SXSW Wednesday: Extreme
posted by March 13 at 9:24 AMon
Thanks, Megan, for posting up my first great SXSW moment, Extreme Animals’ barely recognizable rendition of Archers of Loaf’s “Web in Front.” EXTREME! The duo’s set was only three, or maybe three-and-a-half, songs long, but it was a treat. Extreme Animals were my first exposure to the 20-sided neon world of Paper Rad, via a cantankerous noise-aficionado roommate (hey, Justin Pogue), and they will forever hold an eye-soring place in my heart. The duo consists of one mustachioed long-hair on drums and one on circuit bent Roland TR-707, casio, and feedback knobs, along with one laptop doing some vital sequencing. Believe it, Extreme Animals can pull of a feedback knob solo, even if “knob solo” sounds a little, well, wanky. They played on the floor in front of the stage at Emo’s JR, a kind-of-divey bar attached to the impressive outdoor complex that is Emo’s, but Mustache #2 got up on stage a couple times to do “metal claw” when he wasn’t dancing through the audience (breaking that fourth wall and running into the crowd would prove a theme at Emo’s Jr tonight). Their final song featured a “magic flute” solo; the two dudes pantomimed playing flutes while it played out. After their set, one of them said they had made a children’s show, and if we had children we should check it out. I don’t have kids, but maybe watching their show would encourage me to get someone pregnant.
Over in the Emo’s main room, Longwave were pretty but forgettable.
Back in Emo’s Jr, Free Blood, were awesome. Free Blood are a duo comprised of the tall, lanky, stage-stalking falsetto singer from !!! (John Pugh, who’s apparently done with !!! now) along with a girl named Madeline. They both sing over a thumping pre-recorded backing track that sounds a lot like the funkier electro moments of !!! or Out Hud; the vocals are reverbed no-wave soul. The girl slo-mo dances and rubs her face in a way that suggests mushrooms or ecstasy. Pugh meanders down into the crowd. One song has a brutal, synced-electirc (guitar?) solo; another has Pugh shouting out (his? her? Mike Jones’?) phone number. For another song, Pugh plays guitar, and asks an audience member to come be his mic stand; a guy named “Pickle” volunteers to great cheers and does a commendable job as a mic stand. He gets a hi-five out of Pugh afterwards (“That’s the first time a mic stand’s ever given me a hi-five). For the last song, Pugh and Madeline did a little slow dance while their beat played out. It was sweet.
Jeffrey Lewis showed up at Emo’s, just in time for Meneguar. Kirby and Seling may disagree with me here, but Meneguar strike me as a very middling rock band. I can see what they’re going forópop choruses buried under gyroscopic guitars and vocal reverb, Juno-esque instrumental buildups and breaks, occasional feedback rock bombastóbut it just doesn’t seem to come together, and their sound was muddled, with the reverb sucking all the energy from their would-be sing-along vocals.The noise bits between songs were fine, but the songs themselves? Meh. Meh-neguar.
In the main room, a band called Delta Spirit played some perfectly festival-friendly roots rock. Also, if you’ve never been, the “main room” at Emo’s isn’t really a room; it’s an open air courtyard with some awnings here, some bleachers there, and a bar in the middle. It’s awesome. It’s also 70 degrees here in March, so it works.
The first big disappointment of the night: Japanther have mysteriously disappeared from the bill at Emo’s Jr, to be replaced by fellow Brooklynites Team Robespierre. Bummer. Team Robespierre, it turns out, are a kind-of okay replacement, in fact, if I’d seen them under any circumstances other than expecting to see Japanther, I’d probably have nothing but good things to say. Their show combines a little Japanther, a little Matt & Kim, a little youth crew Hardcore, and a little Atom & His Package. There are dual keyboardists and dual vocalists. There is some dancing into the crowd. Also, Team Robespierre summon up the best/only mosh pit of the night, with kids crowd surfing on a crowd not quite big enough to support it, some dude loses the lens of his glasses, and lots of kids slamming into each other, opening huge holes in the crowd. Pretty fucking fun.
In the main room, Be Your Own Pet offered a much simpler version of punk, one built on frenetic three-chord thrash and cracked southern belle Jemima Pearl’s wailing. The band was much better than when I saw them last in Seattle, the instruments tighter, and Pearl’s stage presence more confident, oscillating between skinny spaz flailing and faux sexy snarl more convincingly than before.
Down the street, at the Thirsty Nickel, Diskjokke is playing in entirely the wrong bar. The Nickel is a wooden-walled saloon, long and narrow, with the stage right by the door, flanked by windows. Diskjokke is playing a laptop with a couple MIDI controllers, pumping out chill but grooving disco, but the crowd, packed up into the front, isn’t dancing. They’re watching. Watching a guy play a laptop. This is something I’ll just never understandóif you’re going to see someone make dance music, and if there’s not really any kind of a live show to speak of, why would you standing there staring instead of dancing? Pushing through the crowd, it turns out that it’s not so packed; the Nickel is huge, and there’s plenty of space further back, although the sound doesn’t carry. Oh yeah, did I mention that the sound system seems to consist of two PA speakers. Not really the kind of thump you want in your discotheque. I’ve been told that this is often how it is at SXSWórock bands end up playing dance clubs and sounding like shit, electronic act wind up at a honky tonk that doesn’t know what to do with them, etc. Oh well. I check back later for
Kim Hiorthoy LindstrÝm, who’s rocking an awesome V∞redoms t-shirt (Dave Segal tells me Boredoms’ EYE did a great remix for Kim Hiorthoy LindstrÝm [all those Norsemen look alike to me]), and the crowd has thinned out a bit and started dancing a little, but even just halfway back in the crowd, the sound is weak. It’s disappointing, as this line-up was one I was really looking forward to.
In other disappointment: Cut Copy at Karma was so crowded after I waited in line to get in (gasp!), that it was impossible to see or hear much of anything. The crowd was bouncing and clapping along up front though, and one guy’s head was visible above them, lit in neon green against the club’s dark. I was curious to see the Tough Alliance’s lip-synch power violence act, but not that curious.
Over at Barcelona, Pandemonium Jones of Caps & Jones was DJing a mellow warm-up set, climaxing with the Black Kids’ “I won’t Teach Your Boyfriend how to Dance.” Remember Black Kids? That’s a fine song. Barcelona is the venue that Lindstrom, Hiorthoy, and Diskjokke should’ve been playing at, a cool, neon-lit underground club, also long and narrow, but with a much better vibe for dancing. Next up were Ninjasonik, a trio of Bronx kids (and literal Black Kids), of whom my friend Jamie said, “You’ll hear them say ‘nigger’ a lot, and that’s kind of the whole point.” One of them has a pretty sweet Shock G/Humpty look going on. They sound-checked to Peter Bjorn & John’s “Young Folks,” played their DJ back in the booth. The transition from sound-check to actual set is murky, though, with their next numbers consisting of only various repeated iterations of their name (“Ninja fucking sonic / Sonic fucking ninjas”) and then the choruses from ODB’s “Yeah Baby I Like it Raw” and M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes,” for which they’ve made paper planes to throw from the stage at the handful of people gathered around. They never got around to dropping the N-bomb before I left.