Rocks Off

SXSW 04 encore: Saturday showcases and more

Grand Champeen

Club DeVille, Wednesday, March 17 There are two kinds of showcases at SXSW: those you want to leave, and those you don't want to end. There's too much else going on to sit through even a mediocre set. And the really great shows remind you why you abuse your body to endure this absurdly rich four-day auralgasm. Enter Grand Champeen, Austin's homage to the best of turntable rock, be it the arena dinosaurs of the Seventies or their replacements in post-punk collegians of the Eighties. From the opening riff of "That's Never Why," off the recent The One That Brought You, to the closing cover of the Stones' "Rocks Off," the local quartet gave a 40-minute seminar on the joy of rock. There was no build-up. There was no tease. There was no easing into things. With Battle Cry for Help's "Cottonmouth" and "Nothin' on Me," it was fifth gear from the drop of the flag. Maybe "Step Into My Heart" was a lap under caution, but by the time they broke out with Thin Lizzy's "Cowboy Song" even the jaded guys in back were pushing up to the stage to throw a fist in the air. It's not just a good band on a great night. It's something that all the great showcases of SXSW 04 had, be it Broken Social Scene, Faceless Werewolves, Ted Leo & the Pharmacists. They all played with a visible bliss. They're not up there trying to get signed, not up there trying to show off some stylish look, not trying to draw the nostalgia paycheck. They're onstage for the moment itself. And it translates to the crowd. For 40 minutes, everyone feels better about life. Sometimes 2am comes too early.

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