Not unlike the title character of his "Stagolee," Nick Cave strode into Stubb's Wednesday night in Austin and left a trail of destruction. This was of the musical variety, luckily, as he and his Bad Seeds burned through an hour long set featuring songs from their latest, Push the Sky Away, as well as classic cuts like that "Stagolee," which no doubt had NPR Music holding heavy to the censor button during their 7-second delayed live broadcast.
Cave was intense, dressed all in black as he turned an unwavering gaze upon the packed house in front of him (which included Owen Wilson and Depeche Mode's David Gahan). He playfully antagonized, mocking the cell phone use of audience members, and adopted one lucky/unlucky guy at the foot of the stage as a kind of go-to prop, hugging his head at one point, pretending to shoot him at another. All in all, a master holding court with an inspired and inspiring display, although of the sort that might be just as likely to make a young band give it up all together. Speaking of younger bands, I purposely sought out two of those I've enjoyed most on record so far this year: The Virgins and Broncho, each of whom delivered in very different ways.
Sometimes a band looks nothing like they sound. The Virgins' sophisticated brand of rock is pure New York-- Lou Reed, Richard Hell and The Modern Lovers are all touchstones-- with a little "Breakdown"-era Petty & the Heartbreakers thrown in around the edges. Maybe I'd expected suit coats and a bit of graceful aging, but Donald Cummings (who's 31, but looks younger) and company wore thrift store™ and disheveled youth, not that it matters. A bit subdued on stage, not unlike Cumming's delivery, they nevertheless managed to win over a crowd many of whom seemed to be waiting for the Local Natives set that followed. The Virgins are at Lola's Room March 24th.
If there's one thing that Norman, Oklahoma's BRONCHO (all caps, as the band insists) isn't, it's subdued. They ripped through a 1am set at 521 that found the small, packed space of revelers spilling over one another in delight. Apparently down a guitarist and playing as a trio, there was no shortage of energy or volume from the band, as they played from their 2011 debut, Can't Get Past the Lips, a record that's a year and a half old, but has recently grown legs, and for good reason.
LA-area band Local Natives was on my list to see, primarily on the strength of their new record Hummingbird, chock full of hummable (and singable) choruses and clacking drum parts. Apparently I wasn't alone, as Lustre Pearl was packed and noisy -- cheering the band even as it soundchecked. The extended set that followed was the most joyful and participatory one I saw on Wednesday, as the crowd sang loudly and roared after every song, prompting the band to deliver an even more energetic attack on each song that followed. At the end, drummer Matt Frazier stood on a stack of cases and took a photo of the audience with his phone. When the crowd wouldn't stop cheering, the band returned for an encore -- the only encore I saw at SXSW -- and, as the band announced, the first unplanned encore they'd ever played. Local Natives will be at the Crystal Ballroom April 25 for a sold-out show. -- David Christensen
The German/Swiss duo BOY played a sweet set at the Convention Center Day Stage, showing their pretty folk-pop songs along the lines of last year's breakout band First Aid Kit. Word has it this band may be in Portland in the fall.
East of downtown, at Grackle, it was the Portland Party, with a day-long bill of bands from the Rose City, a saltwater pool (complete with underwater photo booth), and a lot of familiar faces hanging out and enjoying the warm Austin day. When I arrived, Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside was setting up to play the outdoor stage, Bike Thief was playing inside, and Brainstorm's Patrick Phillips was wearing the most appropriate attire for a SXSW pool party: swim trunks and the band's show schedule written in Sharpie. -- DC
See photos of the SXSW Portland Party, plus more photos of performances from Phosphorescent, Bajofondo, Hurray for the Riff Raff and others, HERE.
Watch Nick Cave's performance from Stubb's, as well as those from Alt-J, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Cafe Tecuba and more via NPR Music HERE.
Tagged: SXSW 2013