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SXSW Review: The Warner Sound Showcase With Alt-J, Guards, Surfer Blood, and More

posted by Laura Baker-Finch on March 20, 2013

  • Thursday’s Showcase from The Warner Sound and Nikon had been my most anticipated single event of SXSW since I started compiling our SXSW Event Listings weeks ago – Guards, Surfer Blood, Alt-J, AND the Flaming Lips all in one show!? Sign me up! It seemed I wasn’t the only one eager for the event; a line outside The Belmont had already formed at 3pm when I arrived to interview one of the evenings' bands, Surfer Blood (That interview's coming your way soon).

    I arrived at 7:45pm prepared with snacks to not miss a single minute for food, an extra memory card in anticipation of too many great moments to capture, and my Chase Lounge wristband for free drinks, of course. Scroll through the slideshow for photos and individual artist reviews of Guards, Surfer Blood, Atlas Genius, Frightened Rabbit, Joy Formidable, Alt-J, and The Flaming Lips, respectively.

    For the full photo gallery of The Warner Sound Showcase head to our Facebook Gallery.

  • Photo by Laura Baker-Finch

    First up were Guards – well, technically first up were two Japanese girls in jazzercise attire taking selfies on stage while a monster introduced The Warner Sound from the VIP balcony – but then came Guards.

    The Warner Sound marked my first chance to see Guards live, but I’ve included them all over Cultivora from Music Monday Playlists, Lineup Announcements, and a large percentage of our SXSW Event Listings. Not to mention having listened to In Guards We Trust countless times since its February release, attested to by my sing-alongs in the photo pit Thursday night (sorry for making you laugh, Andy). Lets just say catching a live show has been a long time coming.

    Yet, thankfully, my anticipation didn't lead to disappointment but excitement as the group surpassed expectations and delivered an opening performance deserving of a headlining spot. I’ve heard frontman Richie Follin describe Guards’ sound as evil, power-pop – a genre as open-ended as any but strikingly fitting of their live performance. Stuck-in-your-head lyrics and bounce-able beats are matched with shredding solos and set-ending jams.

    More photos of Guards at The Warner Sound can be found in our Facebook Album.

  • Photo by Laura Baker-Finch

    Next up, Surfer Blood; five West Palm Beach boys we sat down with earlier Thursday afternoon for an interview during The Flaming Lips’ sound check. The quintet showed just as much chemistry on stage as they did off as they interacted with each other and shared smirks and glances across the stage. That’s not to say the audience was left unattended to –quite the opposite. The crowd especially responded to “Take it Easy” when J.P. left his guitar on stage to venture into the masses.

    Camaraderie is far from the only take away of their Warner Sound set, although we would’ve understood if their 4 previous days at SXSW had already tired them out. Mixed between hits from 2010’s Astro Coast and last year’s Tarot Classics, the group debuted a handful of tracks from Pythons, their long-awaited follow-up slated for a summer release.

    More photos of Surfer Blood at The Warner Sound can be found in our Facebook Album.

  • Photo by Laura Baker-Finch

    The next band to hit the Warner Sound stage took me from Surfer Blood’s Florida, where I did part of my schooling, back to my homeland, Australia – yes, I’m guilty of joining into a brief ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie’ chant as they took to the stage. Adelaide’s Atlas Genius was one of the buzz bands to catch during SXSW for Australians and Americans alike. Whether those in attendance were full-fledged fans or had only heard “Trojans,” the brotherly duo’s breakout track, Atlas Genius didn’t disappoint.

    More photos of Atlas Genius at The Warner Sound can be found in our Facebook Album.

  • Photo by Marjana Jaidi

    The next band on the bill, Frightened Rabbit, peaked my attention pre-SXSW due to their numerous mentions in our event listings and mid-SXSW thanks to my eavesdropping on passersby’s conversations.

    Needless to say I was pumped to finally put both a face and a sound to the name. Regrettably, I had to do so from behind the photo-pit as, after three straight bands, I needed a bathroom break and a quick stop at the bar (so thanks for this photo Marjana!).

    Frightened Rabbit perfectly embodied what I find to be the beauty of SXSW – band discovery. I may have attended The Warner Sound that night because of the six bands on the bill I had heard of, but I left the showcase knowing, and loving, seven.

    More photos of Frightened Rabbit at The Warner Sound can be found in our Facebook Album.

  • Photo by Laura Baker-Finch

    If I wasn’t already familiar with The Joy Formidable, I’d be expecting a very different sound as frontwoman Rhiannon “Ritzy” Bryan took to the stage Thursday night in her glittery-sleeved dress with her baby-doll, blue eyes. She proves the women of rock n’ roll don’t need to be on either side of the overtly sexy – androgynously un-kept spectrum but can rather rest comfortably in the middle while still rocking as hard as the boys.

    As always, The Joy Formidable’s sound was bigger than a trio can seemingly manage, matched in size only by the crowd’s response to songs both old (from 2011’s The Big Roar) and new (from January’s Wolf’s Law).

    More photos of The Joy Formidable can be found in our Facebook Album.

  • Photo by Laura Baker-Finch

    As even artists and VIP-listers started to be turned away from The Belmont and the bar was creeping up on its free drink allowance, Alt-J hit The Warner Sound stage. The Mercury Prize winners were not only one of my highly anticipated acts of SXSW, but of the entire year. In the Cultivora office, we're all guilty of pressing play on An Awesome Wave more times than we'd probably like to admit.

    It was a treat to finally see if that voice really does come from Joe Newman's body (it does), if those intricacies are done electronically or with, for lack of a better adjective, standard instruments (it's both), and whether their progressive, genre-meshing sound can translate from the studio to the stage (it can).

    More photos of Alt-J at The Warner Sound can be found in our Facebook Album.

  • Photo by Marjana Jaidi

    Last but not least, The Flaming Lips! It’s always a joy seeing these guys perform; their love for the stage, their fans, and their music radiates into the audience no matter the location.

    When we arrived earlier that day for our Surfer Blood interview, however, we were left wondering how the Lips could do their signature Hamster Wheel stunt with such a narrow stage and a two-tiered viewing area. When The Lips finally went on hours later our curiosity was quenched as the group bypassed some of their staple antics in favor of a new one – attempting to play Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots all the way through before their set was over.

    More photos of The Flaming Lips can be found in our Facebook Album.

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    See Also:

    SXSW Photo Gallery: Aquarium Drunkard Party at the Hype Hotel
    InstaWorld: SXSW Edition
    SXSW Friday Photo Highlights