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Rocks Off

SXSW 04 encore: Saturday showcases and more

By Jerry Renshaw, Fri., March 26, 2004

Reigning Sound

Beerland, Saturday, March 20 Think about Memphis. What comes to mind? Beale Street, the Stax/Volt record labels, Elvis, Graceland, Sun Studios, various blues shouters, right? Well, you're mostly correct. Then there's Reigning Sound, fronted by Greg Cartwright from the Oblivians and Compulsive Gamblers. On Saturday night at Beerland, the Reigning Sound boys brought together all of those elements; stirred in generous helpings of country, gospel, and punk; turned up the flame under it; and kept it right on the verge of boiling over. Where the Oblivians were a hit/miss proposition (on a good night), Reigning Sound is tighter and more concise, with some absolutely killer songs. Cartwright's got a hoarse soulfulness to his voice that's matched perfectly by his slightly ragged guitar playing, and his songwriting approach is, "Keep it brief, and leave 'em wanting more." Ripping through numbers like "Time Bomb High School" and "Straight Shooter," the Sound had Beerland's exhausted, drunken hipster contingent shaking their asses like there was no tomorrow. After a weekend of great and not-so-great bands, the Sound capped it all with a forceful reminder that rock & roll is about having fun, not brooding, sulking, throwing tantrums, or nursing some contrived sense of angst. Toward the end, they pulled out a cover of "Suspicious Minds" that the King himself might have approved. It's no surprise the Hives took this band under their wing for a tour, and it's a safe bet the Reigning Sound gave them a hard act to follow every damn night. It's always a little bittersweet to see SXSW wind down on Saturday night, but at least it went out with a bang at Beerland.
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