SXSW 2014 Reviews: Soundgarden, Damon Albarn, Fucked Up, Cloud Nothings

Plus, Speedy Ortiz, Future Islands, and Macaulay Culkin slinging it with Har Mar Superstar.


Yesterday we forged on. Not because we’d forgotten what happened only hours prior — hardly — but because we simply couldn’t let tragedy have the last word. We tried to echo the resilient sentiments of Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, who, during a press conference, stated that he believed the festival should not be cancelled. Doing so, he claimed, would be a “win for evil”.

That’s not to say we didn’t walk down Red River Street without heavy hearts, or cross the street with extra care. But we found comfort in the powerful intangibles of music. We united over the riffs, the synths, and the drops, the bridges, choruses, and even momentary silences. From sunny day parties to muggy, dive bar showcases, glitzy rooftops to scruffy backyards, music was an omnipresent therapy and one that we needed more than ever.

Meg Myers — Pigeons & Planes Day Party — 1:30 p.m. 


Photo by Michelle Geslani

With a somewhat reserved demeanor and tiny frame, Los Angeles’ Meg Myers may not seem like the type of singer-songwriter to hold a lot of rage. But put her in front of a mic and it’s as though 10 years worth of angst pours out. That was the case yesterday afternoon at the Complex Compound, where music site Pigeons & Planes had curated a diverse afternoon lineup.

Myers led the pack, taking stage when the sun was at its highest. With heat and the smell of free booze in the air, she tore through a half hour of songs that toed the fine line between hard-edged pop and alt-rock. Most of the songs she performed, such as “Desire” and “The Morning After”, are off her latest Make A Shadow EP, but her live set seemed to nod more towards the rock end of the music spectrum, and thus, somewhat of an interesting point in her career.


Her voice is crisp and evocative, and has the ability to take the form of either lithe croon or exceptional powerhouse. She could easily do the pop thing given her penchant for hooky choruses and heartbroken vulnerability, but I feel as though that would be too easy, like she’s meant for something more than that. The real grime and the real anger — both so telling and intense — seemed to come out more when Myers channeled more grunge-y, roughed up sounds.

When “in that zone”, her voice borders on spine-tingling scream as her eyes stare off into the distance. Even though it looks like she’s entranced by feelings well beyond the audience’s scope, the vigor in her eyes and voice alone speaks loud and clear: the girl’s out for blood. –Michelle Geslani 

Jambinai – Levitation Austin at Hotel Vegas – 1:30 p.m.


Photo by Adam Kivel

In a festival setting, coming across something completely unexpected and unique can be rare, but that’s exactly what South Korean outfit Jambinai did to open Austin Psych Fest’s day party at Hotel Vegas. Pairing a wicked black Ibanez guitar, electric bass, and drums with traditional Korean instruments like the haegeum and the geomungo (both played very non-traditionally, I’d wager, as the former was plugged into a few effects pedals and the latter rattled and buckled beyond its deep, bassy string register), Jambinai built long psychedelic drawls out of spare pieces of metal, drone, post-rock, and more. Near their set’s end, guitarist Ilwoo Lee quietly and earnestly announced that they had merch for sale. “Please buy. Buy or die,” he smiled. The line that formed to pick up CDs wasn’t just there for fear of death, but rather to have the opportunity to re-experience the five-piece’s massive, visceral music. —Adam Kivel

Lunice — Pigeons & Planes Day Party — 2:30 p.m. 


Photo by Michelle Geslani

The event was barely filled given the early start time, but man, did Lunice change the atmosphere entirely. The Montreal producer and other half of electronic duo TNGHT didn’t need much time for setting up or sound-checking, simply hopping behind the tools of his trade and launching his set without so much as a word or greeting. Totally focused, but still so animated, he often left the stage to hype up and dance alongside the audience. For him, the joy not only came in performing, but in seeing that others could get down with him, too. At one point, he borrowed a guy’s iPhone and began recording himself while on stage. He even hammed up for the phone’s camera, big grin and all, and you could tell the day party had finally reached full-on party status. Along with a few TNGHT tracks, he also blew through songs by Kanye West, Jay Z, Chief Keef, Pusha T, Rick Ross, and Rocko. –Michelle Geslani

Krill – Exploding in Sound BBQ at Todd’s Mansion – 3:10 p.m.

