After spending five consecutive days at SXSW, your body starts to feel the effects of ingesting little other than tortilla-encased foodstuffs and Shiner Bock. Still, we powered through the body’s natural urge to shut down and made our way last night to one of downtown Austin’s premiere venues, The Belmont, for The Warner Sound’s downright phenomenal showcase featuring Frightened Rabbit, The Joy Formidable, Alt-J, and headliners The Flaming Lips.
When we arrived on the scene, the line to get in was already wrapped around not one but TWO corners, as the dizzying quality of the evening’s lineup was rivaled only by the Woodies on the other side of town. Mere seconds after we walked in, the Australian groove-pop outfit Atlas Genius took the stage. We’ve been fortunate enough to see this rising group up close and personal one time prior; they played our elevator bank at VH1 World Headquarters a few months ago when they appeared on Big Morning Buzz Live (see video above). While that was a stripped down set, we’re pleased to report that the band’s sound takes on incredibly rich new dimensions in a live setting, particularly tracks like “Trojans” and “Back Seat” that have the kind of powerful bass lines that rattle through your bones in a way that implores you to dance.
We sprinted down from our spot on The Belmont’s balcony to weasel our way up front for Frightened Rabbit’s set. We got up close and SUPER personal with a bunch of fans of a band we consider to be the best group to hail from Scotland since Idlewild burst onto the scene in the late 90s. Their blend of deeply personal lyrics and crunchy, indierocktastic guitars hits a sweet spot inside of us that few other bands can reach, particularly on tracks like “The Woodpile” and “Backyard Skulls.” If you have yet to sample the undeniable awesomeness of their latest LP, Pedestrian Verse, we forgive you … for now. (Click here to listen to Pedestrian Verse on Spotify.) If we check back here in a few weeks and you’ve yet to give it a spin or three, we’re not sure that we can still be friends.
We’ll be honest; after our minds and hearts were blown into smithereeens by Frightened Rabbit’s fantamazing —that’s a new word we just made up, combining “fantastic” and “amazing”— we needed some time to recover. We missed a good chunk of both Alt-J and The Joy Formidable’s sets, but regarding the latter, HOLY #%@$!!! That Welsh band’s energy, a good chunk of it provided by lead singer Rhiannon “Ritzy” Bryan, has been unmatched by any act we’ve seen over the last five days we’ve spent in Austin. We didn’t poll the crowd before their set to determine what percentage of attendees were already fans of TJF or anything, but we can guarantee that everyone who watched even a second of their show last night were converted into vocal advocates for the band’s prowess.
As much as it pained us not to be pressed up against the metal railings for these two sets, we’re thankful that we conserved our energy for Oklahoma City’s psychadelic prodigal sons, The Flaming Lips. The band led off with “Fight Test,” the first track off their 2002 concept record, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, before announcing that they were attempting to perform the album in its entirety for the first time ever. This made our heart swell to nearly unprecedented dimensions, as Yoshimi is one of the most gorgeously weird albums that we’ve ever had the pleasure of memorizing from start to finish.
As anyone who has ever listened to Yoshimi will attest, it’s an incredibly layered recording, one that’s made up of so many complicated parts that it’s highly difficult to reproduce in a live setting. However, Wayne Coyne and the rest of the Lips were up to the challenge, and the true fans of the band (like us!) who were there soaked up every last second of it. Of course, the highlight of both the album and last night’s performance was the group’s take on “Do You Realize?” (video above), one of the most simultaneously gorgeous and depressing singles that’s been recorded during our lifetime. Moments like this are what we, as die-hard music lovers, live for, and what makes Austin such a magical place to spend a week visiting each and every March.
[Photos: Getty Images]