I Am the World Trade Center (Photo By Gary Miller)
I AM THE WORLD TRADE CENTER
At one end of the continuum you have the Rolling Stones, who on this date in 1989 signed the most expensive contract in the history of rock & roll. No less than $70 million was promised to the band for a few dozen North American tour dates. A SXSW set is on the other side of the continuum, with bands roughly fitting into one of three categories: big names who enjoy the novelty; semi-established acts who stick their neck out; and those just damn happy to be there. Hailing originally from Athens, Georgia, but now calling Brooklyn home, the uniquely named I Am the World Trade Center reside firmly in this last category -- psyched just to be in the limelight for a while. Listed in the SXSW program under the admittedly coarse "dance/DJ" description, the young quartet announced their half-hour set by literally setting the stage: "This is our first time." And they weren't kidding. Having recorded their Kindercore Records debut, Out of the Loop,
entirely on a laptop, the band had heretofore never performed live. Never. So they were a wee bit apprehensive about their first gig, especially as the first act on the first night of such a high-profile music business gathering. In platinum-blond-topped pink, the lead vocalist contrasted her three darkly dressed bandmates. And while her singing was marred by here-and-there flat notes, to her credit she and the rest of the band had to wade through a less-than-ideal stage sound mix. The three instrumentalists -- a bassist, a sequenced synthesizer, and a multi-instrumentalist (keymodica, high school band xylophone, etc.) -- sported messy variations on the Caesar-combed-forward hairstyle and churned out dreamy, loopy dance music -- a less polished and more caffeinated version of Portishead. Attending the conference's first show, the crowd was settling in nearly as much as the band. Still, they were sympathetic if not enthusiastic toward the musical newcomers. Given the first-time butterflies, not surprisingly the last two of their eight tunes -- "L'amour et la Morte" and the loopy beats and lilting lyrics of closer "Holland Tunnel" -- came off the best. While evident that this was their first show, it wasn't an obtrusive fact. I Am the World Trade Center has no need to fear the Ides of March: No stage assassination here.