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Photo by Sasha Geffen

Trek three miles south of the bustle and Austin takes on a much more Texan tone. There aren’t any stately buildings or charming coffee shops down on the south side, just gas stations and parking lots and rows of houses. Just off of South Congress, indie record label Exploding in Sound hosted a day party celebrating their own roster and a few special guests from the area. Boston’s Krill played a quick set, one in a wild string they’d booked throughout the week. “We’re playing like eight shows,” frontman Jonah Furman muttered between songs. “It’s stupid.”

Krill might be busy in a bunch of shiny bars, but I’m glad I caught them in their natural environment: a garage attached to a house where their friends live. After running through a handful of songs off their new EP, the trio finished with a new tune, working title “Mom”. It’s another dark one, one that plumbs familial dysfunction and the itchy insecurities that Krill know how to outline so well. For his part, Furman’s not what I’d call a charismatic frontman, but the way he fires his songs out of himself matches the wary persona he’s built within them. —Sasha Geffen

Cerebral Ballzy – Pigeons & Planes Day Party – 3:15 p.m. 


Photo by Michelle Geslani

“We want to wake you guys up,” said Cerebral Ballzy frontman Honor Titus, as the band took the stage. The crowd, still hot and bothered after Lunice’s set, was ready for more loud music and that’s exactly what they got. The Brooklyn punks, who were recently signed to Julian Casablancas’ imprint Cult Records, threw out gnarly screams and ragged riffs left and right. Honor Titus especially let the music move him…right to the top of a tower of speakers, that is. From there he crouched down to overlook and survey the crowd — we now his minions — and wailed like no tomorrow. They touched on tracks from their past releases, but also noted that a new album would be out soon. In true rock fashion, the band closed their set with Honor Titus saying, “Thanks a lot, mi amor,” and knocking over his mic stand to the ground. –Michelle Geslani

Flashlights – Black Bell Records Blackout Ball at Sailor Jerry House – 3:45 p.m.


Photo by Adam Kivel

“We’re from Orlando… ‘N Sync is from Orlando… Creed is from Florida. This is a Creed cover,” Terry Caudill deadpanned late during Flashlights’ set at the Sailor Jerry compound, before tearing into one of the band’s decidedly un-Creed originals. Clad in a Purple Rain T-shirt and sporting a Bulbasaur keychain, Caudill’s bracing enthusiasm, chunky guitar riffs, and Doug Martsch-esque vocals led the way for the quartet’s quirky, punky brand of power pop.

Tracks like upcoming single “Blue Dream” hummed and sparked, drummer Melissa Hopkins punishing the kit, bassist Will Powell and guitarist Tony Oriza striking lightning around Caudill’s intense, emotional lines. “Most of the time I feel like I’m no one,” Caudill repeated at the conclusion of the excellent, anthemic “Don’t Take Me Seriously”, but not in a bid for pity. Flashlights aren’t here for that; they’re here to take the audience along for the ride on each and every burst of emotion. —Adam Kivel

Fucked Up – Converse/Thrasher “Death Match” at Scoot Inn – 4:00 p.m.


Photo by Converse/Thrasher

Fucked Up are an important and artistically valid band, one who has helped redefine and renovate the genre of hardcore in the 21st century. But when it comes to seeing them perform live, none of their goddamn songs mean a thing, all because of frontman Damian “Pink Eyes” Abraham. For years, I’ve read about Abraham’s shirtless antics, diving into the crowd, cutting himself open with lighttubes, and generally serving as the sweaty center of the universe for countless packed crowds. Until you see them live, there’s no understanding just how amazingly intense and almost hypnotic the entire Abraham experience is. Of a set just under 40 minutes, Abraham had to spend at least 20 of it in the crowd, hugging people, choking himself with a mic chord, getting people to pour beer on his head, and smiling like a madman the whole time. Even as throngs of kids mosh and stamp around him, body-checking each other and knocking people down, Abraham is the ringleader the whole time, directing veins of angst and aggression with every visceral yelp and moan.

