SXSW Review: Starcrawler, Jukebox The Ghost, March 15, Cedar Street Courtyard

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Starcrawler, March 15, 2018

“You guys are such a fun crowd …”

If it wasn’t clear from her tone as she crouched on the stage, back half-turned from the audience, Starcrawler vocalist Arrow de Wilde was being facetious and she and her bandmates weren’t totally feeling their afternoon set as part of FLOODfest playing before an audience made up of a lot of older folks, probably a fair number of them media and industry types. Not necessarily their ideal crowd, though the band put on a great show regardless.

And for those for whom it still wasn’t entirely clear (but really, it was pretty damn clear), then surely there was no doubt once the show really got going. It was a pure punk rock performance – de Wilde spitting water onto the crowd, grabbing some dude’s SXSW badge and tossing it into the crowd (don’t worry, he got it back), stealing someone else’s drink and tossing it on the ground (not really sure if she got it back), and finally invading the crowd in a state of mock distress, fake blood coming out of her mouth (at least I hope it was fake) as she roamed about, smearing the blood on the FLOODfest banners scattered around the venue and trying to pull one down at one point. She also probably frightened a young girl in attendance and ended the set by walking up the stairs into Cedar Street’s backstage VIP area as if in a trance before exiting the venue through the alleyway. All in a days work.

Jukebox the Ghost, March 15, 2018

if Starcrawler are like the cool kids skipping class, getting high behind the school, and generally fucking shit up, then Jukebox The Ghost, who followed them on the Cedar Street stage, are more like the nice guys you’d tell your mom you were hanging out with when you were actually with the cool kids instead. I don’t think that Jukebox The Ghost would entirely disagree with that assessment themselves. After all, they did play a song on this occasion about getting older and growing up called “Boring.”

This is not to say that the group were boring – while Starcrawler’s dramatic, over the top performance is probably more my speed, I will admit that Jukebox The Ghost is not without their charms. Running through a set comprised of older numbers and tracks off of their upcoming album Off To The Races, the band put on an impressive show with some of the highlights being “Fred Astaire” and the Fastball-esque “People Go Home.” They also reminded me a bit of Queen at times. And really, it’s hard to hate too much on any band that occasionally sounds a bit like Queen and also busts out a keytar solo during their set. Yes, these guys definitely have some chops.

SXSW Review: Palm, March 15, Fader Fort

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One of the best things about checking out a show at Fader Fort (other than the copious amounts of free booze and Vitamin Water, obviously) are the moments when a band that makes music that’s a little left of centre performs there before a crowd that’s probably mostly there to check out some of the pop and hip hop acts on the bill (and also the free booze and Vitamin water). Seeing people’s faces as they suss out exactly what this act is all about is always fun to see. One such act was Philadelphia’s Palm, who opened up the second day of Fader Fort’s programming with their experimental art rock.

Palm’s music offers up an intriguing blend of out there psychedelia with an undercurrent of poppy melodies buried somewhere in there. It sounds a bit like what might happen if The Beta Band, Battles and Jeff Lynne teamed up, got super baked, and tried their hand at writing a prog rock album. Oh, and their guitars sometimes sound like steel pans, which is awesome, obviously.

Palm’s latest, Rock Island, is out now on Carpark Records. Check it out.

SXSW Review: Shopping, Latitude 30, March 15

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An English trio who just recently released their third album The Official Body, Shopping brought a manic energy and energized the crowd on Thursday night as part of the British Embassy’s showcase.

Featuring a relentless beat and punctuated by Rachel Aggs’ non stop jagged guitar riffs (and endless enthusiasm), Shopping’s live show really highlighted the punchy elements of their post punk sound. I really like the three member’s vocal interplay throughout each song and it really makes the group’s music sound quite fresh, with the highlight being “The Hype,” a song we wrote about a bit earlier in the month.

An enjoyable set.

SXSW Review: Soccer Mommy, March 14, Container Bar

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Though Soccer Mommy were seemingly plagued by issues with the sound mix in their monitors, there certainly wasn’t anything noticeably off about their sound from an audience perspective during a Wednesday afternoon set at Container Bar. Live, the band put on a solid performance despite any issues as they ran through a short set dominated by songs off of the recently released Clean with some of the highlights including “Your Dog” and the somewhat Julie Doiron-esque “Still Clean.”

Soccer Mommy the band does not feature any actual soccer moms but is in fact the project of 20 year old Sophie Allison. It started out as a bedroom recording project before blossoming into a full band and while there’s still a bit of that lo-fi bedroom pop vibe in songs like “Blossom (Wasting All My Time)” and the aforementioned “Clean,” the tunes also have a fair bit of sonic heft and depth to them.

While Allison’s music has indie rock as a sonic touchstone and she’s stated that she’s taken influence from the likes of Avril Lavigne and Taylor Swift, she chose a song from a songwriter of an earlier vintage to cover as one of a pair of solo songs she played without the band towards the end of her set – Bruce Springsteen. And even if it is one of the more commonly covered of The Boss’s tunes, her stripped-down version of “I’m On Fire” sounded absolutely lovely.