to re-apply his lipstick and talking about what a ‘sensitive lover’ guitarist Edward Wood was last night. I’ve seen these guys a couple of times already this week, and they keep getting better: their wry, dextrous post-punk shares a lot of DNA with Wire and Public Image, but they’re idiosyncratic enough to stand out from the multitude of other bands that statement could also apply to. If you haven’t heard them already, their debut album should be out soon(ish), and it promises to be great.
“From there, I head across the street to Swan Dive, where Ages And Ages have packed the place out. They’re a six-piece folk-rock ensemble from Portland, but you could probably guess that much just by looking at them: one member’s entire raison d’être seems to be playing quirky wooden percussion instruments, and they all look like a milligram of gluten would end them. Musically, they’re like a locally-sourced Arcade Fire, and it’s easy to imagine them getting big – at least in the States, where people seem to love this sort of thing. After that, it’s down to the Red Eyed Fly to catch a few songs from L.A’s Bad Suns, who sound a bit like Peace if they’d been reared on wheatgrass shakes and sunshine, instead of warm cider and boredom. They’re pretty good, too, even if their leather-jacketed frontman is handsome enough to make me instinctively suspicious of them.
“A scheduling mix-up means that when I arrive back at Swan Dive to see Vancouver Sleep Clinic, I’m met instead with some ghastly British band (I don’t stick around long enough to catch their name) who are brazenly bottom-feeding from The Script’s stagnant pop-rock pond. As fast as my increasingly-heavy feet can carry me, I make tracks for Brazos Hall, where I resolve to camp out for the next couple of hours, a decision that has as much to do with extreme tiredness as it does the free bar. First up are Roman Remains, the new project from The Duke Spirit’s (remember them?) Leila Moss and Toby Butler. They’ve reinvented themselves as industrial-tinged electro-rockists, but it remains all about Leila, who’s as watchable as ever. They’re followed by Austin alt-rockers Ume (pronounced oooh-may), who have a kickass frontwoman of their own in the diminutive form of Lauren Larson, who spends much of the gig attempting to use her hair as a melee weapon.
“Afterwards, I trek all way the over to the Gypsy Lounge to catch The Garden, one of the buzzier bands at SXSW this year. They’re twin brothers with superhuman bone structure who play weird, puerile punk songs that last about 20 seconds apiece (when they’re not making hip-hop that sounds like it was pieced together on an ancient iteration of Garageband, that is). They’re Hedi Slimane’s latest muse, and needless to say, they’re not the sort of band you’re likely to be ambivalent about: you’ll either love them, or you’ll really, really hate them.”
Finally, as is traditional at SX, there was a secret, word of mouth show on a bridge about a mile out of town late last night. You might recall how Merchandise and Parquet Courts played the same show last year and caused total carnage. This year, Perfect Pussy did the same, and photographer Jenn Five was there to capture the action.
And over on the Lamar Street footbridge, raucous band, Perfect Pussy (above and below) unload their instruments and set up amongst the crowd to play an unannounced 2 a.m. slot. During their short set, frontwoman Meredith Graves twirls in her sequin silver floor length skirt before erupting in a chaotic scream.
Oblivious to the fact the show could be shut down at any minute the band play a forceful, loud set, ending with bassist Greg Ambler throwing his bass over the rails and into the river.
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