Of all the Arizona bands at SxSW, no one had a higher profile than Dear and the Headlights. They played five shows over the course of the five-day festival, including headlining the I Heart AZ showcase and the same official showcase at Spiro's that Miniature Tigers played.
I caught up with them for a late Friday afternoon show at the Tiniest Bar in Texas (which was also possibly the most remote bar in Texas, 16 blocks from the heart of Sixth Street) and found a crowd that reminded me of the times I've seen them in Phoenix: full of people smiling and singing along, the way people who've really lived with a record do. At SxSW, that was pretty unusual, especially in the afternoons, when most folks seemed to be wherever they were out of convenience and/or interest in free beer.
It cemented, for me, something I've heard a lot of people say: If Phoenix's scene is going to break out, these guys are going to be a big part of it.
Now, I've always liked Dear and the Headlights, but they've never been my pick for the Valley's best band. In fact, Drunk Like Bible Times was my number 11 (and, thus, un-listed) favorite local record of last year. But, hey, I try to jump on the bandwagon when appropriate, and it's pretty clear this bandwagon is rolling -- all the way to Indio.
In DatH, we've got a fantastic live act that's also willing to take other local bands out on the road with them, which is the mark of band at their level giving back. At Tiniest Bar, they were about as entrancing as a moody indie band can be in broad daylight, looking polished as singer Ian Metzger's perfectly translated his warble live, something I hadn't seen him do previously. It was a great show -- worth every step I took to get there from the main drag, and worth missing M. Ward and free drinks at the official Village Voice party.
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So, kids, at this point, I'd say their show at the Rhythm Room on April 2 is pretty much a must-see. Either that or see them at Coachella.
Also: Hope you were all watching my Twitter, where I had updates from this and other shows through Friday (I flew home Saturday) since my computer and hotel's Internet connection were not cooperating at all.
Also also: The Salt Lick sucks. Seriously, I have no idea how this Olive Garden version of Texas barbecue has become so widely revered by otherwise sophisticated people, but any BBQ joint that has little buzzers to let you know when your table is ready, a la Cheesecake Factory, and puts sauce on brisket ain't the real deal. Go to Lockhart, folks. It's a tiny town with four barbecue joints, three of which are better than Salt Lick and the fourth which I haven't tried. The Salt Lick pulled pork tacos that I had at an airport kiosk restaurant on my way out of town were the best thing the Salt Lick brand has to offer.
Also also also: Late of the Pier was, by far, my biggest letdown of the festival. I hustled over to see their set, which wasn't anything resembling good. Turns out pasty British chaps look and sound a little ridiculous playing electronic music in the middle of the afternoon in Texas.