Yacht, the Marfa/Portland duo, namely Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans, with the precision moves, Duran Duran-meets-Eurythmics styling, tuxedo-clad band and won’t-escape-your-head refrains, was a Pretty in Pink picture of pizzazz’d up new wave.  We’ve loved songs like “Waste of Time” and “Summer Song” since hearing them eons ago in a “much more fashionable” (ahem) setting, so experiencing them as a first course in our official Friday SXSW evening at the showcase was the amuse-bouche to get the night started with a pleasant taste in our mouths.

The Death Set were the most appropriate band to follow, shaking it up and tearing it down after the “rebellious 80′s prom night” set of Yacht. It’s always interesting to see how a band preps their stage; the Death Set do it with an almighty radio that can play anything loud and hailing from within the past 60 years, and while doing sound check, they liberally dosed the crowd with blips, beer left over from Yacht’s set and any equipment they found useless. Most Yacht fans, and Yacht, left the building, quickly. The Death Set are loud.  We were instantly mesmerized and couldn’t tear ourselves away.

These are the loud, dirty, party people; you met them once and had a blast, you can’t hang out with them again unless you’re ready to do it forever. As a fucking welcome contrast to the Jimmy Jagger “bad boy” PG-13 faux show of last night, these guys don’t play to amuse, they play to get you to stop paying attention to yourself and just bloody dance. Their crowd does the mosh pit, the newcomers join the mosh pit, the most fey and adorable boys and girls join the mosh pit, and now they get it from the fringes and come inside. I wish there were more Brit bands like that at this year’s SXSW, but it seems they all went over to some sappy post-New Order shit over there now, and sound instead like The Drums (not that we don’t like said Drums, but where’s the roar of Rolo Tomassi-type kids when you need them?)

The Anti-Pop Consortium era was widely established in the early 2000s, and tonight at the Independent at 501 Studios (and courtesy of label Ninja Tune), they came on stage and made their beats live.  Their poetry made Mos Def seem sort of shy and silent, and then they disappeared. I almost panned their fourth full release, Fluorescent Black, because it sounded too much like them, but wasn’t original enough. This temporary dislike all flew out the window at tonight’s show.  They opened with an infectious, parasitic beat session, slowly grinding and building to a near release, and I remembered how their shows feel and how the records don’t seem to do the justice to this spontaneous quartet.

APC are organized in their performance, but their abilities are too many to ever fit into a recording. They should be experienced live show after live show, and thankfully, just as at my first time around, at the Frying Pan in New York (being one the most gnarly after parties for years), at tonight’s set at the Ninja Tune showcase, their crowds are full of weed and dance and awesome chants.

APC also seems a lot more relevant today than ten years ago, since it feels that the proliferation of pop is maybe (hopefully) abating, as more audiences are tuning into acts directly.

Speaking of pop, we ended our evening on an indie surf-pop note at the NME showcase at Latitude 30, seeing Brooklyn’s The Drums.  And here’s where two editors for the same mag were split.  One remarked, ‘One song of theirs is great, I thought the rest would be better, but alas, the single is the single reason for me to listen to them, but the conductor movements of the lead Jonathan Pierce aren’t enough to keep me interested.’  The other finds their set more stirring than any run of the mill, sunny, bland surf pop since they wear their heart on their sleeves, and their sound verges on the emotional outpourings of the best Manchester-style miserables (namely Morrissey and Joy D).  They’re all hooks and ice, but it’s their Wildean, bittersweet sincerity that’s key.–Zabatay and Madeline Virbasius/videos by Zabatay

  1. [...] in NYC will have three more chances to see The Drums, as we did at SXSW last year, in much more intimate settings, opening for Matthew Dear at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn as well as shows at Tribeca Grand and [...]