SXSW Review: Bishop Allen, Radar Room, March 19

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Bishop Allen, March 18, SXSW, Radio Room

Austin – It was a hot, sweaty Texas afternoon on the second day of SXSW and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend it then to stand in a crowded outdoor tent with no air circulation on the patio of the Radar Room for the Paste Magazine Party. With a lineup outside spanning more a block, we were lucky enough to get into the showcase just in time to catch another Brooklyn favorite of ours – Bishop Allen.

The band were doing a full assault on SXSW in promotion of their new album Grrr… (reviewed here) which was released on March 10. Thursday’s afternoon affair was the first of a few shows planned to win over some new fans. Wearing many shades of plaid (Texas has given me a new appreciation for plaid), the band took to the stage and started singing their blend of tweeish indie pop. The band was larger then I expected, with two guitarists, a bassist, a drummer and some chick on the xylophone. This larger band created a more vibrant sound, much like the album, but better.

Since this set was about 40 beers and 20 bands ago, I cannot really recall the entire set list, but it was a steady diet of material from their new album and I think one track ‘Like Castenets’ from their previous LP. Songs like ‘The Ancient Commonsense of Things’ and ‘Dimmer’ got a good reaction from the packed crowd. The guitar and vocal interplay between singers Justin Rice and Christian Rudder works extremely well in a live environment. My only disappointment from the show was that the set was waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too short. It seemed like they were cut off for some stupid reason and that was high on the not-cool-a-meter. To my delight, the song about the Chinese city – ‘Shanghai’ was the closer and had a great crowd reaction.

To sum it up, good showing, too short a set, left me wanting more.

SXSW: Matt and Kim, March 19, Opal’s Divine Freehouse

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Austin – Taking time off from opening for Aussie band Cut Copy, Matt and Kim flew all the way down from Toronto to play a one night only set to a packed house at the Opal’s Divine Freehouse. I am guessing on the way over, they had an extra strong dose of happy pills. As I’ve said before in podcast and my review of their album Grand, Matt and Kim always seem happy. Well, at their SXSW showcase Thursday night, they were definitely happy to see us, and man, were we happy to see them.

I can’t even begin to describe the energy of this show. It was out of this world. The front of the crowd were definitely crazy hipster Matt and Kim fans, which resulted in mosh pits, crowd surfing and everything you can imagine during the set. I don’t think I have seen a more enthusiastic crowd yet at SXSW. When you get cool as ice hipsters losing their mind with some drum beats, shout along choruses and synth melodies, you know you have something special. I don’t remember what track they started with (it was off Grand), but from the first song to the last, Matt and Kim brought enough energy to the venue to power a small African country. Matt is about the most insane keyboard player I have ever seen, playing sitting down, standing up, standing on his bench, falling off the stage .. everything. He would pump his fist, yell at the crowd, scream at people and just do all kinds of crazy shit during the set. I liken him to a male cheerleader on cocaine. Kim was equally as cheery, jumping up and cheering, singing along, clapping, etc. It was one big happy fest. Gary thought they were a bit too patronizing with all the ‘thank you’ and ‘we really appreciate you guys’ but I thought it was actually quite genuine.

Obviously the hit ‘Yea Yeah’ was the biggest success of the show, but new tunes such as ‘good ole fashion nightmare’ and ‘daylight’ scored big with the crowd as well. Every song scored well, I think. One of the best moments of the night was when they made everyone in the venue put their hands into the air, then proceeded to play Europe’s Final Countdown intro riff. Awesome.

I had a blast at the Matt and Kim show at SXSW, and highly recommend you seeing them. The energy of the show was absurdly infectious and it helps that their music is pretty good too.

SXSW Review: Hot Panda, March 18, Beauty Bar

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Austin – In what was purely coincidental, our first show of SXSW was seeing a Canadian band from Edmonton who just arrived from Toronto (CMW). Our initial interest was to see Project Jenny Project Jan, but we arrived earlier and unexpected saw this band. The band is called Hot Panda Wade had pimped them up for CMW, I am not sure whether he saw them or not.

Having arrived just 20 minutes prior to their show, Hot Panda quickly setup and started their blend of honest eclectic Canadian dance rock (seems like all Edmonton bands are that way, a bit weird, but still Canadian..must be the winters). Unfortunately, there was only about 15 people in the audience and the bar wasn’t an open bar yet. Talking to the band afterwards, they seemed to be quite nice people and were genuinely excited to be at SXSW. They also seemed to be quite happy about the open bar as well.

This is a short review, but it was a short show…and I have a short memory.

SXSW Review: Von Blondies, Vice Lounge, March 18, 2009

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Austin – Heading into SXSW, one of the bands that were really high on the list in terms of ‘must see’ was Scottish band ‘Glasvegas’. I had missed them when they toured Toronto previously, and the tickets for their show on April 1st had sold out quickly. In order to ensure that I was going to be able to see Glasvegas, the Panic Manual team decided to get to the Vice Lounge quickly. This meant seeing both Von Blondies and PBJ before they came on.

First, a little bit about Von Blondies – They are a garage rock outfit from Detroit best known for their association with Jack White. By association, I mean lead singer Jason Stollsteimer’s face made love to Jack White’s fist over and over again. I am sure you have seen the pictures on TMZ or Smoking Gun by now so no need to post it. It was a pretty brutal beating, not like Mankind – Undertaker Hell in the Cell beating, but pretty close. The Von Blondies have been pretty silent since the Motown Music Mayhem, but in 2009, they finally released their follow up LP to their hit album Pawn Shoppe Hearts, It’s called Love, Hate and then There’s You. With a new album in tow, the Detroit band naturally hit up SXSW.

The Vice Lounge was packed when we arrived for the show. I mean fire alarm hazard packed. I don’t want to blow any whistles but I am pretty sure violated many fire regulation codes during the time I was there. However, this is the Wild Wild West and I guess anything goes. There was very little room to spare when we got in about 10 minutes into the set. To be entirely honest, I was very busy finding a seat to really pay attention to the concert I do know this – they were pretty good. Their honest blend of guitar rock layered with Jason’s solid yelling type vocal delivery was a perfect fit for this crowd, which was peppered with people wearing many, many combinations of plaid shirts. I had no idea that there were so many kinds of plaid shirts, but now…I know. I guess this wasn’t much of a review, the new material sounded similar to the old material and the crowd went pretty nuts when the opening riff of ‘C’mon C’mon’ went on. I was instantly transported back to a time when I was five years younger and remembered ‘hmm that song was pretty good’.

I haven’t heard much of their new album, but my fond memories of pushing through the crowd and finding a sitting spot besides two really old people will definitely inspire me to check out how the new album is.