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  • Filed under: News
  • 03/26/2009

XLR8R’s SXSW Wrap-up

As usual, the XLR8R crew hit the venerated South By Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas last week. But rather than present you with a straight-up best-of, we picked a slew of memorable moments and sounds to take you into the year ahead. Lulu McAllister and Ken Taylor

Ulrich Schnauss @ Elysium
If there was some extra richness to Ulrich Schnauss’ performance on the first night of SXSW, it was thanks to the addition of Rob McVey and Ryan Policky of Denver-based outfit A Shoreline Dream—a welcome surprise, since Schnauss had been the only one on the billing for that evening. The two acts have been teaming up in the studio lately, and churning out mesmerizing results like “neverChanger,” and their live act is all the better: a shoegaze orgy of reverb, warm fuzz, and disappearing rhythms that evolved into ambient techno when McVey and Policky stepped back to let Schnauss slowly dive into his own set. LM

The Coathangers @ The Red Eyed Fly
At the Red Eyed Fly outdoor stage, Atlanta punk foursome The Coathangers screamed its way through otherwise endearing songs about noisy neighbors (“I don’t need an alarm clock/Because I’ve got your feet”) and other little things that usually piss people off. Manic drumming, screechy guitars, an artfully smashed keyboard to create just the right tonal discord, and enough yelling to force Bikini Kill to pop in a pair of earplugs. LM

Kap Bambino @ Elysium
Bourdeaux, France duo Kap Bambino may have encountered an unfair share of technical problems during its set Wednesday night, but nothing was gonna stop singer Caroline Martial’s feverishly hot stage show from going down in SXSW history. In fact, once programmer Orion Bouvier gave his synth-and-drum-machine set-up a dismissive, last-ditch-effort whack (after countless signal cut-outs), it was all systems go for the pair to deliver 40-odd caffeinated minutes of dripping mascara, high kicks, discarded clothing, and a flurry of beats and wails en français. KT

Vivian Girls @ Red 7
While the first of Vivian Girls’ 18 Austin shows last week wasn’t a complete knockout, we heard that plenty of their later gigs were (so, yes, we feel compelled to mention them here). On this particular day, sound wasn’t on the Girls’ side, but with the sun shining down on the Brooklyn trio, they still nicely banged out their jangly guitar rock (ca. 1996 K Records) for a late-afternoon audience. We couldn’t seem to get enough of the ’60s girl-group vibe of “Second Date,” which came across a little sloppy but with a lotta charm. KT

Thao and the Get Down Stay Down @ Club DeVille
Thao Nguyen should hardly be so humble, but onstage it seems like that’s the only card she’s got in her hand. Strange, considering her acoustic-guitar-driven rockers, in which she caroms from sensitive whispers to aching yelps, are so mind-blowingly beautiful. We first got caught up in her wonderful web via the Cat Power-esque “Beat,” but after seeing her today, we’re damn pleased we stuck around for the rest. KT

Late of the Pier @ La Zona Rosa
Playing to an unlikely crowd of Discovery-Channel-Store-toy-wielding rave kids and em-blazered douchebags (who were actually looking forward to opener Pete Tong… Seriously, we had no idea he was playing ’til we got there), Late of the Pier packed the far-flung Zona Rosa, one of SXSW’s larger venues. The DFA newcomers twitched side by side amid thick washes of Technicolored light, bringing their lukewarm synth-punk material to life with a collective charisma built on individual charms: a David Bowie wannabe slinking around the Korgs, a couple of guitar-wielding dudes with ill-fitting pants to his left, and a redhead on drums. LM

Francis and the Lights @ Emo’s
After watching his primo video for “The Top,” I would’ve made the effort to see Francis Farewell Starlite live just to dig on his compulsively crazy feet. Rest assured, his Emo’s performance, which keenly showcased his vocabulary of movement, surpassed my expectations (although, I was grateful when he recreated the choreography from his video). And, as if his moves weren’t impressive enough, the man has vocal style for miles. Staring intensely at nothing in particular and grimacing on the juicy notes—which were usually sung in falsetto—Starlite eccentrically channeled Prince and Peter Gabriel with added blue-eye-soul appeal. LM

Marnie Stern @ Club DeVille
Lita Ford’s always needed a bit of an indie-rock cred resurrection, and via Marnie Stern, the blonde-haired vixen guitarist with a penchant for speed-tapping solos lives on in the hearts of Kill Rock Stars fans the world over. Sure, Stern’s shtick can get a little tiresome if you’re trying to ingest her record, but in the live setting it works like a motherfucker. KT

Telepathe @ Red 7
Busy Gangnes and Melissa Livaudais moved more than just the asses of the pair of interpretive-dance fly girls that flanked them onstage during their set on the Red 7 patio. Reductive, sizzling synths, harrowing chants, and subdued bits of thumping Miami bass and electronic drums drive these girls’ indie dance tracks, but its their dedication to the beat that keeps bodies moving. KT

Steed Lord @ Elysium
Oh, Lord. This stereotypically flaxen Northern European pair’s Elysium performance felt like the result of two friends who bonded over a love of Paul Oakenfold at a Star Trek convention in 1995. He was all in black, with a lock of flouncy, Flock of Seagulls hair bouncing along to an endless supply of club-ready chest pumps; she ponced around stage in a Rainbow-Brite-meets-Darth-Vader getup with a Spice Girls-style high ponytail trailing behind. Their insane energy had me wondering what they do to unwind once they return to their planet—er, Iceland. LM

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