Toward the set’s end, he got people to throw water on him, ala The Gatorade Shower, at which point the cooler got sent around like some kind of beach ball. Even as people around me (and myself included) feared getting smashed in the dome, it’s almost impossible not to feel and taste that sense of camaraderie and of a massive shared emotional release. Still, I think Abraham’s antics work because the rest of the band anchors him, tearing through tracks like “The Police” and “The Other Shoe”, creating the waves of fury and dissonance that Abraham and the crowd can ride. They may not be the stars or even that memorable, but I think the band’s happy just to let Abraham smash around like some hairy-chested version of The Hulk. That’s what makes Fucked Up effective: everyone has their roles, and some may seem more crucial, but the end result is an experience that is focused entirely on the crowd and generating a sense of community and of inter-connectedness (even if that’s as an unruly mob.)

Also, if you were at the show and lost your blue Ray-Bans to a back elbow from some metal dude, I think I saw security take them to the inside bar. –Chris Coplan

Trust – Hype Machine’s Hype Hotel – 4:00 p.m.

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Photo by Dan Pfleegor

Hype Hotel is crushing it this week. And not just because they helped CoS host one heck of a day party. From Future Islands, Against Me!, and Together Pangea, the makeshift venue has carouled some of the most intense live acts SXSW has to offer. Thursday’s daytime kick in the teeth was administered by Robert Alfons’ Canadian jitter dance collective, Trust. Fresh off the heels of sophomore release Joyland, Alfons opened his set with a bouncy rendition of “Capitol” that was equal parts tar and honey, before segueing into a haunting performance of “Rescue, Mister” that dripped with a dissociative sexual energy. It was cool to watch the animated Alfons bounce around, like a young Ethan Hawke with rabies, while his vocals ping ponged from brooding baritone to playful falsetto. It’s also fun to imagine Alfons as the long lost little brother of The Knife’s Karin Dreijer Andersson. Or at the very least, some punk kid she used to babysit. –Dan Pfleegor

Guantanamo Baywatch – Black Bell Records Blackout Ball at Sailor Jerry House – 4:45 p.m.


Photo by Adam Kivel

When you see a band called Guantanamo Baywatch on a lineup, you stick around to see what the hell’s up. As it turns out, the name is pretty apt. There are elements of classic surf rock to the trio’s work, and there’s also some gritty intensity (though think more punk shout-along than just shouting). And also pretty goofy. Bassist Chevelle Wiseman, for instance, was wearing a Miley Cyrus T-shirt and the back of her bass featured a painting of Elvis. Drummer Chris Michael checked his mic with a rousing rendition of Harry Belafonte’s “Jump in the Line”. Guitarist Jason Powell’s speedy admission that he was “working on that hangover” made sense considering the wobble, but it didn’t affect the old-school jangle and waves of head rush rock ‘n’ roll. Relying on a  band’s name alone isn’t always successful, but the reckless, gleeful, classic fun matched perfectly. —Adam Kivel

together PANGEA – Converse/Thrasher “Death Match” at Scoot Inn – 5:30 p.m.

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Photo by Heather Kaplan

Having only been married for five months, I assumed it’d be some time before I fell in love with someone who wasn’t my wife. But it’s happened, and it’s happened quite hard: I love Los Angeles’ together PANGEA. It’s a frustrating, almost flustering experience to try and maintain a sense of balance and perspective, only to have three grimy looking dudes come along and leave me feeling as giddy as a schoolboy. Still, if anyone deserves such adoration, it’s this band of hooligans. They are, in a way, very much in the tradition of The Replacements or Green Day. Not even I can say if they’ll make as lasting of an impact (I’m smitten, not stupid.) Instead, it’s their whole “we don’t care about anything, except the music” vibe, which makes for a refreshing mix of playfulness and accessibility while maintaining a sense of reverence for the art itself. It’s also in their whole approach to emotions and lyrics and expressing themselves; like the icons I’ve lumped them in with, PANGEA can talk about angst and awkwardness (“River” and “Badillac”) and immediately segue into a song called “Too Drunk To Cum”.

