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SXSW 2015 Reviews: Screaming Females, Julianna Barwick, The Stone Foxes, and The Skull

on March 22, 2015, 4:30pm
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Honeyblood — NME and PRS For Music at The British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 — 8:00 p.m.

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Photo by Ben Kaye

Scottish duo Honeyblood delivered crisp performance to kick off the final showcase at The British Music Embassy venue. As is typical in the garage rock scene, the pair of Stina Tweeddale and Shona McVicar split duties on guitar and drums. Thus, it was easy to expect the lo-fi blast of their early Thrift Store EP, but instead they reveled in the pop twist they’ve put on the genre. “(I’d Rather Be) Anywhere but Here” rang out with hints of Best Coast, while “Bud” took a folkier route. “Super Rat”, meanwhile, came out far rockier than its recorded counterpart, in no small part due to McVicar’s drumming. With her high-set symbols and lanky strike, she hit quick and ferociously, a fun one to watch. Tweeddale came off as a tender vocalist, one you wouldn’t necessarily expect to be screaming out “I will hate you forever”, but that’s why the genre blending worked so well. There was a breezy pop vibe wound tightly around a more biting edge, leading to a show that was at once bop-able and rock-able. And it brought in a packed house, so who can argue with that? –Ben Kaye

Julianna Barwick — Manage This! at Parish — 8:00 p.m.

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Photo by Adam Kivel

Julianna Barwick’s voice can transform any situation. When she begins to layer hushed whispers and gentle coos over and over each other until they become a majestic, soaring flock of birds, the room opens up, and the sky shines in. When she repeats the words “saw the morning light,” the spiraling spotlight becomes the sun there for a moment, and the darkness out the venue windows is obliterated by her shining presence. Working with sampled and looped vocals on their own, and sometimes with snippets of piano, guitar, and storm front bass, Barwick’s expressive countenance displayed every bit of emotion wrung from those pieces. Though there were only a few handfuls of words to pick out of the entire set — and those were repeated and looped several times over — Barwick told detailed stories in those beautiful moments. –Adam Kivel

Self Defense Family — Run for Cover Records showcase at Holy Mountain — 10:00 p.m.

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Photo by Sasha Geffen

Apparently, the “family” in Self Defense Family is silent. Vocalist Patrick Kindlon introduced the group a few times simply as “Self Defense”, which is a shortening and also kind of a mission statement: the family is implied, a given. The band is known for its extensive collaborations with musicians across the globe, and a fair number of them were onstage at Holy Mountain during Run for Cover’s official showcase. Self Defense built a wall of sound by having lots of bodies in the same place. They didn’t really need two drummers, but two drummers comfortably sat side by side rattling off solid post-punk patterns. They probably could have gotten by with fewer than three guitarists, but why not pile on the strings? All the crowding only went to support Kindlon’s ragged and heavy vocalizing, which was lyrically unintelligible but still packed tight with feeling. He’s a friendly, funny presence, and he punctuated songs with anecdotes about touring life and banter about SXSW’s aggressive branding. Yeah, we’ve all heard the lines about selling out and stressing out a hundred times this week, but as the fest wound down to a close, it was nice to hear them booming out over a PA in between fits of cast iron punk. –Sasha Geffen

Makthaverskan — Run for Cover Records showcase @ Holy Mountain — 10:00 p.m.

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Photo by Sasha Geffen

For a long time, the tones of new wave have seemed kind of sterile, moody and difficult at best, but never very dangerous. Swedish outfit Makthaverskan bring the danger back to new wave. While that’s definitively true of the music itself — the biting bits of feedback, the charging rhythms, the blunt lyrics full of pain — their performance at Holy Mountain was far more likable than intimidating. Frontwoman Maja Millner, beer in hand, kept giggling over struggles with the monitors. She dragged a friend up from the crowd to play tambourine and sing occasional backup on “Antabus”, and his middle fingers during the chorus (“And I don’t know what to say/ Fuck you, fuck you”) caused some delighted laughter as well. Another friend was handed the mic to lead the crowd in a round of “Happy Birthday” for drummer Andreas Wettmark. That said, even a ton of giggles and sound issues couldn’t sink the undeniable intensity of songs like “No Mercy”, making the band’s final SXSW set a true success. –Adam Kivel

The Skull — American Icon’s Heavy Metal Parking Lot II at The Lost Well — 11:30 p.m.

the skull hadusekBy this point, the Lost Well was packed. This was the best heavy metal party of SXSW, and it wasn’t official. It was put on entirely by one man, Jonathan Galyon of American Icon Presents, with Weedeater and The Skull headlining. The latter is formed of original Trouble members Eric Wagner and Jeff Olson, and the set was comprised of new material and Trouble songs (“Psychotic Reaction”, “At the End of My Days”). Wagner asked for a cigarette. When a doom metal legend asks for a cig, you provide. A dude in front me of gave him one that had weed in it, and Wagner thanked him with a double-hand shake before returning to the mic. It was a highlight set of what was my favorite Southby party and a thunderous closure of one of the most intense weeks of my life. –Jon Hadusek

The Lemons — Burgermania at The Volstead at Hotel Vegas — 11:45 p.m.

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Photo by Adam Kivel

Someone wandering into the Volstead room of Hotel Vegas late during the Burgermania showcase might think there are approximately four dozen members of The Lemons. And, in a way, they wouldn’t be wrong. They do have an album called Everybuddy’s a Lemon, after all. The overwhelming number of friends and fans crowding onto the stage — some holding instruments, others cameras, others smiling and shout-singing into the night — came close to matching the number of onlookers. The Chicago garage pop outfit’s songs are so approachable and ready for sing-alongs, and their live show is so joyous and welcoming, that anybody in the room is basically a Lemon by proxy. Whether dancing along to a song about the “Ice Cream Shop”, or how it was the “Best Day” I ever had, or bopping along to a gleefully loose cover of “Mr. Tambourine Man”, it was a real pleasure to be a Lemon for the evening. –Adam Kivel

Saturday Gallery:

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