SXSW showcase reviews

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Photo by Jana Birchum


Malaia, Friday, March 18

Watching Warsaw-based pop-rockers Pustki play to a nearly nonexistent crowd at the vaguely Tiki-esque Malaia felt like attending a lower-tier Polish football match. Those who bothered to show up tended to speak the language and support their visiting team, but the non-Poles in the audience wore contemplative faces, trying to discern if Pustki was the standard-bearer of Polish Top 40 radio or what. They're a little more than that, having won their nation's equivalent of a Grammy. Still, those puzzled (but friendly and welcoming) looks on the listeners' faces told of an obvious inner turmoil: This isn't some Eurovision tripe, is it? No way. Barbara Wro´nska's soaring vocals – she also handles keyboards – were aerodynamically thrilling, the aural equivalent of sparrows caught in a gale. Backed by guitarist Szymon Tarkowski's pedal-heavy power chords and Grzegorz Sluz's tom-heavy percussion, Wro´nska's lyrics, in English and her native tongue, rivaled at times Bjork's more heavenly moments. Single "Lugola" was a micropop masterpiece with a decidedly heavy EU vibe, while "Trawa," upbeat yet melancholy, just flat out rocked. Who knew Poles were such fans of cowbells?

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