Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Broken Social Scene are working like upstarts at SXSW

Eric Webb
Broken Social Scene performs at the Austin Convention Center during SXSW on Friday March 15, 2019. [JAY JANNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

“Your haircut is saving my life right now,” Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew said to someone in the crowd. “I’m looking to you for that juice I didn’t have.”

The Canadian indie-rock collective is working just about as hard as any band this South by Southwest. Along with hustling upcoming artists like the Beths and Illuminati Hotties, these veterans are among the acts working overtime at multiple shows across town this week. As Drew said at Austin Convention Center's Radio Day Stage on Friday, Broken Social Scene got their start at SXSW, when classic album “You Forgot It In People” broke out. This year’s marathon of shows, he said, was a way to say thank you to Austin, even if that meant “getting the s___ kicked out” of themselves.

» MORE AT SXSW: Lizzo/Beto 2020? That’s what our national treasure says

The gauntlet did seems to affect the band’s sprawling lineup to varying degrees, but as Drew promised, they still had the spirit. Broken Social Scene songs mostly sound like either A) laying face down on your pillow or B) hiding inside a Tim Hortons during a rain storm in the middle of spring. There are soft, rattling shakers; there are wavy, metallic guitars; there are rumbling drums. Vocalist Ariel Engle, also of La Force, sailed above the clatter, especially on standout “Gonna Get Better” off of 2017’s “Hug of Thunder.” It’s an anthem for our times, Drew said, and that about checks out: “Things will get better, ‘cause they can't get worse.”

The band played through “You Forgot It In People,” an all-time classic in the this-album-exactly-maps-my-emotional-state genre, at the Arts & Crafts showcase on Thursday. (Rising star Maggie Rogers even joined them for “Anthems For a Seventeen Year-Old Girl.) While any fan would kill to experience that, the day stage audience got “Stars and Sons,” the album’s first single. There were some technical difficulties, but for a band on the verge of exhaustion, it sure felt refreshing from the crowd.

There's still another chance to see Broken Social Scene this fest: 5 p.m. Saturday at Scoot Inn.

» MORE AT SXSW: King Princess gets smoke in your eyes, talent in your ears

Correction: And earlier version of this review incorrectly referred to singer Maggie Rogers as being from Austin.