With St Paddy’s Day celebrations in full green-clad swing outside on 6th Street, and in a venue that shares a name with a song by part-Scottish-part-English husky crooner Rod Stewart, Maggie Maes has – accidentally – ended up giving a few coincidental nods across the Atlantic, tonight. Fitting, then, that Liverpool duo Her’s open up proceedings at DIY’s takeover of the Austin institution, accompanied by a tiny cardboard cut-out of honorary member Pierce Brosnan. He even has his own microphone, the lucky bloke..
Munching M&Ms for sustenance between songs, regally announcing the entrance of capo 2 - “you know what capo 2 means!” exclaims Stephen Fitzpatrick before ‘What Once Was’ – and lying down on the side of the stage for a quick bass solo from his Norwegian bandmate Audun Laading, Her’s make a fine art out of goofing about and technical prowess alike, Stephen leaping between yowling highs, and gravelling baritone without breaking sweat. One member of the crowd is overheard calling the pair “adorable,” and it’s true; there’s something instantly charismatic about Her’s which proves pivotal.. It takes their jangly, oddball pop songs into another league, and its a revelatory show from these bloody talented pair..
Continuing tonight’s thread of coincidental links, Norway’s Sløtface are next up, taking to the stage after having a dance about to Her’s in the crowd beforehand. Their infectious strain of pop-punk chucks references all over the shop – Patti Smith, Empire Records, Netflix, IKEA, and Bon Iver all getting lyrical shoutouts – and along with firm favourites, brand new cuts from the band’s in progress debut album look set to become future staples. They’re sounding heavier and meaner than ever. It suits vocalist Haley Shea, who goads the crowd before, chucking out a load of t-shirts and prowling the audience during close ‘Shave My Head’. It’s (boo, wah) Sløtface’s final SXSW show – but what a way to see things out.
Following them are Weaves, who have always been a ferocious live prospect. Tonight at Maggie Maes, though the Toronto bunch seem to take swing at previously impressive shows, and bat the whole thing totally out of the park. Wildly careering, volatile, and bursting with experimentation, the band somehow manage to keep the chaos under control (just), teetering on the edge at all times. The very picture of unbounded glee, Jasmyn Burke parades the stage, cheerfully mixing infatuation, winky face innuendo and disarming moments of honesty; “You’re looking sweet with your slices of pizza and your fucking,” she declares in the gaudy rock out ‘Candy’. It’s never quite clear where Weaves are heading; one minute Jas and Morgan Waters look half way through an argument, the next he’s blowing into his guitar and producing unholy sounds, as you do.
As far as first steps go, QTY have got things down. The New York newcomers impressed with their twanging debut single ‘Rodeo,’ and the ride hasn’t slowed since; they’re also label mates with The 1975, Wolf Alice and The Japanese House over at Dirty Hit. Dan Lardner’s rust-edged vocal melds to corrosively ace effect with Alex Niemetz’s airier melodies. Are QTY QYT good? Just a bit.
It’s hard to believe Dream Wife only played their first Stateside show this very week at SXSW; an almighty number of shows later, they’ve taken to the place like chilli to an Austin taco. The feeling’s mutual too, and it’s a packed room. ‘F.U.U’ remains the set highlight, snarlingly fast-paced, and menacing in odd pockets of restraint. Alice, Bella and Rakel’s latest single ‘Somebody’ slots right into proceedings like an old pal, Dream Wife’s angular pop more fearsomely honed than ever.
Stoking the early hours with tequila-fuelled mayhem is a task best left to PARTYBABY. Necking shots between songs, and crashing through the spiralling mayhem of ‘Everything’s All Right’ (a song which might well rival Girls Aloud’s ‘Biology’ when it comes to cramming in the choruses) and California, Noah Gersh and Jamie Schefman bottle up the madness reigning outside on Austin’s main strip, and bring it inside for everyone to swig. The night ends, as all the best nights end, with a stage invasion, led by a drumstick wielding Alice Go from Dream Wife who’s hopped up to join the Maggie Mae-hem.
Photos: Emma Swann