SXSW Music Live: Stereogum Party
Real Estate, Sleigh Bells – feh! Girlpool bests all
By Libby Webster,
11:55AM, Wed. Mar. 15, 2017
Not until late Tuesday did Empire Garage pack out with people flooding in for the late-night acts, bona fide indie gods Real Estate and noise-pop Sleigh Bells. The former delivered a slick set, while the latter proved all show and no substance. By then, the most dynamic sets of Stereogum’s showcase were hours old.
Athens, Ga.’s Mothers opened the night with quietly-brutal noise, each song a tangle of jagged, grungy guitar rock. Kristine Leschper’s crystalline voice quivers madly, seemingly on the verge of breaking. Mothers’ tense sound brilliantly balanced both tenderness and animosity, each off-kilter track lurching forward through heartbreak.
Hurray for the Riff Raff, fronted by the endlessly-charismatic Alynda Lee Segarra, crushed. The New Orleans rock band showcased heavy traces of blues and country, strung with cuts from forthcoming LP The Navigator.
A canceled flight forced singer-songwriter Julie Byrne to drive 24 hours from New York to Austin, arriving only an hour before her slotted time at Empire. Switching sets with L.A. duo Girlpool, Byrne fought to catch the attention of the audience, even with the excellent, poetic Not Even Happiness LP from earlier this year under her belt. Mellow, acoustic sleepiness wasn’t going to cut it after Girlpool.
Girlpool served up the best set of the night, and a mission statement for the duo going forward: “We’re going in a different direction.” Bassist Harmony Tividad and guitarist Cleo Tucker’s strangely intense, sparse, and stripped-down signature sound appeared only in fleeting flashes during their 30 minutes onstage.
Instead, the addition of a drummer and second guitarist fleshed out Girlpool’s peculiar, jarring little world, making it less of something you peek into and more of a sound that consumes you.