You Must Never Break the Chain

Aussie on Aussie: Wolfmother vs. the Grates

Grating good time: (l-r) Patience Hodgson, guitarist John Patterson, and brazen beat Alana Skyring
Grating good time: (l-r) Patience Hodgson, guitarist John Patterson, and brazen beat Alana Skyring

Erika Wennerstrom’s blistering blues made Dhani Harrison crouch down for a better look upstairs on the Stubb’s VIP deck, while Wolfmother, Friday night’s Aussie Afro and headliner, watched from the wings. Too bad the Heartless Bastards’ volcanic voice and Les Paul wringer wasn't at the Continental Club later to grin at Down Under’s the Grates.

Harrison’s energetic Thenewno2 opened the bill with a bad case of Radiohead, hardwired keyboards/consoles undone by a blown guitar amp, but the Beatle incarnate’s unflappable charisma diffused the delay until the five could leap about to their electro power pop like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The spitting image, Harrison is, same heartbreaking accent and tenor, guitar shark too.

The Mountain, the Heartless Bastards’ monumental 2009 stone cutter, chopped at Stubb’s bow as Wolfmother stood riveted at the mouth of the ramp from backstage, invisible to a dream demographic (16 to 25) waiting a la Duran Duran, hungry like the wolf. Leaving before the lupine Sydney power brokers could rock the ship felt akin to unplugging the tap before tapping the keg, but that glimpse of the Grates at an upstairs Sixth Street den of iniquity during South by South promised something like Jemina Pearl just up Red River at Mohawk three nights earlier.

Nashville’s Tasmanian blonde mostly held her snarl opening for Islands on Tuesday and never delivered the promised Fleetwood Mac covers. With her rabid Be Your Own Pet put down, Pearl’s solo debut, Break It Up, turns out the same old tricks with BYOP’s John Eatherly, the two looking 21st Century Buckingham/Nicks on the inside of the new disc. Pearl kept her whiplash delivery in check, but Break It Up sparked vintage Go-Go’s, punk-flavored bubblegum, tight ‘n’ tart. The Grates’ dyed blond vocal dynamo Patience Hodgson would’ve enjoyed one of Pearl’s 16-ounce Lone Stars.

In a white fringe cowgirl outfit, Hodgson led the Brisbane trio (and touring quartet) through a rodeo of indefatigable spank. The Grates’ new sophomore LP, Teeth Lost, Hearts Won., harnesses its frontwoman’s collision of Sleater-Kinney and Kate Bush slicker and more streamlined than the group’s ear-biting 2006 debut, Gravity Won’t Get You High, yet another SXSW souvenir. Hodgson hopped off her invisible pony only when she was nearly decapitated by ceiling fans while riding a behemoth fan’s shoulders during the 35-minute set. Like Madonna, she barely broke a sweat, but unlike La Ciccone, a speeding ticket couldn’t wipe the smile off her face. She bucked and kicked, and delivered lines like those off Teeth’s “Carve Your Name”:

Veins without the blood, legs without the run.
Sex without the come, you got aches without the fun.

Tennessee threesome Those Darlins filled the Continental next with pin-up punkabilly, and at Stubb’s, Wolfmother was scheduled to continue unleashing raw razzle-dazzle – the monster magnetics of Cosmic Egg kick-off “California Queen” (and sour patch Ozzy vocals of the title track) – for another 30 minutes, but Patience Hodgson had had the last word. It.

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The Grates, Patience Hodgson

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