Car Stereo WarsMaggie Mae's, Thursday 14
It must suck hard to cross over into another hemisphere, another season, another world altogether only to come play an abbreviated, five-song set plagued with technical problems that are no fault of your own -- especially after having to forego last year's festival due to financial constraints. Such is the case with Melbourne, Australia's Car Stereo Wars, whose charming, comfortable music was marred by the vagaries of a festival such as this, in which mellow-yellow music made for snuggling follows rockin' bands built to party, helmed by a sound engineer unable to switch gears when time is tight. But the trio -- vocalist Alyssa Doe, and guitarists Matt Gillman and Jason White -- grinned and bore it, even joking about their plight with natural Aussie aplomb. "We're Car Stereo Wars," said White, "and our special guest tonight is feedback." The group didn't have much time to strut their stuff, having got off to a late start, but despite the glitches in sound, they still managed to communicate their homey, comfortable pop with only a guitar, bass, some programmed sounds, and the world's tiniest synthesizer. The high point was "Broken," a rainy-day song with a mellow sense of movement that tells the story of a wistful people watcher. It would have been nice to hear some more upbeat songs given the loveliness of the evening, but the low-key vibe was the order of the evening. The band closed their set -- a mixed blessing due to the awful sound spoiling the pleasant music -- with a cover of "Flame Trees" in homage to classic, revered Aussie bar band Cold Chisel. ("If you're from Australia," joked Doe, "you just call them 'Chisel!'") The three then bravely thanked the crowd, packed up, and left a bit disappointed, leaving their newfound supporters shaking their heads sympathetically in their wake.