Ex-Girl, Red Eyed Fly, Friday, March 16

Live Shots: South by Southwest 2001


Red Eyed Fly, Friday, March 16

Pity the poor band that has to take the stage (or what's left of it) after an incendiary performance by those ...Trail of Dead boys. How exactly do you top a bass drum being thrown through a plastic Coors Light banner and into Waller Creek? Tokyo's Ex-Girl is one of only a few bands with enough sonic and visual impact to follow said local band, and they pulled it off with super-cute punkette ebullience to spare Friday night. As their rollicking rendition of Kurt Weill's "Alabama Song" played, the trio took to the stage like pageant contestants in silver space-age minidress ensembles, their heads bedecked by huge beach ball hats that would've made Carmen Miranda envious. Based on their True Stories fashion sense and minimalist guitar/bass/drums lineup, one might paint Ex-Girl as a goof. In fact, they crank out some seriously engaging Gang of Four-style angularities underscored by their ultra-squeaky three-part harmonies. A foundation made up of retro-futuristic samples, including a few from electronic music pioneer Raymond Scott, adds even more distinction. Ex-Girl's playful stage banter (e.g., "Okay, now we will go to the planet Karo Karo!") had the same hyper-precocious nature as Gilda Radner's perfectly realized little girl on Saturday Night Live. With the Blue Man Group breaking attendance records in Las Vegas, it's not hard to imagine a multisensory Japanese girl-punk extravaganza like Ex-Girl becoming one of those must-see exercises in unorthodox entertainment. If Ex-Girl is a goof, it's more on the Residents/Caroliner plane of sheer, fuse-blowing strangeness that leaves you no choice but to laugh. And for a singularly beautiful moment of what-the-fuh dissonance, it would've been impossible to top a special cameo appearance by Robin Scott, the British artist who gave us the No.1 hit "Pop Musik" back in 1979 under the moniker "M." Had this man flown all the way from the UK to spend three minutes onstage with a Japanese girl group doing a hasty and raucous run-through of his one big hit at the Red Eyed Fly?!? That's exactly what I love about SXSW -- those once-in-a-lifetime moments that would've been too far out to even contemplate before they happened. Ex-Girl finished their set with the primal psych-garage marathon "Disco 3000," and left the crowded patio wanting more. Maybe next year, they can coax Pink Lady out of retirement.

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