SXSW Music Review: Swervedriver
Pulling the plug on the sweetest of crunches
By Michael Toland,
11:20AM, Sat. Mar. 16, 2019
Never the most demonstrative band, Swervedriver’s stage moves consist of simply playing the instruments and singing the songs, trusting its powerful and peerless catalog of alternative rock gems to carry a show.
At the Oxford quartet’s best, that can work wonders, filtering wispy pop melodies through a high-volume pummel that can overwhelm an audience with the sweetest of crunches. Unfortunately, their SXSW slot outside at Barracuda on Friday wasn’t that performance.
Beginning with “Mary Winter,” a midtempo pop tune from their sixth and latest LP, Future Ruins, Swervedriver sounded fine, though sour looks from guitarists Adam Franklin and Jimmy Hartridge said otherwise. “The Lonely Crowd Fades in the Air” spoke to what the band does best, but Hartridge remained unhappy. By the time Swervedriver hit the title track, tuning problems caused by the cold weather induced Franklin and bassist Mick Quinn to retune midsong, while Hartridge soldiered on despite his axe sounding like it was in a different key.
The group never fully recovered after that, plowing ahead out of obligation and getting a rise out of the audience only for oldie “Never Lose That Feeling.”
Ruins cut “Drone Lover” begun to gather momentum, but the show abruptly ceased once it concluded, only six songs in. It was unclear whether SXSW personnel pulled the plug before the band could go past its allotted time or if Swervedriver had simply had enough. Regardless, it was a disappointing end to what, if past shows are any indication, could have been a gloriously deafening night.