Ladyhawke – Stubb’s
Ladyhawke took to the main stage at Stubb’s to get the first big showcase of the night under the way, NPR’s. The one woman band on record, here is articulated with a full band (where precociously young looking frontwoman Phillipa Brown doubles on lead guitar), Ladyhawke is a fun if not altogether common brand of dance rock borrowing heavily from 80s legends New Order. Brown cutely demanded, “It’s too late / It’s too late / I’m gonna run away” amidst a techno-fied rhythm backdrop to the amusement of the crowd.
Department of Eagles – Central Presbyterian Church
Meditative to the max, Department of Eagles plucked and strummed there way delicately through each song. Starting first with only their lead singer on banjo singing solo, the band then joined for the duration, somberly emoting nocturn melodies, strangely fitting for a dimly lit church.
The Avett Brothers – Stubb’s
The Avett Brothers set the stage for the night’s big outing, The Decemberists. Playing a balanced mix of bluegrass and folk, the two singers bumped their way through a short set, adding piano and upright bass in just the right places.
The Decemberists – Stubb’s
This was a real treat. Here The Decemberists gave their first performance ever of the entirety of their new album, The Hazards of Love. Cynics might judge this as a PR stunt, playing this one show only during the music portion of SXSW, but The Hazards of Love is the real deal. An outstanding tour-de-force encompassing all of their previously ventured genre studies (sea shante romps, quiet harmonious folk, bombastic prog), the total piece tells a rich and colorful tale. It also features some of the band’s hardest rocking music to date.
Smartly, each chugging section of power chords was accompanied by one of two female singers, one with a more operatic tone (Lavender Diamond’s Becky Stark), one with a more Joan Jett rasp (My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden), each fantastic in their respective parts. Colin Meloy and company are reaching for Pink Floyd levels of complexity and success, and with just the right luck they may have found it. An early candidate for album of the year 2009. My hat goes off to you Colin Meloy.