In my final installment of my SXSW post extravaganza, I am reviewing the MOG Party that was held at the Mohawk. More pictures from this show, as well as the Brooklyn Vegan Day Party, will be posted sometime in the near future.
The abnormally cold Austin weather did not stop hundreds of people from lining up outside of the Mohawk on the last day of South by Southwest, as the free party hosted by the social media music site MOG was one of the most hotly anticipated day parties of the festival. Headlined by the Black Keys, the MOG Party featured a very heavy and diverse lineup, and was well worth enduring the bitingly cold winds and overcast skies.
Philadelphia’s Free Energy don’t take much to subtlety. They are a band that unashamedly plays music filled with hooks, sing along choruses, lyrics about youth and having good time, and enough guitar solos to make one think they were made for corporate radio. However, as evidenced by their live performance, they differentiate themselves from bands of those ilk by giving off the sense that they actually believe in what they are playing. This was caught the eye of LCD Soundsystem front man and DFA Records owner James Murphy, who helped the band produce their debut, “Stuck On Nothing.” The band has a sort of vibe about them that is nothing short of infectious, with some excellent songs to back up their stage presence. They played several cuts off their album, each song being just as solid as the last, including “Free Energy” and “Dream City.” Their nods to the anthem like sounds of classic rock served them well, as the band gave a performance that demonstrated that there is nothing wrong with paying homage to the past if you’re doing it right and having fun at the same time.
Seeing Thurston Moore on stage without a guitar is one thing. Hearing him nearly rip his vocal chords out by covering early 80′s hardcore and punk songs is quite another. Such is part of the intrigue that surrounds Demolished Thoughts, a collaboration between the Sonic Youth front man and J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. The two were joined on stage by longtime Sonic Youth producer Don Fleming, Fucked Up bassist Jonah Falco (who took the spot of original group member Andrew W.K.), and drummer Awesome Allison of Awesome Color. The result was a 35 minute set in which the band tore through 25 songs, none lasting longer than two minutes. The songs were fast and furious, with Moore reading the lyrics off a stapled packet of paper. Rants against the music industry, government, and any form of authority dominated the lyrical content. “I HATE KIDS,” Moore yelled out to begin to one song, which immediately segwayed into a cry of “I HATE SPORTS!” to begin the next one. Several times, he referred to songs by number, simply saying “This is song seven.” With Mascis and the rest of the band thrashing their instruments as if they were being chased by a train, it all made for a very unique set, and something that will linger in the mind of show goers for years to come.
Judging by Broken Bells performance at the MOG Party, one might find it hard to believe that The Shins’ James Mercer and Danger Mouse had less than ten shows under their built. Of course, the fact that they put on a great set was not entirely surprising, as both are seasoned veterans who possess enough talent to make almost anything look easy. With a full backing band behind them, they played a total of nine cuts from their self-titled debut with precision and aplomb. Broken Bells sound a lot like something that Mercer might play with The Shins, but that didn’t matter. Songs such as “The High Road” and “Vaporize” stand well on their own, and the rest of the songs were of equal quality. Mercer’s voice sounded nice and full, and each of the backing guitarists and keys players sounded tight, all of it being brought together by Danger Mouse’s drumming. This set was proof positive that Broken Bells are more than just a side project.
On their second album, “Hospice,” The Antlers created something that was nothing short of a tour de force of emotion and catharsis. Many of the albums best moments were also their quietest, with front man Peter Silberman singing with a delicate and nervous urgency that contributed to the overall feel of that particular moment. The band has also gained a reputation on their live performances. The claims were easily warranted by the band’s four song set, which left many people simply stunned. Much like cross-town companions TV on the Radio, The Antlers completely change the way they play their songs in a live setting. Gone was much of the empty space and ambient noises that filled “Hospice,” replaced with more guitar and keys intensive arrangements. Silberman’s voice sounded just as graceful and energetic as it did on the album, showcasing that he is an immensely talented vocalist. To see songs like “Sylvia,” “Wake,” and “Two” in a new light was an almost transcendent experience, and one that felt like something truly special.
Of the many bands that have revived the beach rock sound in the last year, New Jersey’s Real Estate are among the best of them. Their self-titled debut features sunny guitars, great vocal hooks, and a laid back vibe that makes one long for the coast. The songs are catchy and memorable, and played with a sense of precision and grace. The band translate this energy well to their live show. While they are relatively relaxed on stage, the energy that is present in their music does more than enough to get the crowd into their performance. Lead singer Martin Courtney has a nice, full voice that resonates well with the music being played, and the band sounded as tight as they do on their self-titled debut. The most impressive song of their overall solid set was “Fake Blues,” it’s simple guitar riffs and vocal melody possessing transportation powers that make you feel as though you’re sitting on a beach watching the band as opposed to being packed in a crowded indoor stage area. While what Real Estate is doing may not be anything new, they have taken the best of their influences to make something that is truly their own.