Secretly Canadian/Jagjaguar/Dead Oceans Showcase

Richard Swift, Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band, Julie Doiron, Phosphorescent, and Blk Jks

Reviewed by Darcie Stevens, Fri., March 20, 2009

Blk Jks
Blk Jks
Photo by Aubrey Edwards

Secretly Canadian/Jagjaguar/Dead Oceans Showcase

Mohawk/Mohawk Patio, Thursday, March 19

The distinction between the Secretly Canadian/Jagjaguwar/Dead Oceans triumvirate and its sister labels is in eccentricity, and no better place than South by Southwest to display the morass of distinct guitar play in one venue. Just how many ways can one string a Les Paul? Oregon patriot and father of three Richard Swift began, deftly blending four albums together in an orgasm of clever wordplay and hope. With April LP The Atlantic Ocean crowding home with "The First Time" and stellar "A Song for Milton Feher," curls set the bar. The authenticity of his nasal warble and AOR guitar stands alongside the sick bassline thump of Motown pearl "Lady Luck." Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band followed with everything Hot Hot Heat strives for, and Bishop Allen took the stage in stripes and plaid, harmonizing and smiling as cute as five straight guys from Brooklyn can. French Canadian chanteuse Julie Doiron crowded inside with her newest, I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day. She's simultaneously precious and tortured, Kimya Dawson sans patchouli. Matthew Houck's Phosphorescent led the outside heave, with his Neil Diamond stoicism highlighting his newfound confidence. His new tribute To Willie Nelson didn't show much face, but "Wolves," aided by a killer swollen-eyed guitarist and crying pedal steel, scared away the chickens. It all led up to the most ambitious outing Secretly Canadian has ever attempted. South African quartet Blk Jks might have had a bit of deer-in-the-headlights syndrome, but when was the last time a non-American band invented a new genre? With only four songs in under 20 minutes, Blk Jks perfected African post-prog dub. It was mass confusion, fear, and then straight-up glory. By the time "Lakeside" hit ground, the throat of Lindani Buthelezi matched wits with euphoric guitarist Mpumi Mcata. For four boys from Johannesburg, SXSW was more than a stage; it was a window to the Western world. It wasn't perfect, but man, did that soul shred.

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