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SXSW Live Shot: Syd Arthur

Another shoe-horned festival venue takes down UK proggers

By Greg Beets, 10:53PM, Tue. Mar. 11

SXSW Live Shot: Syd Arthur
photo by John Anderson

Syd Arthur’s truncated Tuesday night set vividly illustrated just about everything that can go wrong when showcasing bands get shoehorned into non-music venues. Despite its air of puffed-up velvet rope-ism, Haven didn’t even afford Tuesday’s patrons the actual luxury of air conditioning.

Problems with the trucked-in sound system delayed the start of the show, leaving the long-haired prog rock scions of Soft Machine from Canterbury, England, standing uncomfortably on stage for almost as long as they actually played music. The opening notes were promising enough as urgent guitar figures gave way to a dreamy, pastoral resolve.

Then the sound system quit again.

Syd Arthur gamely soldiered on without the PA, but the audience response was tepid at best. “Garden of Time,” from their forthcoming LP Sound Mirror, fared better with its early-Seventies, free-form radio vibe. You could almost imagine the song being purloined for a high-speed educational film of flowers blooming.

Raven Bush, nephew of Kate, played the e-man role by switching between keyboards, violin, and mandolin. His sonic augmentations were the band’s most delineating element, providing skyward-aiming atmospherics on top of all the quick right turns. “Chariots” morphed from a psychedelic blues into a heavy, seeds-and-stems immolation to close the set.

Perhaps this climax would’ve been brain-ticklingly appealing in a proper live music venue, but the altogether unpleasant conditions under which Syd Arthur toiled would’ve been nearly insurmountable even for a spot-on band. If there’s a youthful prog rock renaissance afoot, it won’t be flowering in a place like this.

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