Under all the weirdo vibes and penis jokes, they strive to be something more. Whether it’s frontman William Keegan’s growls or madman looks, a cover of Promoe’s “White Man’s Burden”, or their set-ending take on “Gates of Heaven”, where they practically burn down the stage with white-hot rocakbilly jams, there’s hints that they’re more than just a bunch of slackers. Every time they get on stage, and I’ve already seen them something like three times, it reminds me why I like rock and roll music in the first place: it’s not necessarily the greatest thing ever, or even that great in general, but it swells and stirs something within me that feels basic and primal. They’re a profound reminder of how you can take shitty feelings and bad jokes and turn them into something bigger, something with emotional value and meaning. I’d like to see my wife do that. –Chris Coplan

Ab-Soul — Pigeons & Planes Day Party — 6:15 p.m. 


Photo by Michelle Geslani

As if Top Dawg Entertainment wasn’t making enough headlines as it is, what with Kendrick’s countless masterful live performances and new material from ScHoolboy Q, Isaiah Rashad, and SZA, here comes Ab-Soul. The West Coast emcee had his hype man get the crowd going, but once he was front-and-center, he had folks seemingly wrapped around his finger, even having them get involved on more than one occasion. At times, the audience looked like a sea of hands, fingers pointing to the sky and swaying in the direction of Ab-Soul. If the set was any indication, it looks like he’s set to follow in the footsteps of his fellow solo TDE mates. –Michelle Geslani

Caleb James – Audible Treats Showcase at Half Step – 8:30 p.m.


Photo by Adam Kivel

During a sound issue-related delay, Save Money’s Caleb James tried to keep the crowd entertained, himself admitting he wasn’t a comedian. As his DJ got the setup working, he smiled:”Are you ready for some rap music?” James was eager to interact with the crowd at the Half Step, leading call-and-responses (after explaining what they were), singling out audience members to find out their favorite car, and the like. “Eddy Curry” and “24s” both got the growing crowd involved, and there was a quick learning curve to the hook to fresh cut “Honesty and Loyalty”: “I expect honesty and loyalty if you sittin’ at the table.” The Save Money crew is deep, and James is yet another name that you should be following. —Adam Kivel

Arc Iris – ANTI- Records & Danny Rose Agency Showcase at Bungalow – 8:30 p.m.


Photo by Adam Kivel

The stage setting and costuming for Arc Iris’ set coalesced into the picture of Jocie Adams as a sort of woodland nymph. The vines wrapped around mic stands, the gold lamé bodysuit, the white-clad backing band, the eyebrow jewels. Adams (formerly of The Low Anthem) led her band through cabaret-inflected, orchestral tunes, bouncing as if magically between keyboards, guitar, and clarinet. But this wasn’t all sweetness and sugar. “Cocaine, cocaine, you’re running through my brain,” she sings on “Powder Train”, a love song to the white stuff from the perspective of an addict who prefers it to his lover. At different points in their set, a megaphone-aided trumpet would blurt out an extra stab, the cello and upright bass would swoon, and there was Adams at the center, her forceful, ranging voice moving from giggled whisper to punchy stage bravado. —Adam Kivel

Pure Bathing Culture — Gorilla vs. Bear/Yours Truly at Hype Hotel — 8:45 p.m. 


Photo by Michelle Geslani

The ethereal dream-pop of Pure Bathing Culture’s debut album, Moon Tides, made its way to the stage at last night’s Hype Hotel. The Portland outfit kept things nice and simple and let the music do most of the talking. For some acts, this isn’t always a good plan, making for performances that seem to fall short of their true potential. But PBC isn’t just any old act. Live, their gauzy meanderings take on a life of their own, turning what once was a venue of indistinct metallic materials into a whole other smoky and curious world. Are they reminiscent of vintage soft-rock? Heck yes. They know it and they own it, too. Towards the end of one of their songs, they segued into a short, albeit lovely, cover of Benny Mardones’ 1980 hit “Into The Night”. –Michelle Geslani

Perfume Genius – St. David’s Historic Sanctuary – 9:00 p.m.

