SXSW Short Reviews: Class Actress, Boxer Rebellion, Tahiti 80, Clock Opera

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Austin – Here are some shorter reviews of bands I saw.

Boxer Rebellion

Boxer Rebellion played the anchor slot of British Embassy Tuesday night showcase and the well coiffed Nathan Nicholson and his band delivered a stellar, straight forward performance of select tracks off their new album The Cold Still. Unfortunately for them, they played after Pulled Apart By Horses, a band whose antics left the crowd in a daze. In comparison, the Boxer Rebellions brand of straight up melodic rock might have seemed kind of tame. They did play a song about kidnapping though, so that counts for something.

The Boxer Rebellion – These Walls Are Thin by TBR

Class Actress

Class Actress is Elizabeth Harper, a Brooklyn singer whose heartfelt dramatic electronic beats are well suited for parties at 3 am. Sadly, her timeslot was at 3pm and it was a bit awkward to walk from a bright and sunny day into a dark night club with some deep, dark beats. Despite the small crowd, Elizabeth did a nice job delivering the Class Actress experience. Dressed in an oversized dress shirt and flanked by two dudes on electronic gadgets, Elizabeth sang her tracks over some nice throbbing beats. Maybe it was her dress shirt, but at times I thought it was some drunk recently heart broken/repressed chick on stage singing karaoke. Maybe that was the point. Her debut record Journal of Ardency is out now.

Class Actress: Journal of Ardency by TheMusicFile

Clock Opera, Bat Bar,SXSW

Playing before the debut of Ellie Goulding, I had originally pegged Clock Opera as an appetizer before the main course. At some point during their set, it hit me – these guys were really good. Featuring a bassist, a drummer and lead singer Guy Connelly who was on synths, Clock Opera played some catchy electronic tracks. Guy’s semi heartbreak/dramatic vocals work really well with the type of electronic music they are creating. I dont know much else about these guys, but they are definitely a band I’ll keep my eye on in the future.

Belongings by moshi moshi music

Tahiti 80

Confined to a dark night club, Tahiti 80‘s sunny French pop music seemed terribly misplaced for a SXSW show. Still the veterans carried on, previewing tracks off their third album The Past, The Present, & The Possible. The bands summery laid back pop music seemed like a complete derivative of their personalities, as each member of the band seemed to have been having a blast. Even a guitar problem, which forces one of the members to restring his guitar, did not seem to faze these guys. It would have killed a younger band, for sure. The short set ended with hit single Heartbeat, much to the crowd (and my) delight.

SXSW Review: The Black Lips, Club DeVille, March 18

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Austin – The Black Lips are a good time. Playing Club De Ville on Thursday night to test out some “new shit” that’s due out in June, the Atlanta band absolutely rocked the crowd on Thursday night.

It only took about two songs before a mosh pit started. I don’t know the Black Lips well, but it was a catchy punk rock tune that evoke shades of the 70s NYC punk scene. As the set progressed I came to realize that the Black Lips are basically a classic 60s era pop band squeezed through a punk rock sieve. The result is surprisingly catchy tracks with some heavy edge. Analysis aside, The band basically played some kick ass rock and roll on Thursday, including O Katrina, one of the few tracks I know about. The band was quite lively on stage, spitting water, going into the crowd, kicking up a mess and generally giving the crowd a nice dose of adrenaline. Any band that refers to video projections as “magic time” gets good grades in my books.

Their new album is called Arabia Mountain, and it’s produced by Mark Ronson. Sounds like a good combination.

Black Lips – O Katrina! by todaystune

SXSW Review: Men Without Hats, Club DeVille, March 19

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Men Without Hats

Austin – Men Without Hats was undoubtedly one of the most unique shows I have ever went to. Now for some background, Men Without Hats are a Canadian 80s new wave band that gained popularity with hit singles The Safety Dance and Pop Goes The World. You have heard those songs before. They were the headliners for NXNE‘s showcase in Austin, at a nice and late time of 1 am.

My pure interest in attending this showcase was just to hear The Safety Dance and also, to just say that I saw them. I’m sure a small minority at Club Deville were in that group. As I soon found out, the majority of the people at the show were big Men Without Hat fans who I suspect have been waiting awhile to see these guys.

Starting about ten minutes past one, Men Without Hats lead singer came on stage to a rapturous applause. Dressed in a leather hat and wearing those weird sunglasses that I thought only Bono wore, the rather well tanned Ivan Doroschuk looked like he just stepped out of his house in Fort Lauderdale for the show.

The mostly way over 30 crowd didn’t care. They were putty in this man’s hands. It became pretty apparent that most people here knew lyrics to all the songs and with Ivan Doroschuk’s baritone voice, pointed deliveries and classic rock star stage moves, the atmosphere quickly got festive.

One woman fan appeared to be the time of her life. Probably in her early forties, I am sure that she had waited her whole life to see this band. She had also secured one of the few chairs available in Club Deville and so at the start of the show, she was comfortably sitting. However with the first strings of the first song, her excitement was unstoppable and she had to get up. There she threw her first awkward double fist pump, yet for most of the song, despite wanting to get closer to see her heroes, she would only stray a few inches from her chair, not wanting to lose such a valuable resource. “What if I had to sit? I’m old and it’s 1am!” she must have thought. However, as Men Without Hats played what I suppose to be hit after hit, the woman got more and more excited and probably thought “fuck it” and abandoned the chair in favor of rushing to the front of the stage. It was quite heartwarming to see music give people such an excitable rush. My photographer Derek then took the chair.

Okay back to the show, obviously I am unaware of any Men Without Hats songs besides the two I mentioned. The crowd was loving it all though. When the opening beats of the Safety Dance emerged, people just lost it. They started doing the wave and even Ivan did it. At this point, I fully realized how it would feel to be on board those classic rock boat cruises that are thrown together once in awhile. I was on that rock cruise. Obviously the song inspired a singalong and also… wait for it… a CONGA line! Seriously. It was kind of amazing. Pop goes the world ended the set and I am pretty sure you couldn’t find a happier group of concert goers that night.

1. Jumpin Jack Flash (Rolling Stone Cover)
2. Moonbeam
3. Antarctica
4. I Got The Message
5. Living in China
6. Safety Dance
7. Pop Goes The World

8. I Like

Safety dance from NOW Magazine on Vimeo.

SXSW Review: Spinto Band, March 16, Red Eye Fly

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Austin – What happens when you mix a kazoo, quirky humor, 60s inspired melody and a six piece band? You get The Spinto Band, a band that originally caught my interest in 2005 with their amazing sounding single Oh Mandy off their album Nice and Nicely Done. Following that album, the band kind of fell off my radar a little bit. With an impending release in 2011 (and first in three years), the Delaware band played a short but stellar 25 minute set at Red Eye Fly that figures to reintroduce music fans to the group.

I’ve always enjoyed the Spinto Band and the short set reminded me how much I like their blend of indie pop. It’s catchy, humorous and I like the bands usage of different vocalists and instruments (including the kazoo and the banjo). While their stage presence remains almost non existent (they just stand and play), once in awhile one of them will jerk around and make some awkward movement that makes you smile for some reason.

Like all good SXSW showcases, the set felt rather short but it ended with Oh Mandy, one of the best pop songs you will hear.

“Oh Mandy” by The Spinto Band by spardow