What It Was Like: Monotonix, The Breeders, Ra Ra Riot (again), Kid Sister, Chromeo

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Kid Sister, looking fly and keeping it tight. (Pete Freedman)

Saturday night was a freaking marathon, man. Throbbing feet, bleary eyes, sweaty brows. It was painful and pretty gross. Except for the music. That was cool. More specifically, here’s What It Was Like on S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y night…

Band: Monotonix, the craziest motherfuckers the Middle East has ever produced. OK, probably not. But they are freakin’ nuts.
Where: Bourbon Rocks Patio
What It Was Like: The craziest punk show you’ve ever been to. The Tel Aviv-based garage punkers didn’t speak English too well, but nothing was lost in translation when the band moved its set from the stage and into the circling pit beneath it. The band members then proceeded to crowd surf, play their instruments while riding the shoulders of crowd members, and to let the crowd play the drums as they raised the kit in the air. And the ruckus didn’t really even hurt the sound—these guys played on furiously and unfazed.
Verdict: Seriously, these guys put on one of the best live shows I’ve ever been to. In addition to the other antics, there was beer chugging, beer spitting, beer pouring (onto gleeful audience members) and trash can tossing. As much as SXSW is no longer really about discovering new music, Monotonix was pretty much THE discovered band of the week for me and the other critics I met at the fest. No other band built up more buzz for itself than this Israeli three-piece did over the course of the five-day music fest. The music itself is nothing to get too taken aback by, but the show alone makes these guys worth anyone’s while. Elevate this band to must-see status in your notebooks.
Random Note: These guys moved super fast. I tried catching some pics of them with the digital camera I was using, but they all came out too blurry. Granted, I’m hardly a professional photographer.

Band: The Breeders, Kim Deal’s successful offshoot of the holy Pixies
Where: Waterloo Park, as part of 2nd annual (and free) Mess With Texas Festival.
What It Was Like: Fighting a nap. Listen: The Pixies are probably my all-time favorite band, and I really do like a lot of the Breeders’ stuff. But this performance was a complete snooze. Even when the crowd at Waterloo Park got riled up for “Cannonball,” the band still managed to offer up a dullened version of the song.
Verdict: Not good. Sad, too, because the band’s got a new disc coming out soon. Outlook: Not good. Kim sounded OK (her sister Kelly sounded much better, actually), but methinks someone’s been listening to too much slowcore of late. (The drummer could be to blame. At one point Kim audibly asked him to pick up the beat a bit. He didn’t.)
Random Note: The Breeders’ show was seriously outshined (and outblared) by the festival’s two other headlining shows (from NOFX and Simian Mobile Disco), which were happening at the same time . NOFX’s Fat Mike screaming “Fuck The Breeders!” from his stage probably didn’t help Kim’s mercurial persona.

Band: Ra Ra Riot, my favorite indie chamber poppers
Where: Emo’s Annex
What It Was Like: Well, like missing out on the Raveonettes show at Emo’s because the line was extra long thanks to the following acts at that venue (The Donnas, X). But, obviously, there are worse ways to make up for missing the Raveonettes.
Verdict: I dug these guys the first time I saw them at this year’s fest. Round two rocked, too.
Random Note: A guy I met in line told me he was hoping to sign Ra Ra Riot to a distribution deal. We shared a good laugh when I half-heartedly wish him luck. Poor guy didn’t stand a chance—Ra Ra Riot had a good amount of buzz heading into the fest and was bound to walk out of it with a good deal in the works.

Band: Kid Sister, A-Trak and Chromeo, members of the too-cool-for-school Fool’s Gold roster
Where: Volume
What It Was Like: An all-out dance party. This showcase got the crowd at Volume feaking moving—and rightfully so. Each performer is known for offering a good-time dance-heavy sound for the neon-sporting, club-going hipster set. And each gave a pretty solid effort for the exuberant audience at the venue.
Verdict: For the most part, this, the final SXSW showcase I saw, was a great time. In order of descending awesomeness, the three acts I saw ranked like this: Kid Sister, Chromeo, A-Trak. Kid Sister matched infectious dance moves, sex appeal and songs about getting her “fingernails did” with foot-tapping, head-bobbing electronic-based ’80s synth beats. She was especially incredible, the highlight of this showcase. The guys of Chromeo did their thing, too, matching a heavy ’80s-influence cock rock guitar with synthesized’80s keys. And A-Trak, who runs the label and is best known as Kanye West’s DJ, also offered an ’80s-influenced DJ set of original beats dance floor hits. All fun. All ’80s. I almost thought Michael Ian Black and Hal Sparks were gonna show.
Random Note: The crowd dug Chromeo’s cover medley of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” and The Outfield’s “Your Love”, but, with the vocals coming through a vocoder and from “the other guy in Chromeo”—he’s the Oates to his lanky lead-singing partner’s Hall—it was more grating than anything else. But the crowd was too drunk and engrossed in the dance party to care. They dug it. Afterwards, to keep the party going, the Fool’s Gold house DJs returned to the stage and performed until the bartenders announced closing time. -- Pete Freedman


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