Live Review

SXSW: Japanther, Braids, Still Corners & More

Japanther put on one of the best punk shows ever at the 21st Street Co-Op.

Reading Rainbow

Reading Rainbow’s distortion heavy (what else is new?) drum-driven drone-pop is a refreshing diversion from the usual fare at SXSW if only for the personalities of the two being showcased. This is a boy-girl band of the best variety; the kind where you’re never really sure if they’re in love. One thing’s for sure: they pour their smiles into their music, and strong, simple drumming mixes with occasionally transcendent guitar solos to create a truly pleasurable act to watch.

Appearing early in the line up at the 21st St Co-Op, Reading Rainbow, though their music is a tad generic, reinforce that basic truth of rock and roll: on stage, talent is second to showmanship.

Tristan Bennett

Braids

There’s so much buzz going around about Braids that it’s nerve-wracking to actually see them. However, they totally live up to the hype, musically smart and on top of their shit, they work together like they’ve been playing together for years, which of course they have been. It’s great fun to watch them play - the vocalist having an incredibly beautiful voice, demanding perfection from each of the other musicians - the only problem is that they don’t look like they’re having too much fun themselves. They seem exhausted and sort of unhappy. However, through this they seem to take refuge in the music and play like it soothes their souls. Braids seem like they’d be great fun to watch at their own show: not only are they talented but they have a lightness that could be ridiculous - in the best sense of the word - on stage.

Hannah Hancock Rubinsky

Moon Duo

Moon Duo’s San Francisco synth-driven brand of rock is pretty decent, as the genre goes. The real pleasure in their live act is not the recycled somersaulting of Erik Johnson on the guitar but Sanae Yamada’s light improvising on keys. Her rhythm, while basic, evolves over the course of the set, breaking up then building into a staccato frenzy against the bored backdrop of guitar riffs.

Though their stage presence is minimal and Johnson seems to let his Manson Family beard do most of the performing for him, they are the kind of band your Mom warned you about: heavy, distorted and begging for drugs.

Tristan Bennett

Indian Jewelry

Indian Jewelry start off insulting the 21st Street Co-Op’s light system as ‘high school auditorium’ before fiddling and diddling away the next 15 minutes getting the highs and lows right on the PA system. In that time the brainier of the brats in the audience begin chanting rude slogans (kids these days), tossing beer bottles and one gets ready to flick a lit cigarette at the guitar player.

The group though, have a point. Their lights were way better. Their sound, experimental and irreverent is as much a middle finger to the crowd as to the Beatles, and you have to give them credit for telling us all to fuck off. Indian Jewelry’s sound is bass and drum driven with that all-too-familiar synth-guitar combo laid on top.

But what of it? The band’s attitude is so bad and their light show so good, you might as well just get into it and bugger off with them.

Tristan Bennett

Prince Rama

Prince Rama are weird. There aren’t so many words in their five-to-seven minute songs, more like vocal stylings akin to religious chants. The small room of Mohawk’s pulses and moves with the Indian beats as a dancer crawls across the stage, getting up and twirling around like in a Bollywood movie, but far more seriously. It doesn’t seem out of place in the context, instead rather like a projection would be for others, or booty dancers would be for a Bounce show. The thing that’s really quite cool about Prince Rama is that they ask you to listen with something other than your head - they ask you to experience their music with your senses and once you let go and just go with it, it’s a pretty astronomical experience.

Hannah Hancock Rubinsky

Still Corners

Still Corners have been called dream-pop, and though their recordings certainly back up this slightly-too-simple appraisal of the group’s unique synthesis of a variety of decades and genres, their live show at the 21st Street Co-Op has very little in it to dream on.

As you might expect, out of the studio the group has a more in-your-face sound, even as they stand stock still on stage. But Still Corners distinguishe themselves for their unique approach to drone rock. In fact it feels more meditative, a bit more thoughtful than the extroverted and often angry and confused sonar graspings of their contemporaries.

Still Corners are a perfect opener for a band like Japanther. The finger bowl to wash your tips in before the BBQ.

Tristan Bennett

Japanther

Japanther put on one of the best punk shows ever at the 21st Street Co-Op. You don’t want to call it punk though because the audience is so far from punk (rich college kids) and though the music is obviously from that family, the tape, mixes and loops they use, as well as their humour and dedication to their art are quite far from the self-destructive somersaulting one usually expects from a punk show.

Tearing through their most popular songs, Japanther’s audience plays back some sort of dazzling sweaty drunken polka, as we all melt in to one huge, jellyfish-like mass that writhes and squirms and tries its best to pile on stage. At one point there are so many people gathered in and around the band that Japanther abruptly kick everyone off. Then, thinking better of it, and speaking through the garbled fuzz of their modified microphones, ‘but beautiful women are ok. Beautiful women, come on stage.’

Couple that with their love of torn-apart Beach Boys songs and the image of a bunch of sweaty co-eds rocking out around Japanther is a sight you could carry gladly with you to your grave.

Bringing the show to its final crescendo, the band end the night with a slow country and western classic. As one, the audience pair off into slow dances, and even Japanther look bemused as the night slowly drips away like your last high school dance.

Outside the smell of the air is sweeter for the sweaty stew just escaped, and your mind cleared during bike ride home, in that way that a wonderful rock and roll show will do for you.

Tristan Bennett

Quintron and Miss Pussycat

This is the perfect last show of SXSW. A reminder of the homes we’re returning to and one of the weirdest performances at the festival. The pain of not being able to get in to see Death From Above 1979 is at least partially soothed by dancing like a madwoman with a large group of people after watching a puppet show. Yes, a puppet show. Miss Pussycat not only adds vocals to this self-proclaimed ‘swamp techno’, she also creates and performs a puppet show before the music starts. This show is about ‘magic pizza’ and cops stamping down on it. It is great, funny and gets a lot of hoots when the puppet cop’s head is thrown in to the audience.

Then the music starts.

Quintron makes you move, he makes you want to feel every inch of your body, so much that you don’t mind the person next to you sweating all over you as you’re sure you’re doing the same damn thing. It’s punk rock techno with a driving beat that’s conducive to mosh pits and late nights. It’s highly unfortunate that Mohawk’s has to close at 2am - you can tell Quintron’s disappointed too as he reminds those of us from Louisiana that we’ve got to finish our drinks inside and go home at a reasonable hour.

Hannah Hancock Rubinsky

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