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SXSW Day Stage: Clear Plastic Masks

Nashville quartet heats up a cold corner of the ACC

By Austin Powell, 8:45PM, Wed. Mar. 12

SXSW Day Stage: Clear Plastic Masks
photo by Austin Powell

There’s no colder room to play during SXSW than the Next Stage in the Austin Convention Center. Tucked into the corner of the Exhibition Hall behind large black curtains, it’s a sobering space with a sit-down audience. There’s nothing to hide behind, no way to phone it in.

“Is anybody here to actually see us or just to sit for a while?” asked Clear Plastic Masks guitarist/vocalist Andrew Katz, genuinely curious, at the start of a 2pm set. The response was mixed. “I hope you guys also get to charge your phones and get some free stuff, like bitcoins or something.”

The few in attendance got something far better. The Nashville quartet proved the type of American blues act that’s destined to headline festivals in the UK before ever breaking stateside. Live, they played more like a classic power trio, with live-wire tenacity and a masterful sense of pacing: slow builds, breakdowns, rave-ups.

Charlie Garmendia fit the Keith Moon mold, flailing behind the drum kit and throwing his weight behind each hit. Bassist Eddy DuQuesne locked in the deep bass grooves, and mad organist/guitarist Matt Menold weaved between the two like a high-speed car chase.

Katz was the lynchpin, though. He’s got wandering eyes, onstage and in his songs, hollering through Gothic narratives about vagrants and scoundrels, perpetually pleading, as in “Baby Come On,” for one more chance.

Under different circumstances, there would have dancing in the aisles.

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