South By Southwest 2003 March 12 to 16, Austin, TX

South By Southwest 2003 March 12 to 16, Austin, TX
By Susan Krepart and Tyler Clark-Burke The Baptist Generals These Texan five stars worked up quite a sweat for a sit down kind of band. They were far better-suited to a country field (and field recording) than this hot cement bunker. Fortunately, these dark country gentlemen brought the audience some welcome respite from the hot, hot, heat. TCB Boas All tall and shaggy hair (save for one member), the Boas surely collided on a Chicago street corner in some Robert Altman-esque saga resolution and knowingly exchanged phone numbers. The Boas are psychedelic and bluesy at one turn, twisting and shouting the next. TCB Buck 65 If you've ever seen a happening octogenarian and wished you could knock 50-some years off his clock, you might find Buck 65's Rich Tefry. He delivered a spellbinding Maritime monologue to a rapt Austin audience, weaving words over pedal steel and subtle synth-y beats. And, true to the new fork in his road, Tefry suggested the audience catch Willie Nelson (and not, say, the handful of hip-hop acts playing the weekend). TCB Calexico Calexico may have been this year's answer to the Sadies, playing at least three times in as many days and sharing the same professional comportment, killer twang and must-play sobriety. More classy country jobbers than crowd-pleasers, these boys did pull an old ('80s) standard from their plaid shirts and damn near caused a mid-afternoon stampede. Their cover of "Love Will Tear Us Apart" (Joy Division) filled the room with more jaded rock critics than you could shake a backwoods stick at, and it sounded great. TCB Clem Snide Eef Barzelay's delivery and multi-instrumentalist Jason Glasser's arrangements had this band one Winnipeg reference away from becoming the Weakerthans. Highlights included a cover of Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful"; the subtlety of Clem Snide's charm is contained live in swirls of bloopy lead guitar, solid arrangements and their honest delivery. SK Holopaw Heading up the anti-charisma movement, Holopaw were too damn precious to cherish. There certainly were moments of beauty, moments one wished could stretch across the set, but those blips were lost so quickly that the contrast sort of stung or more aptly, slowly ached. John Orth does have a beautiful voice (think Ugly Casanova), but their brand of nouveau-Americana is just that: too sanitised. TCB Hot Hot Heat The Vancouver quartet soldiered on through technical difficulties, delivering a raucous set of material from their debut along with a healthy smattering of the Knock Knock Knock EP. The packed house, and much of the line-up who were still holding out hope of gaining entrance, were dancing for "Le Le Low" and the spunky energy of "Get in or Get Out." SK King Missile III Though the "Detachable Penis" was nowhere in sight, John S. Hall's wry self-deprecating talk-rock was in witty high form. Coming off more like an odd comedy show with wonky background instrumentation than a rock show, the appreciative and dense crowd that rushed the stage were treated to a great performance and a special guest appearance from diminutive nine-year-old Rachel Trachtenburg (of the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players) on bass. SK The Rapture The Rapture play the kind of music that seems like it should sound just like the album — inducing a private disco party — but the mood gets lost in huge venues with shitty sound systems. As such, the diehard Rapture CD-claspers lost focus without their pause-rewind contraptions; the pre-Blur crowd got impatient (and for what?); and the uninitiated appreciated a talented, if of the moment, party band. TCB The Raveonettes This Danish duo, comprised of singer-guitarist Sune Rose Wagner and bassist Sharin Foo — and filled out this night with a drummer and an energetic stage-ripping bassist — more than earned their buzz status. Starting off and ending their short set with a cover of Buddy Holly's "Everyday," they filled in the blanks by playing their debut EP, Whip It On, in its entirety; though its electro noodling didn't figure in live as much as on the EP. As with their recording, the "glorious" B-flat minor's inherent drone inevitably affects the overall set, imparting a sound-alike vibe. Ultimately, the blasé vocal delivery and garage rock edge make up for that. SK Sahara Hotnights Swedish punk rock mavens Sahara Hotnights delivered a raucous balls-to-the-wall set dominated by material from Jennie Bomb. Played to an over-capacity crowd, songs like "Keep Up The Speed," "Alright Alright" and "On Top Of Your World" maintained the furious pace, helped in no small part by drummer Josephine Forsman and her sore arms. There is nothing gimmicky about a female band that rocks as hard as these four and front-woman/guitarist Maria Andersson had the room by its throat. SK Soviet The bloopy key-tar rock and '80s synth of NYC's Soviet had this five-piece leading an enthusiastic head-bopping crowd just one "yeah, yeah" away from becoming part of a John Hughes movie soundtrack. The set started out strong and maintained steam, pushing the group's signature electro-retro vibe, with front-man Keith Ruggiero looking as though he just came off a mod video shoot. SK The Stills Possibly, and quite strangely, the loudest band you will ever hear, the Stills sound better three doors down with your ears plugged, and equally better in Austin than at the recent CMW Toronto showcase. The Stills are one slick meal ticket — do not stand anywhere near a speaker and please know that dress is not casual. They will not make you question cruelty or elicit elegies, but they will play stealthy pop songs that hit you so hard (and so loud) that you might need to feather the bangs. TCB The Telepathic Butterflies What's in a name? Admittedly, Winnipeg's the Telepathic Butterflies have a terrible one, but the greater crime might just be in the duplicitous nature of a band name that suggests they have some interesting intentions. Sadly, it just doesn't translate to the stage. The Telepathic Butterflies are lacking any live magic, let alone a sixth sense, and after watching two middle-of-the-road SXSW sets, you've got to hope they've got one hell of a next record, and a light show. TCB White Cowbell Oklahoma Talk about a rock spectacle. This sort of inbred '70s Southern booze rock could just as easily lose itself in its own gimmick (Nashville Pussy anyone?), but time and again Toronto's WCO show that being aware of your own irony is necessary for bringing the hijinks on the road. At last count, and not including the stripper who donned a none-too-comfortable looking denim g-string, nine members of the sometimes 30-member strong band showed up for this night, providing walls of guitar and a vocal onslaught. The energy turned epic for a sing-along of "Put the South in Your Mouth." SK