On our last day, we chose to take things a little easier. The insane overabundance of quality over the last three days having taken its toll on us, we opted for covering only four shows today.
First, at the annual Filter Party at the Cedar Street Courtyard, we saw a pair of bands that excellent for completely different reasons. First, LA’s own Gardens & Villa had the stage with a charming and gentle indie sound. Lead singer Chris Lynch doubled on flute for a song, making for an even more soothing sound. Second, on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, British export Royal Blood held court with daunting energy. The duo of Mike Kerr (vocals and bass) and Ben Thatcher (drums) eschew conventional guitar and instead, inject distortion onto Kerr’s bass. Those familiar with mxdwn fav’s The Melvins should know that this band isn’t far off from the sludge-y grind of the duo Big Business, only a little more steeped in the old school hard rock from days of yore.
Back at the Guitar Center Sessions rooftop show–we saw Soundgarden there last night—another of SXSW’s rising stars Phantogram was taping a performance for inclusion on the nationally broadcast show. Like last night, former KCRW alumnus introduced the group, and they were off performing a full set. We enjoyed them back at the Hollywood Bowl when they opened for M83, and they did a good, if not just a bit less than explosive job on this highly touted show. The duo on record of Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter here was expanded to a four-piece. The highest marks belong the group’s serene arrangements and Barthel’s immaculate falsetto, but it was easy to tell that much of the band’s backing music was being triggered from some kind of playback device.
And lastly, a splinter group of thrash outfit Municipal Waste which we’ve seen destroy SXSW numerous times, Iron Reagan, had the final slot of the day for us. Over the mostly outdoor Red Eyed Fly Patio, the five-piece played full-throttle thras in the vein of Municipal Waste tempered with a touch more brutality and speed. While fun, and enough to prompt fist-banging mania like you would hope, the band comes in a little short of the stellar quality Municipal Waste is famous for. Technically, they’re impressive, but somehow the destructive force of the music looses a little bit of the vitality and humor that really helps Waste jump off the page.