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Photo by Sasha Geffen

Most SXSW venues seem incidental. They blend together—a bar here, a restaurant there. And then some venues are matched so perfectly to the artists they house that you wonder how you could ever bear to see them elsewhere. Perfume Genius played from the altar of an episcopalian church Thursday evening, and it was like Mike Hadreas was always meant to preach his fragile sermons in such a setting.

With the audience seated, the rafters high, and the sound clear, Perfume Genius found themselves in the perfect space to air new songs. During one, Hadreas got up from his electric piano to stand and sing next to his bandmate Alan Wyffels. The two harmonized over a hard synth beat, their vocals reaching a chilling register. “I struggle for air,” they sang. Later, back on piano, Hadreas rendered more nightmares with his words. “Don’t let them in. I am too tired to hold myself carefully,” he sang in a sparser song. “I’m trapped in this body. I have violent dreams.”

pg1 SXSW 2014 Reviews: Soundgarden, Damon Albarn, Fucked Up, Cloud Nothings

Photo by Sasha Geffen

Between new material, Perfume Genius drew on the strongest songs from their first two albums. They’ve edited them somewhat: “Lookout, Lookout” uncoiled a little more patiently than before, while “Hood” found itself enjoying a second spirited refrain. Perfume Genius refined their strongest work to date, but more excitingly, they teased the dark stuff still to come. —Sasha Geffen

Soundgarden – iTunes Music Festival at ACL Moody Theater – 10:00 p.m.


Photo by iTunes Music Festival

Soundgarden have never played South by Southwest before. So, it made sense that they’d rent out ACL’s Moody Theater, toss together some intense visuals, and run through Superunknown in its entirety (also a first for the band). The album turns 20 this year, even if it still sounds as young and fresh as Chris Cornell’s gorgeous head of hair, or Matt Cameron’s athletic demeanor, or Kim Thayil’s sharpened beard, or Ben Shepherd’s grizzled, um, yeah that’s it. Whatever the case, little of the nostalgic performance felt rickety and old-timey. In fact, the album’s deeper tracks like “Head Down”, “My Wave”, and “Like Suicide” trump anything in modern rock today; to be fair, the entire album does.

When was the last time a rock album of this magnitude came out? So, hearing it in full felt less like some rare affair and more like a demonstration, perhaps no different than the seminars at the ACC, only to explain to young rockers that excellence can be achieved over 70 minutes and with a solid producer. The only downer of the night were a handful of greying fans in the balcony who felt Soundgarden was better experienced in their seats. Apparently grunge isn’t dead, just geriatric. Whatever, man. –Michael Roffman

Damon Albarn – Guitar Center Sessions at the Starr Building – 10:00 p.m.

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Photo by Nate Slevin

For whatever reason, I assumed Damon Albarn’s concert atop a parking garage during the middle of SXSW would be some momentous and sweeping rock moment ala U2’s video for “Where The Streets Have No Name”. Instead, what the Blur/Gorillaz frontman delivered was seemingly one of the most intimate and personal performances I’ve seen during any year (that just so happened to be filmed for consumption by millions on DirecTV). It had everything to do with just which incarnation of Albarn we were being regaled by. This isn’t the snarky, tongue-perpetually-in-cheek Albarn from Blur, nor is it the experimental, boundary-pushing artist behind the Gorillaz curtain. With the whole of his forthcoming debut album, Everyday Robots, Albarn is firmly placing himself in the role of thoughtful and contemplative singer-songwriter, a refreshing aspect of his personality that often goes ignored.

