Reading Rainbow

SXSW showcase reviews

Live Shots
Photo by Sandy Carson

Reading Rainbow

Antone's, Friday, March 18

Taking the stage right after the Head & the Heart's uplifting, full-bodied performance, Philadelphia's Reading Rainbow faced tall odds before strumming a note. As a packed house became half-packed, the married guitar-and-drum duo unassumingly launched into "We Are Too Young" from their 2009 debut, Mystical Participation. Before the song ended, it was achingly apparent that their sparse setup wasn't going to replicate the home-cooked layers of bubblegum noise-pop on their albums. Which isn't to say that Reading Rainbow doesn't have something special in their sound. Guitarist Rob Garcia and drummer Sarah Everton's husband-and-wife harmonizing was warm and endearingly gawky. When he got going, Garcia channeled Johnny Ramone buzzing through Dick Dale amplification, while Everton kept the primal, stand-up beat with the temerity of Shellshag's Jen Shag. The duo's best songs, like "Wasting Time" and "White Noise" from 2010's Prism Eyes, managed to bob several heads despite the stripped-down presentation, but the full-on salvation of the studio versions was nowhere to be found. Without additional musicians and/or a massive effects rack, Reading Rainbow was stuck in a basement party vibe that couldn't be scaled up – no garnish, no flavor. Knowing it could've been so much better made it all the more disappointing.

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