Manatee

Music Showcase

SXSW Live Shots
Photo By Gary Miller

Manatee

Back Room, Wednesday, March 12 The dank confines of the Back Room's live music half were well filled by 8:45pm, a strange occurrence during a regular night, an even stranger development during SXSW given the club's off-the-beaten-path location. Perhaps folks were there to hear the melodic punk sounds of showcase opener Air Tight Alibi. Perhaps it was fun-zies associated with the conference's first night. Or perhaps the crowd was there to experience Austin's Manatee deliver some meaty cuts from their critics' fave debut, Music Is Useless. Not fearing punctuality, the local foursome came out sluggin' with a charged opener that remunerated the crowd's patience. Using the amplitude merchant's standard tools -- Ampeg bass cabinets, Marshall heads, and a sternum-cracking kick drum -- Manatee showed off impressive chops on their ripping originals. A more staccato number, the second tune went over less well with the crowd, which applauded politely. Regaining momentum, the boys launched into "A Sound to Spite the Silence," their debut's pointed opener, as stop-start as indecisive emotions and anthemic in spite of the band's problems hearing their vocals. Plainly introduced by SG-slung guitarist Aaron Franco with, "We Are Manatee," the follow-up featured harmony vocals that might sound like XTC after a box of cheap beer. Band members mouthed lyrics while vocalist Chris Vanlandingham sang the next, the resulting intensity fueling the crowd, who repaid the band with increasing approbation. Like all their work, the subsequent tune eschewed greedy solos for songcrafting and moodshifting. Wisely closing their set with a scream-spiced, bedrock-drilling number, one hopes that Manatee will put those extra singing voices to a microphone and write some more pounders, since their 35-minute set was far too short. When they do, they'll be headlining their next SXSW showcase slot.

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