SXSW Day 2: You win some, you lose some

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Thoughts on my second afternoon at SXSW after the jump...

My second afternoon in Austin didn't feel as productive as the first, though I saw almost as many bands and was thoroughly rocked more than once. Blame it on the wrong turns and long lines that kept me from seeing everything I wanted to.

I did, however, achieve my first goal of the day: Seeing Constantines at the AV Club's party at Emo's. The Toronto band has been one of my favorites for years now, ever since I saw them open for (and upstage) the Wrens. I'd been waiting to see them again for about four years now, and while this performance didn't live up to our previous encounter, it was wonderful to see these guys in action again. Their Fugazi+Springsteen bit would have gone over a little better had the guitars been louder, but "Young Offenders" would rock at any volume, and the wide selection of tracks from their first three albums satisfied me as someone who hasn't heard their new Kensington Heights yet. I wonder, though, if the minimal number of new songs means the band doesn't think much of its new record?

Next I tried to see Destroyer at Maggie May's, but it turned out that's not where the Stereogum/Paste party was after all. On the plus side, Maggie May's was giving away free barbecue along with cole slaw, potato salad and baked beans, so I'll say I broke even on that one. (Sorry, Destroyer.)

Not having any definite plans for an hour or so, I decided to wander back to the Fader Fort and finish up my recap of Wednesday's action in their computer center. Then I went outside to watch Grand Ole Party, which turned out to be a sort of blend between Sleater-Kinney and the White Stripes—the drummer/singer channeling Corin Tucker's banshee wail while joining the guys on her flanks in stirring up some funk-infused blues-rock stomp. I'd expect to see more of this trio in the future.

I headed to the Filter party at Cedar Street with Be Your Own Pet in mind, but I had to wait through The Duke Spirit first. I shouldn't put it that way, though—the soulful UK rock band was certainly enjoyable, though their success was as much about platinum blond singer Liela Moss' seductive stage presence as the well-conceived but unmemorable music.

Speaking of star power, holy cow Jemima Pearl! The platinum blond (noticing a trend?) frontwoman was born for the stage. As her band Be Your Own Pet banged out incendiary punk rock, the teenage singer let loose with frenzied bouncing, teeth-rattling vocals and hilarious banter. (Best of the day, inspired by some malfunctioning brand-new equipment: "Nathan goes through basses like people with gonorrhea go through underwear.") Though she never drops her punk-rock sneer—even off stage—Jemima still carries herself like a kid. But from the second the music kicked in, she rocked with authority. She's a natural at this stuff. Don't get to thinking this is a one-woman show, though. Her bandmates are young guns who play like old pros, balancing fierce energy with precise execution. Pick up their new Get Awkward next week.

It was going to be hard to top Be Your Own Pet, especially if you're an aging Swedish pop star who had one stateside hit in the '90s. Yes, "Show Me Love" is all most people know Robyn for—if they know her at all—but in the past few years, music bloggers have gone crazy for the platinum blond's (see?) dalliances into futuristic dance pop. In a black dress that looked more like a cape wrapped around her, Robyn looked more like a matriarch than a music star, but as with Jemima Pearl, her demeanor changed as soon as the music kicked in. Her stage moves were kind of funny, hands waving everywhere like a hip-hop dancer, but she certainly had some kind of appeal. It's a shame her show fell prey to technical difficulties. After her band—two drummers plus a gu on keyboards/laptop—spent an eternity setting up, the laptop malfunctioned and deprived the group of their digital backing tracks, save for the first song. They made do, but the makeshift renditions of her would-be hits didn't have the same va-va-voom of that first song, which was practically punk rock for all the fuzz it had built up by its conclusion.

I failed to get back into Fader Fort for an all-star Lou Reed tribute, so this afternoon report has come to a close. I probably won't have Thursday night recapped until tomorrow morning, so I look forward to seeing you back here then for a boatload of content.