SXSW Review: The Heavy, March 17, Stage on Sixth

Posted on by Ricky in South By Southwest | 2 Comments

The Heavy became notorious a few years ago when they astounded the audience at the David Letterman show with an incredible rendition of their hit single “How You Like Me Now”. According to the PR emails I recieved, it was one of the few times in which Letterman asked a band to play again after their initial performance. It was primarily this reason why I was able to drag myself to the Stage on Sixth for their 1 am performance on Saturday at SXSW.

I was sober, my legs and back hurt and extremely tired from a week of SXSWing.

It was irrelevant.

The Heavy were amazing.

Lionel Ritchie and Jesus & Mary Chain aside, they easily put on my favorite show of SXSW.

Lead singer Kelvin Swaby’s charisma and showmanship is off the charts. Clearly coming from a soul revival/gospel background, Kelvin Swaby sings, preaches, engages the audiences and even sings directly into people’s faces. That’s right, throughout the show, he would pick out random people in the crowd, look them dead in the eye, put his face about five inches away from theirs and sings. Talk about a personal experience. There’s something to be said about a frontman who can engage the audience in a rousing call and response session for a completely new song that no one has heard before. That happened last night.

The Heavy’s blend of soul meets hard rock is one that I haven’t seen much, but the band makes it work. It’s riveting, energetic and definitely one that can garner a lot of attention, which is why I’m quite perplexed a band with such an amazing live show is still mostly obscure. This performance at SXSW might end that, be sure to check them out soon.

SXSW Review: The Arkells, March 15, Belmont

Posted on by Ricky in South By Southwest | Leave a comment

The Arkells are pretty big in Canada. I know this because they recently played the Sound Academy, which must be some sort of beacon that signifies they have made it. I have never really examined them because of their crappy band name. It’s a stupid reason, but I also judge a book by its thickness so I’m probably a dumb ass to some extent. Either way, as part of my #occupybelmont night at SXSW, I was able to see and hear these Hamilton upstarts for the first time.

While I found Arkell’s brand of gang chorus meets middle class story telling aggro rock isn’t my type of music, I can see how they appeal to the masses. First off, they have all the moves of a good live band. The three guitarists attack the stage with relentless aggression, taking turns going from the back of the stage to the front of the crowd either with their voices or their guitars. The timing of these surges was quite impressive as well, making it like they are doing synchronized moves. They also play with nice swagger and confidence. They EXPECT the audience to answer to their calls, and expect them to sing along. It exudes a certain amount of cool. I can definitely see this appealing to a certain demographic of people, most likely they drink 50s and have tattoos and a backwards hat.

The Arkells also seem to be dabbling in the Titus Andronicus/Hold Steady vibe, where lead singer Max Kerman almost preaches some middle class spewings over aggressive rock. He’s pretty good at it, but I’m not quite sure the message is quite there. Maybe I don’t identify with sayings like punch it out punch it in. The band seemed quite eager to let the crowd know they are from Hamilton as they mentioned it several times. Not quite sure if most people in the crowd know where that is, but it was kind of endearing.

I can see why the band has become popular in such a short period of time. Their honest to good blue collar rock doesn’t really come up too often in the hipper than thou Canadian indie scene so there’s definitely a market for it. I like my music to be a little more melodic (with a synthesizer, perhaps) but I did appreciate their cover of Spoon’s The Way We Get By

The Arkell’s Michigan Left is out in the states on April 10th.

SXSW Review: FEAR, March 15, Red 7 Patio

Posted on by Paul in South By Southwest | Leave a comment

On Thursday, March 15, a certain aging, gruff voiced rocker with a penchant for denim vests treated a crowd of diehard fans to some of his best known songs. No, no, not that guy from Jersey, though I hear he did alright for himself that night as well. No, I’m talking about Lee Ving, frontman for early ’80s punk legends FEAR. While they aren’t quite at the level that Bruce is, as I said there were quite a few fans there eager to hear old chestnuts like “Let’s Have A War” and “I Don’t Care About You.” And truth be told, they did sound pretty good. Well, to me anyways. Apparently the band couldn’t really hear much at all onstage, leading to Ving angrily berating the sound man and telling him since 2 of the monitors don’t work, he needs to turn the other two “way the fuck up.” Look, Lee, I get that you’re all punk and stuff. You’ve got a certain image to portray, and I get that you’re angry. But unless the sound guy was being a dick to you, maybe you need to chill out a bit. Maybe he was a dick though, so it’s really not my place to say.

Speaking of attitudes though, guitarist Dave Stark seemed kind of moody and annoyed throughout their set. Maybe it was the number of cameras in the crowd, which frankly, could be pretty annoying. Maybe he really didn’t want to be playing SXSW in general. Maybe the show just started too late and he wanted to go to sleep.