We made it to four parties in one afternoon Wednesday. I know, what slackers we are – surely we could’ve at least hit six! Thursday for sure.
The AOL Pop-Up Show was the big one. The Internet company is making an ambitious push into SXSW this year with daily shows in random, secret locations. Word spread fast about Wednesday’s gig with the Vaccines. Not only would it be the first of five SXSW showcases by the wildly buzzing British band with a new Columbia Records deal, it also was taking place on the steps of Austin’s First Baptist Church. The London quartet did not exactly put on a godly show, but under the unusual circumstances – its boyish members sort of looked deer-in-headlights uncomfortable there – the Vaccines certainly gave their hype some credibility. Highlights of their set included the wry rocker “Post-Breakup Sex” and a stormier number called “A Lack of Understanding,” which sounded like Interpol backing Julian Cope (remember him?). Frontman Justin Young also poked a little British-style fun at all the audience members wearing sunglasses, despite it being an overcast day. “I’m glad the weather hasn’t spoiled your optimisim," he dryly noted.
New York band the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, who never came to the Twin Cities after making a big splash at SXSW ’09, returned to tout their second album at eMusic’s tent party. Their new tunes sounded at once feistier and more fuzzed-out than before but were also more richly melodic, and even pretty in parts. Can’t wait to see them again April 25 at the Triple Rock. … Minnesotans Jeremy Messersmith and Trampled by Turtles proved they’re no newbies at SXSW by rolling with a few punches thrown their way at the Paste magazine party in the roomy Sixth Street club The Stage, where they each had sizeable crowds crowd. The Turtles did a soundcheck as quickly as Dave Carroll’s banjo picking and crammed in a half-dozen of their tunes as fast as only they know how. Messersmith played right after them on a second stage that was too small for the string quartet he brought along, so he had his mini-orchestra go right into the crowd (face-to-face) for “Organ Donor” and other lush tunes.
Letdowns: Before the Turtles at the Paste party came the Civil Wars, one of the fest’s most talked-about newbies in the more adult-alternative world (think: Cities 97 vs. the Current). The co-ed duo of former Nashville songwriters-for-hire played a tightly harmonious blend of country-folk that was a bit too smiley and sweet for my tastes, a point hit home by their coy finale cover of “Billie Jean.” … One hotly discussed band among indie-rock bloggers this year, Yuck was also less-than-savory during the Fat Possum Records bash under the Club DeVille tent, imitating the sloppy slackerness of Pavement a little too closely without much charm to soften it.
See all our SXSW coverage at www.startribune.com/sxsw
Other highlights on Wednesday afternoon: