By Steve Scheibal
Turns out there was a special guest on Friday at the SXSW outdoor shows. And, man, did it shut that place down.
You can, and should, read elsewhere on Statesman.com for Friday’s weather-related news. But three bands still took the stage at Auditorium Shores before the sky went all Harry Potter-vs.-Voldemort, and you deserve some opinions about those shows.
Leading off: the Tijuana Panthers, a three-piece surf band out of Long Beach. They were all you’d hope a band called the Tijuana Panthers would be – playing the sort of straight-ahead, not-spooky surf music that would wail straight out of a late-model VW.
The Panthers’ Twitter bio proclaims themselves "sexually frustrated soda jerks in a David Lynch film," which sounds so awesome. But even with angry Texas storm clouds looming off to the west, the music lacked the sort of tension for which the Blue Velvet director is famous. Still a lot of fun, though.
Next up: Beach Slang.
Here’s a very quick, not-at-all comprehensive list of images that make appearances in Beach Slang songs: guitars, cars, girls, garages, dirty cigarettes, Friday nights, and basements. They have a song called "American Music and French Kisses," and a lyric that acknowledges the possibilities of a full tank of gas and a couple of bucks.
Between that, the reverence for power chords, and lead singer James Alex’s scratchy yet well-pitched voice, the rock band with the punk energy made an impression from their first song on Friday.
Strangely, after that song, they took what amounted to an on-stage break so Alex could briefly ape guitar licks from "Born to Run" and "Don’t Fear the Reaper." That led to a conversation about which band members’ moms could get online to watch the show.
There were a few moments like that, when the band wrapped up a fun, rocking song and then launched into stage banter that went sideways or nowhere. Late in the set, Alex interrupted a soliloquy – it was about either the pop culture figures he resembles or his plans for his hair (it was easy to lose track) – to ask, "How are we doing on time?"
There’s never enough, it seems.
Finally, Wolfmother, which was supposed to be a table-setter for Coheed & Cambria but wound up as the abbreviated capper with the lightning show encroaching overhead.
Wolfmother springs from that moment when psychedelic rock was getting too heavy for psych and heavy metal didn’t really exist yet. Their considerable skill, energy and showmanship plays in any genre, but it really plays in their pre-metal. And their songs are quite good – you can hum any of them (or any of the three they played, anyway).
The three-piece got to play for only about 10 minutes before the show was shut down, but they were fantastic. As the sky opened up with lightning, every one of the thousands of people who trudged away from the stage left wanting more.