SXSW Thursday: Alabama Shakes, Futurebirds And More
Bleached is L.A.-based sisters Jennifer and Jessica Clavin. Their ‘50s-indebted girl-group rock and roll recalls the rhythms and melodies of Buddy Holly with some of the same energy as Nashville’s Those Darlins. Lead singer Jennifer is the show’s focal point. She moves seductively with the beat, while lead guitarist Jessica plays hot and raunchy Telecaster leads and grooves with a surf rock swagger. On Wednesday night for the Panache Booking showcase at Red 7, their tunes cut through the hot night, reaching joyously into the upper decibels for a high-energy (and earplug-recommended) show.
Bass Drum Of Death
This heavy Mississippi crew isn’t your average head-banging outfit. Their songs have the drive of ‘70s Krautrock, with drummer Colin Sneed pounding out a charging motorik to guitarist John Barrett’s guitar assault. Some songs have the slower rhythm of a hot day in Mississippi, languid with tremolo and reverb. But on Thursday afternoon at the Aquarium Drunkard-curated Hype Hotel day party, just as soon you had a chance to catch your breath, Bass Drum of Death would hit back with another hardcore guitar ‘n’ drums blast, plumbing the depths of swampy Southern darkness.
The Athens, Georgia, boys get smoother every time. Lacking bassist B. Miles for their SXSW dates, the band was relegated to five pieces, with guitarists Daniel Womack, Carter King, and Thomas Johnson switching off on low-end duties. The Stevie Nicks cover “Wild Heart” still best captures the band’s rambling country-soul-infused Southern rock—high harmonies, big choruses, and gypsy-spirit lyrics. The band’s crowd at Thursday’s Hype Hotel was a rapt and sweaty pantheon of believers—more hipster-music geek than Athens frat kid. Futurebirds have been debuting new material on recent tours for their forthcoming sophomore LP. The new tunes show the same joyful intensity as sing-alongs like “Dirty D,” with more sonic nuances and tighter arrangements.
Taking a headlining spot at Aquarium Drunkard’s Thursday party is a nice full circle for Alabama Shakes. The L.A.-based blog was one of the first to discover the low profile musicians back in the summer of 2010. Things have changed quite a bit for the band since then, but luckily their music hasn’t. It’s still tight rock and roll with a retro-soul influence. For their second Thursday daytime commitment (they also played an earlier showcase at Stubb’s), the band opened with four songs that will be unfamiliar to most fans until the group’s debut album Boys & Girls comes out on April 11. The tunes were solid and will certainly become crowd favorites over time. Singer Brittany Howard’s voice was showing the wear and tear of a busy SXSW schedule, but she reached down deep for the cathartic blasts of the group’s classic, “Hold On,” coming up with enough juice for the performance to rank high on any fan’s highlight reel.
Two Gallants‘ Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogel have been curiously absent from the world of stripped, blues-infused garage rock that they helped bring to prominence around five years ago in San Francisco. After a three-year hiatus, the band appears to be saddling up again and putting on their spurs. They recently toured China and France, played SF’s Noisepop, and are rumored to be recording a new album. Judging by their performance at the Noisey showcase at The Parish on Thursday night, they’ve still got the goods. “Las Cruces Jail” has the same blistering power it did five years ago, with Stephens’ Rev. Gary Davis fingerpicking meets thrashing MC5-style rock and roll. The duo played a new song, “Broken Eyes,” with Stephens on acoustic guitar and Vogel leaving his drum set and joining him at the microphone to harmonize. It looked as though they might come back with another barn-burning electric guitar number, but they let “Broken Eyes” hang in the air as a fitting end.