The Boat People

SXSW showcase reviews

Live Shots
Photo by Gary Miller

The Boat People

Buffalo Billiards, Wednesday, March 18

A sparse crowd of early birds gathered at the very front end of KCRW's Wednesday night showcase to welcome Melbourne, Australia's the Boat People. The pop-heavy quartet, which has perhaps wrongly been compared to the Shins, Elliott Smith, and the Decemberists, opened with big vocals and tight instrumentation, exuding confidence and good-naturedness despite the audience's reluctance to clap along to the song. The group emerged on the international stage in 2008, garnering much acclaim and a CMJ Grand Prize, but stateside, critics can't seem to nail down the sound. With "Unsettle My Heart," TBP revealed a chunk of influences in fellow countrymen Powderfinger, both in the bigness of their sound and the power of bassist James O'Brien's vocals. He and fellow vocalist/keyboardist Robin Waters engaged in light banter between songs, joking about the fourth wall and MoonPie-related squirrel bites. In fact, the quartet was so charming and polished-sounding that it could almost be forgiven for rhyming "soporific" and "terrific." Most of the set drew heavily from last year's Chandeliers, including the searching "As If I Could." The Boat People went out on a neon-hued note with "Born in the 80's," even though they never could get the audience to clap along.

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