River City ~ Dispatches from Austin

Sunday, March 20, 2005

An Immediate Shot of Adrenalin

This is the third in a series of articles written for PROGRESSIONSESSION (http://prosession.blogspot.com ) chronicling the writer's experiences at the 2005 South by Southwest music festival.

Last night, a band calling themselves the Immediate threw down the gauntlet - and served notice that they were in Texas to kick some serious ass. Hailing from Dublin, they put on a thrilling set that left the crowd at Soho Lounge sweating, a little bit unnerved, and cheering for more.

The intense rockers brought to mind the White Stripes with a little of the Strokes and other bands in this vein, but they were surprisingly original, given the territory they were navigating. Or conquering. I’m convinced now that stage presence isn’t learned – it’s innate. If you ain’t got it, sorry.. But if you do, all you have to do is stand there and it oozes. These guys look like they are barely old enough to buy alcohol in Texas (...but who am I to judge? That’s a different story...) yet they commanded the crowd’s attention and projected a rock-n-roll bravado that often sets the great bands apart from the good ones at SXSW every year.

Three different band members took their turn at lead vocals, and one of them looked like a cross between Beck and a young (and slim) Van Morrison. When he seemed to go into convulsions, and then jumped off the stage to dance in the crowd, the audience just kind of gave him room and watched him with a mix of enthusiasm and nervousness. But this wasn’t some uncontrolled riot.. It was tight and intense - while the music was unpredictable, at times dreamy and at others angry and raging.

I asked them for a cd after the show. “We don’t really have anything out yet,” the drummer said. Unbelievable. I’m going to follow them to Longbranch Inn tonight to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. But I know it wasn’t. If you ever see these guys on a bill in your town, go get rocked.

You can listen their sample here: http://2005.sxsw.com/music/showcases/band/16481.html
It's good, but bear in mind that it doesn’t do the live show justice.

South By St. Patrick’s Day

I eschewed the usual crush of trying to get into one of the Irish pubs in town.. and instead went to the Ireland rock-n-roll showcase at Soho Lounge. I had no problem getting in, and was able to wander right up to the stage as I watched several bands from Dublin, and one from Limerick. Seemed like a good way to celebrate St. Patty’s while all the pricks were out waiting to get into B.D. McScratchy’s (or wherever the hell they decided to congregate), just so that they could wait another thirty minutes to get a damn Guinness. I strolled right up to the bar, ordered two Guinness for good measure, and got down to business. I rock.

I eschewed the usual crush of trying to get into one of the Irish pubs in town.. and instead went to the Ireland rock-n-roll showcase at Soho Lounge. I had no problem getting in, and was able to wander right up to the stage as I watched several bands from Dublin, and one from Limerick. Seemed like a good way to celebrate St. Patty’s while all the pricks were out waiting to get into B.D. McScratchy’s (or wherever the hell they decided to congregate), just so that they could wait another thirty minutes to get a damn Guinness. I strolled right up to the bar, ordered two Guinness for good measure, and got down to business. I rock.

It was hard not to like Bell X1, but I tried. When the singer announced, in his thick Irish accent, that “this song is on the OC soundtrack,” I was nonplussed. The alternative-rock template song was actually perfect for a scene on such a show, with the lyrics of yearning and tortured love and yaddy yadda.. but he regained some respect when he explained that he’s never actually seen the show himself – but that he heard the song was played during the scene in which “the two girls kiss.” The way he said it, almost embarrassed or confused about the whole situation, was rather endearing and I decided to give them a chance. The other songs rocked a little bit more, with some nice keyboard and harmonica sounds rolled in, and I can say Bell X1 sounds at least as good as anything on the mainstream “alt-rock” radio stations. In fact, they sound better - you get the feeling they are in that phase just before being molded by the industry execs, who no doubt are already carving up this delicate cut of radio meat in their minds.. drooling at the thought.. “Come on lad, we’ll make ye a star!”

MonoBand was in this same vein, except a little bit moreso. They seem to have packaged themselves up for the big turkey carving, and I suspect they would love to have an OC gig. They sounded fine enough – a full, lush sound, but I felt a bit like I was at a VH1 shoot. They were just a bit too pretty, too perfect – the lead singer, from England, and his big, starcrossed eyes; his counterpart, a woman from Sweden who was just too over the top with the seductive looks and “come-on” sultriness. Their voices matched the appearance. Great voices, but just a little too much of that “Third Eye Blind” (or insert alternative rock band here) ‘over-singing.’ No doubt, some people will love these guys.

The big deviation of the night was the Things, a nutty punk band whose singer came out in black eyeshadow, black lipstick, and a psychotic expression that was well-suited to the band’s in-your-face pageantry. At times he bellowed like Elvis before launching back into a screaming tirade. His leather get-up and crazy makeup was just a bit too much “Rocky Horror” for me.

I’d met a girl before the Things took the stage, and we chatted a bit about SXSW and toasted St. Patty’s day and the music ahead. Now, halfway through this manic assault, she pulled me aside and said, “I’m gonna go catch the rest of another show somewhere.” But I couldn’t follow. I’d paid my cover, and without a wristband, I didn’t have the option of popping in and out of venues. As I watched her leave, I looked down at my naked wrist… and said to myself, "curse you, South by Southwest fat cats!"

My back is killing me this morning. There is a free show at Emo’s today.. Calexico will be there at some point during the afternoon. So long suckers, I’ve got to go find a parking place. We’ll see if I last until the evening..

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