What It Was Like: Basia Bulat, Foreign Born, Vampire Weekend, DeVotchKa, Robyn

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Is it possible that Robyn's Friday night set was even better than Vampire Weekend's? Don't laugh! (Pete Freedman)

So the all the hype caught up with me tonight; after fighting it and fighting it, I decided to give in to Vampire Weekend. Catching Helio Sequence during the day had something to do with it. So did those darn tarot cards. So was it worth it? Well, here's What It Was Like on Friday night...

Band: Basia Bulat, a Canadian Americana outfit with decent lead vocals.
Where: Antone's
What It Was Like: Like if the Dixie Chicks were more rootsy and if their vocals were trembly like Stevie Nix's Nicks'. This five-piece band from Ontario had a very Americana-influenced sound. Which begged the question: How do you classify a Canadian band that plays Americana? I'm going with "Canadiana."
Verdict: Not bad. But not great either. Here's the deal: If Basia Bulat were a band from Dallas, I'd probably dig them after a while--they sound like the type of act that grows on you. But for a Canadian act that, as the lead singer said, had never been to Texas before, it's not worth investing your time in them. Their set was decent, but not good enough to say that booking agents around the region are gonna be running around trying to get them to come this way again. If you're dying for female Americana or Texas Swing, check out Burleson's Quebe Sisters.
Random Note: You have to give the Basia Bulat folks credit for playing to their crowd. At one point, the band covered Austin legend Daniel Johnston's "True Love Will Find You In The End."

Band: Foreign Born, an LA indie rock group that, well, stinks of LA manufacturing.
Where: Antone's
What It Was Like: Uh...like waiting for Vampire Weekend. Much like Wild Light's show last night before MGMT, no one was at Antone's to see Foreign Born. But, alas, someone has to open for these buzz bands.
Verdict: They were boring. Really boring. It was pedestrian, lowest common denominator indie rock. Starter stuff for the guy who listens to Maroon 5 but suddenly decides he wants to boost his indie cred.
Random Note: I freaking yawned during this showcase. It was the first time I've yawned during a show all week.

Band: Vampire Weekend, the absolute greatest band the world has ever seen! Ever!
Where: Antone's
What It Was Like: Um, how do I put this? Remember when you were growing up and you used to go to the beach or a park with your parents and you used to do things that you thought were amazing, but, in retrospect, they were nothing special ("Ohmigawd, I just climbed SIX rungs across the monkey bars!", "I just got knee-deep in the water!")? And remember how you were always yelling at your parents to come watch you do it ("Look at this, Mom!", "Dad! Watch!")? That's kind of what this showcase was like. Only, here, every parent was watching, and every parent was super proud and was boasting to the parent next to them about how amazing their kid is. And every parent was agreeing that their kids were amazing. Except, y'know, they were all lying. In actuality, they all found out about their kid two weeks ago and only downloaded their kid last week after seeing their kid perform on Saturday Night Live. Still, they were adamant in saying how they were surprised that everyone else is only now buzzing about their kid. Ugh.
Verdict: Seriously, the crowd was annoying as hell. But the music was really good; Vampire Weekend's Talking Heads-meets-Paul Simon shtick is pretty genius. And live they looked surprisingly polished. But, no, it wasn't world-changing. It was...cute. Obviously, the question here is if the band can keep this going. You've got to imagine the band's pretentious Ivy Leaguer and afro-beat/new wave/"You Can Call Me Al" shtick will get old eventually, right? Right?
Random Note: I snuck an audio recorder into the venue and will have live tracks up for you to download later. Snap!

Band: DeVotchKa, Denver's best baroque indie rock outfit.
Where: Antone's
What It Was Like: Like a hangover. It wasn't DeVotchKa's fault. It wasn't Vampire Weekend's fault. It was the hype's fault. Hype filled the venue earlier in the night as people waited for VW to play. And hype got the fuck out of there--like it was running from the cops--when VW finished its set. It was like a freaking stampede out of Antone's and onto 5th Street.
Verdict: I wasn't too familiar with DeVotchKa heading into this set; I'd heard a few MySpace songs and I'd heard good things about them from some Denver folks I know. But--and maybe this was just the Vampire Weekend hype withdrawal talking--they didn't do it for me. They played tons of instruments and brought some very special guests on stage to join them (see Random Note below). And, yes, it was melodic and pretty and all that. But as much as it clawed and clawed at me, wanting me to become interested by it, it couldn't grip. I was unmoved.
Random Note: For the bulk of its set, DeVotchKa was joined by Austin's Tosca String Quartet, best known as David Byrne's backing band.

Band: Robyn, of "Show Me Love" fame, on the train of her major comeback on the European dance-pop circuit (Seriously, check this new stuff out, it's cray-zay).
Where: Pangaea
What It Was Like: A test? Seemed like every other song Robyn played was a cover. Granted, they were interesting and good dance covers. The bass was turned up, the crowd was into it--it was pretty cool, actually. Robyn was into it, too. In fact, the only song she wasn't all-pistons-firing on was her updated, soft rendition of "Show Me Love." Go figure.
Verdict: It was actually really, really good. Robyn's energy was infectious. Word on the street is that this comeback's already a big success in Europe, so you've got to imagine she's gonna be OK. But if this new album of hers doesn't pan out, man!, girl could have a career performing cover songs like she did last night in clubs. I dug it. Also: I'd go to more ultra lounge night clubs if they played music like this.
Random Note: Robyn was such a hit with the crowd, she came back out to do an encore after her set. Her song of choice? Prince's "Jack U Off." Heh-heh. -- Pete Freedman

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