Even still, he approaches the entire affair with the prowess and skill set of a man who has played countless arenas and sold out his share of world tours. He sets the mood with “Lonely Press Play”, a ballad that mixes cheerful optimism with undercurrents of pain, letting everyone know exactly what to expect. Even when he hits up the catalogues for Gorillaz and Blur, he’s delivering renditions of more subdued and under-appreciated tracks like “Melancholy Hill” and “All Your Life”, respectively. Though I expected some hits when he returned for an encore, he maintained the formula, playing his adorable ode to a baby elephant in “Mr. Tembo” and the album’s life-affirming closer “Heavy Seas of Love” (though he got a huge rise out of the crowd by pretending collaborator Brian Eno would show up).

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Photo by Nate Slevin

Even as someone who’s familiar with his work and current endeavors, surrounded by a majority of people more familiar with “Clint Eastwood”, it seemed jarring for a moment. But that may be while Albarn’s been a trend-setter for years: he won’t fill spaces or live up to expectations; instead, he’ll sit down in front of you and pour his heart out with every note and every lyric. For some, it might not be enough of an experience, feeling almost empty in the shadow of downtown’s colossal buildings. For the rest of us, though, it’s more than enough to wash over like a mighty tide. –Chris Coplan

Ex Hex – Merge Records Showcase at The Parish – 10:30 p.m. 


Photo by Michelle Geslani

Wild Flag guitarist Mary Timony’s new project with Laura Harris and Betsy Wright is not something to be taken lightly. The three ladies in Ex Hex play searing retro-tinged rock like the best of ’em, to the point that you’d swear smoke was emanating from their guitars. Even with just a few songs to their name, the audience at The Parish greeted them with applause like they were a veteran Merge band with a back catalog of epic proportions. Amongst the three of them it’s very likely, but their cohesion and chemistry as Ex Hex was an exceptional sight to see. They all played off each other’s intensity, sometimes riffing (literally) with their backs pressed up against one another, sometimes literally playing the guitar while on their knees. Forty-five minutes didn’t seem long enough for these three (nor for those in attendance; the crowd loved ’em!), but hopefully they’ll have more material to play later this year, when they’re expected to release their debut full-length. –Michelle Geslani

TEEN – Carpark Records Showcase at Parish Underground – 11:20 p.m. 

teen1 SXSW 2014 Reviews: Soundgarden, Damon Albarn, Fucked Up, Cloud Nothings

Photo by Sasha Geffen

TEEN have so many moving parts in their music, it was a feat just plugging them all in. But despite a hurried setup at the Parish Underground Thursday night, the Brooklyn four-piece made their new songs run like clockwork. Teeny Lieberson aired dense, tight tracks off her band’s forthcoming album The Way and Color. “Rose 4 U” seemed to become an early favorite among the crowd, while “Breathe Low & Deep” let the band indulge their heavier guitar sensibilities.

Teeny, her sisters Katherine (on drums) and Lizzie (keys), and bassist Boshra AlSaadi cohered into a groove that even the grungy bar sound system didn’t tarnish. Teeny pocked her voice percussively in a way that echoed Eleanor Friedberger’s work in Fiery Furnaces, while her bandmates supplied layers in a way that made it seem less like they were harmonizing and more like they were locking gears. But there were ghosts in that machine. After the Parish’s stage manager held a festival-wide moment of silence for the victims of Wednesday night’s accident, TEEN, accompanied by a saxophonist, continued with a spirited song Teeny said was about losing a loved one. TEEN kept each cog in place without being afraid to letting a few sparks fly here and there. —Sasha Geffen

Merchandise – 4AD Showcase at Cheer Up Charlie’s – 12:00 a.m.

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Photo by Dan Pfleegor

“Thank you girls for dancin’,” Carson Cox gleamed. “We take all the hell we can get.” Man, I don’t know what the hell happened to Merchandise, but whatever high they’re on… they need to keep their dealer on speed dial. Sounding less like the litter of post-rock acts that surfaced in 2011 and more like a spritely Ryan Adams, Cox bashed his guitar through a litany of tracks that kept the heads bobbing and the hearts pulsing for true romance. He looks like Michael Pitt, too. You know, Boardwalk Empire‘s Jimmy Darmody? I don’t know. Maybe that was me. Either way, considering I passed on my folk hero Kurt Vile to catch them before Future Islands, I was thoroughly impressed — and that blistering noise rock breakdown at the end was a nice touch, too. Try to imagine Thurston Moore giving set lessons to Westerberg. Yeah, not too shabby, huh? Loved it. –Michael Roffman

