Reviews

What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood

Author: Kevin Coffey
03/22/2010 | Omaha World Herald | www.omaha.com | Live Show Preview
AUSTIN, Texas -- South By Southwest is like concerts from concentrate. Mixed with real life, it would be enough concerts to fill a few months of hitting clubs to catch shows.

But by itself, it's packed into only four to five days.

Wednesday, the first day of SXSW Music, seems like it was a month ago. I had to flip back through a notebook to even remember some of the bands that I saw.

Through the week, I saw 42 full sets from bands this week (yes, I counted) and partial sets from many others. Out of those, here are the groups that I enjoyed the most, those that were good and a few that left something to be desired.
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The Great

Frightened Rabbit

For the first three days of SXSW, I heard from several friends and acquaintances that this band was incredible. It took me until the fourth day to get to see them, but the people I talked to were right. This band delivered the best set of songs that I witnessed all week. Frontman Scott Hutchinson said rock band the Hold Steady was a musical inspiration, and I can see that. But Hutchinson's lyrics convey much more emotion and have some stuff about (gasp) feelings. Add in a very layered instrumentation and Hutchinson's passionate singing belting it out like he knew he'd never get to do it again. Leaving Frightened Rabbit's show, I knew I had a new band to tell my friends about. And isn't that what SXSW is all about?

Free Energy

They were the first band I saw at South By and easily one of my favorites. They look and sound like they were transported to the present from 1974, with a bouncy guitar sound that reminds me of Thin Lizzy, in a good way.

Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings

Buzz has surrounded this band for a while, but experiencing it first hand was a treat. Sharon Jones, 53, can sing it and shake it at the same time and her and the band will take you right back to the '60s and '70s with their soul sound from that era.

Codeine Velvet Club

These Scots were another group that was on my "must see" list, and I'm glad I caught them. They're the new band from Fratellis frontman Jon Fratelli and he's joined on vocals by female singer Lou Hickey, whose voice and look adds a '50s-ish, timeless quality to the band. They remind me of Buddy Holly, but if Buddy played a lot faster and with distortion.

The Good

The Mynabirds

Saddle Creek Records' the Mynabirds were one of the very few bands that I saw twice during the week (Little Brazil and Digital Leather being the other two) and they were very good both times. Singer Laura Burhenn described them as being what Neil Young would be like if he made a soul record, and I agree. Their soon-to-be-released album is great.

Everybody Was in the French Resistance… Now!

A weird project from Art Brut frontman Eddie Argos, this band created musical reactions to pop songs, such as "G.I.R.L.F.R.E.N. (You Know I Got A)" to Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend." Argos spent half of the set explaining the songs and making jokes, and it was that energy that made the set.

Digital Leather

These guys throw themselves into their performances, which, like their punchy synth songs, are short, loud and powerful. Shawn Foree and the rest of the group pound through the music and give it life.

Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson

His album topped my top albums of 2009 list, so I was very excited to see Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson at Saddle Creek's showcase. He ended up performing solo, according to someone from the label, because his band backed out of the tour at the last minute. While the songs would have been fleshed out better with a band, Robinson managed to give songs such as "Shake a Shot" fullness even with just his voice and a guitar or keyboard. His effort earned him an A.

The Ugly

The Midgetmen

I caught these guys at a day show they were putting on. Aside from being pretty generic rock, their lead singer could not hold a note. It was bad.

The Walkmen

Others in the crowd didn't share the same opinion as me because they were grooving along to these guys. But I felt like they were really bland and kind of reminded me of Modest Mouse except without the bounce that makes MM so good.

Rival Schools

Suffered from being a lot like The Killers, at least in a live setting. It was something that I noticed with a lot of bands. A singer's vocals would touch on the odd monotone of the Killers' Brandon Flowers or their guitar sound.


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