There are tip jars everywhere in Austin -- every person in every deli and movie theater and burger joint seems to depend on the kindness of strangers to make a living. At Room 710, a fantastic year-old dive on Red River, there was a tip jar nailed to the side of the sound booth. Preposterous? Nope -- just step inside for a show of the magnitude of Seattle trio 764-HERO and you'll be shoving foldables into that jug quick as can be. From the opening notes, James Bertram's bass drove straight into your chest while Polly Johson's drums did likewise, marking time with a pounding cross-sticked intensity that built a palpable tension. Lead singer-guitarist John Atkins works his songs like he's rediscovering them every time he plays them, belting out choruses like they'd save the world. Beginning with the opening track off their latest Weekends of Sound LP, "Terrified of Flight," and on through "Out Like a Light," they kept up the unabashed passion common to their Seattle forbears. "Weekends of Sound" was probably the strongest tune of the night, every chord and every word sinking deep into the eager audience. An unusual plus for a South by Southwest showcase, 764-HERO got off to an early start, and by the time they dug into "Ward's County" and "History Lessons" off their stellar '98 release Get Here and Stay, they were in the midst of the best rock show so far this week, soaring Fender riffs laid on top of bass lines that were clear and ringing as Morse code on an anvil. In the high-ceilinged, U-shaped cavern of Room 710, 764-HERO had all the airspace they needed to give their booming sound room to expand to full effect. Unfortunately, they stopped playing at 11:30pm, not taking advantage of the jump they got at the beginning. Still, though, this is about as satisfying and fully realized as a 40-minute rock show can be.
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