Spotlights: Yeah Yeah Yeahs
La Zona Rosa, 8pm
In just a year and a half since their first gig, Brooklyn's Yeah Yeah Yeahs have gone from a Big Apple band eking it out for beer money to one of Rolling Stone's "10 Bands to Watch." Their SXSW showcase is sure to be one of the festival's most anticipated, since the as-yet unaffiliated trio is deep into the label mating dance. And all this from an unassuming, self-released EP recorded on the cheap and promoted mostly through favorable word-of-mouth.
The band's genesis traces back to Oberlin College in Ohio, where singer Karen O met drummer Brian Chase, a jazz studies major. Ms. O later transferred to NYU and met native Bostonian/guitarist Nick Zinner through mutual friends. The two started a band and called Chase when their original drummer couldn't make a show. Though Zinner insists the YYYs aren't "anti-bass," getting a bassist never entered the equation. "We tried a keyboard player at the very beginning, but it just didn't work," he says. "It sounded better with just the three of us."
Indeed it does. Zinner splatters the canvas with all sorts of sparse, alien sounds coaxed forth from his guitar, while Chase fills the gaps with everything from James Brown funk to Sonic Youth death flails. Meanwhile, Karen O moves about the stage like a whirling dervish, smiling and giggling as the band pounds forward.
Their EP-closing anthem, "Our Time," with the chorus, "It's our time to be hated," has been likened to both the aftermath of Sept. 11 and a prophesy of the band's future. The YYYs are well aware of the foibles endemic to hype.
"We can sort of choose who we want to have dinner with every night of the week," muses Zinner. "It's an incredible luxury, but at the same time, it's really quite overwhelming. This was just something we started because it was fun and sexy and hot. It's still all those things, but now there's this whole other element to it."