British Boys: Episode One, Twist / Maggie Mae's

Wednesday Night

British Boys: Episode One

Twist/Maggie Mae's

Warning: All SXSW 2000 interaction will be limited soley to citizens of the United Kingdom. At the Convention Center, the ex-Posies manager is friendly and charming, but with no fringe and no accent; we must move on. Minutes later, driving down Sixth Street, we spot a tall man wearing a T-shirt with the name of a must-see: übercute Scottish popsters Astrid. The tour-manager character leads us to the youngsters, long-lashed and barely legal, who come from an island so remote and religious one can see the northern lights, but the family TV may be covered by a blanket on Sunday. After a pint and a chat about slaughtered childhood pets like Ploopsen the lamb and Angus the pig, we follow said lads to a party for European bands, where we run into Sean of the High Fidelity. The boys are sweet, but he's a proper rock star (ex-Soup Dragons), all about external energy and easily accepted compliments about his new record. The DJ is too loud, and comments float in and out of focus: "You come to my show and I'll come to yours," "I think Departure Lounge has an omnichord you could borrow," "I hear Robin Guthrie's bag was lost at the airport with all his gear -- pre-programmed effects. -- he's fucked," "Yeah, I sat with him on the plane," and so forth. All plan to reconvene at the Bella Union showcase, featuring bands handpicked by ex-Cocteau Twins Simon Raymonde and Robin Guthrie. Openers Sneakster are a two-piece experiment in the ethereal who suffer from the age-old electronica disease known as "technical difficulties." The lead singer has doe eyes and fairy-tale lips, and her sigh of a voice demands we be intoxicated by her. By 10pm, the 300-capacity venue is sold-out for Departure Lounge, who specialize in the paradox of joyous melancholy, orchestrated by Casio keyboards, harmonicas, the odd flute, and the resonant voice of singer Tim Keegan. Wisely, they eschew their normal obstinate quietness for a more rousing set, featuring the cinematically poppy "Mercury in Retrograde," the groovy romp of "Grow Your Own," and the melodically butchered anthem "We've Got Everything We Need." Feedback and technical explosions plague them as well, but their wit and musical character captivate the room. Raymonde joins them for the last two songs, and their set ends far too quickly. "This is the aggressively gentle movement coming out of England," quips Keegan as the boys leave the stage. Such a way with words, those Brits.

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