Speedy Ortiz – Carpark Records Showcase at Parish Underground – 12:10 p.m.

so1 SXSW 2014 Reviews: Soundgarden, Damon Albarn, Fucked Up, Cloud Nothings

Photo by Sasha Geffen

The narrow, small Parish Underground “stage” really didn’t seem prepared for the bands setting up shop there, and certainly not one set for the big rock chops of a band like Speedy Ortiz (TEEN had some issues just prior). The soundcheck wasn’t going well, repeated requests for more vocals or bass in the monitors apparently denied. As they burst into “Tiger Tank”, Sadie Dupuis’ vocals were barely audible in the crowd, let alone in the band’s monitors, and the audience attempted to let the soundboard operator know, pointing at the vocals and pointing up, repeatedly. “People keep doing this,” Dupuis said, in the direction of that soundboard, “and I don’t have a big foam finger.”

That kind of biting wit is key to the power of her songwriting, and to have that element severely underrepresented in the mix nearly trainwrecked the set. But, as might be expected, they powered through, Matt Robidoux throwing himself and his guitar around the stage, Mike Falcone attempting to lead a chant of “Carpark! Carpark!” through a shorting mic, Dupuis soldiering on throughout. Not even a poor sound system could detract from “No Below”, its fragile, salient emotionality and misty guitar mix a stunning thing in the live setting. Speedy Ortiz have quickly risen from buzz band to mainstays, and they continue to show the kind of strength that makes them near-impossible to put down. —Adam Kivel

Future Islands – 4AD Showcase at Cheer Up Charlie’s – 1:00 a.m.

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Photo by Dan Pfleegor

“This is like a house party in North Carolina,” Samuel T. Herring observed under the canyon-like walls of Cheer Up Charlie’s. Talk about a night owl, the theatrical frontman and his Baltimore outfit roared their way through a number of favorites off 2011’s On the Water before enlightening the crowd with selections off their forthcoming LP, Singles. “We’re gonna play some punk rock for you tonight,” Herring exclaimed, a devilish smile over his masculine features, a proper combination of Morrissey and Doug Stamper from House of Cards. Combining ’80s New Wave romanticism with that post-hardcore mentality and a little bit of Off-Broadway Shakespeare explains why Future Islands turns heads: they’re weird but familiar enough to always feel welcoming. Herring’s histrionic performances are engulfing and rapturous, which were only made better by the crowd of fans mobbing him like a scene out of The Walking Dead towards the end. Not sure if that’s how things roll in NC, but damn, I guess I should start traveling there more often. –Michael Roffman

Cloud Nothings – Carpark Records Showcase at Parish Underground – 1:00 a.m.

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Photo by Sasha Geffen

While the tiny Parish Underground had been crowded for Speedy Ortiz, but when it came time for Cleveland heroes Cloud Nothings, that crowd became a whirlpool. The space wasn’t built for a moshpit (maybe 20 feet wide, with three feet of bar space on one side and a foot-wide bench on the other), but there it was, a seriously enthusiastic moshpit. But Dylan Baldi didn’t seem affected much by the intensity, his intense songs speaking for themselves. In fact, the trio moved relatively little, casually crushing out songs like the jittery “Just See Fear”.

If the sound problems that plagued the stage earlier affected Cloud Nothings, they never let it show, and Baldi’s howling is a lot harder to deny via shitty monitors than Dupuis’ more measured vocals. Their set drew heavily from the upcoming Here and Nowhere Else, and neither the moshing throng nor the still pumped (yet perhaps not as aggressively so) fans that surrounded them seemed bothered.

“Apparently we have six minutes left now,” Baldi said, seemingly puzzled, “so we have time for one more.” And, in true punk fashion, the trio pummeled their way past that barrier, neither Cloud Nothings nor their raucous following ready to quit when the lights went up, raging out a few more minutes past “Psychic Trauma” in protest. —Adam Kivel