A slight murmur slithered through the crowd when indie-pop heartthrobs Tennis started setting up at the top of the hour. They don't look or sound much like Thee Oh Sees, and with South by Southwest's muddled schedules, fearing the worst came easy. Did the kids who bristled through long lines and unyielding humidity make their odyssey in vain? No. San Francisco's favorite garage devils simply forgot they had a gig. Introduced with Carson Daly's "Are you fucking ready!," Thee Oh Sees proceeded to cave in the audience's collective skull equipped with fewer than 10 songs. Guitars barreled in every direction, John Dwyer's wily yelp sprang off the stage, and the doubled percussion of drummers Mike Shoun and Lars Finberg had everyone checking their orientation. Plenty of bands find it easy to take a breather or phone it in when the showcase dates add up, but the Sees always aim to impress, to turn every audience into a batch of die-hards. The set encroached with such ferocity that some of the special-invite TV executives escaped to higher ground. Punk rock forever; even Daly called them underrated.
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