SXSW Review: Laura Jane Grace, Big Phony, Graham Coxon, March 15, Central Presbyterian Church

Laura Jane Grace
Laura Jane Grace
Taking a break from Against Me!, Chicago native Laura Jane Grace played a few shows around Austin in support of Bought To Rot, her latest and first with new backing band The Devouring Mothers. She also performed here solo, without backing from The Devouring Mothers, and I can see why.

Her voice is bright, solid but not overwhelming. Angry and cathartic when she shouts, it felt as though she could take on the cavernous space regardless of the mic. Or maybe she was thinking for those poor Dickensian-looking hipster children in Austin who will be eaten as TDM runs free.

I found “The Airplane Song” very good, and same with “The Apology Song“. Sure, those titles aren’t creative, but it doesn’t matter when the contents are heartfelt. She did include at least one Against Me! number: “Cavalier Eternal”, which is so light it doesn’t seem possible for it to carry the lyrics. I came away from the concert convinced that “The Best Ever Death Metal Band” should have chosen “Hospital Bombers” for their name – after all, they’ve already uttered the diametrically unthinkable in a church.  

Big PhonyBig Phony
AKA Big Tony or Pony in Korea, NYC born Big Phony now lives in Seoul with his gravely voice and a lonely guitar. “My job is to bum you out – otherwise I’m not doing it properly”, he declared as soon as he finished MacGyver and it was opportune to speak. And Gods were we bummed out.

The guitar playing is less strumming and more classical. Most other songs are a type of lamentation meditation. Songs like Shoot the Shit (“this song isn’t that sad but it is about my dead father who passed in my teens”) speaks to the pains of disconnecting with family, but are never resolved except for a relieving note. And the beats are quite odd. He talks so much, half way through starting a song he would pause and drift onto another train of thought (but I secretly do admire his set for the honesty). Gods I hated this set, and I hate Big Phony just as he instructed me to.

Graham Coxon
Graham Coxon
When one shares a spot on a BBC list with Billy Corgan, Jack White, and Prince; one does not claim to “not know how to play the guitar to save one’s life”. But Graham Coxon did just that, I think as a perfectionist. The Blur guitarist has a voice that is quite distinctively, unmistakably English. And to be fair, that voice layers a British Morbid Dark (find it at your local Sherwin Williams) on more serious numbers.

“Latte” (not “Coffee and TV”) was pretty cute – with a fun chord that I bet would be difficult for me to do in the next life. Actually there are multiple instances of that slider type of chord – and I’m just mentally finishing it. “All Over Me” was one of the highlights for me, as well as “Sorrow’s Army” (I can’t stop hearing Sauron’s Army).

Coxon made use of the looper on quite a few occasions, and it was fun to see the layers like a tiramisu constructed right in front of you. Watching him employ huge glasses to read an equally huge book for chords and lyrics did remind me of my age, however.

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Posted on by Gary in South By Southwest

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