Austin Stories

Confused agenda of SXSW can't obscure the many musical highlights

The two bands whose names earned the most buzz at SXSW were Olivia Tremor Control (whose experimental pop turned heads at Electric Lounge) and Propellerheads, a British techno act whose new album is snagging much attention stateside. Propellerheads were a high point of La Zona Rosa's Friday electronica night, and their mix of live instrumentation, sampling and turntable scratches seemed to hit the spot for even the most techno-resistant ears.

Though I couldn't catch every local band at SXSW, the ones I did see acquitted themselves nicely. Beat Angels had the difficult task of following a rustic Texas bluegrass band called The Fencesitters, but they kicked out the jams with aplomb. Phunk Junkeez generated a near mosh frenzy at Atomic Cafe the next night. Grievous Angels snugly fit in with the country-friendly environs of Austin and made honky-tonk magic with their gender switch on Patsy Cline's "She's Got You."

But the most impressive Arizona band at SXSW for me was Jimmy Eat World. Though lead singer Jim Adkins suffered from a sore throat, he and the band threw down with such nuanced fury and rhythmic cohesion that they made it hard for any band to follow them. Seeing this group of local heroes deliver the goods on foreign turf made all the little annoyances of SXSW much easier to endure.

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