Did we mention how cold it was? All everyone at SXSW Day 4 could talk about was an actual wave of chill, and you couldn't really blame us for complaining—the 40 degree temperatures and skin-cutting wind would've been odd for January in Austin, and were downright cruel for March 20th. Given that and the natural fatigue of running from show to show for days, I decided to treat Day 4 rather randomly, yet somehow ended up seeing almost nothing but energetic, animated, hard-working bands. I guess it was something in the air-- it was like these groups were all trying to either blast some body heat into the cold, or just blast off back to their warmer non-Texas homes.
The latter seemed to be the case for veteran Cleveland punk-rock quartet This Moment in Black History, churning out thick, effort-heavy songs on the outdoor patio of Creekside Lounge. A few tunes in, singer Christopher Kulcsar announced "We are literally parked right outside, and are literaly getting right in the van and driving to Cleveland after the last song." (He also added, "3 of us are literally stoners, so if anyone has some weed, that'd be great.") Having one eye on the exit door didn't keep the band from putting every muscle into the music, especially in the case of Kulcsar, who looked like he had to keep moving in order to risk not just getting physically cold but also letting the band's sound freeze up with his body.
Speaking of warm bodies, a quick, unannounced set by LA's Kyle Parker (aka Infinite Body) at Barbarella was an attempt to generate heat through pure, simple volume. Twiddling pedal-knobs and moaning into a microphone, his makeshift light show pulsing in response to his sounds, Parker made dense waves of drone that were more akin to his previous noise-heavy work than the more soothing tones of his recent album Carve Out the Face of My God (released by Dean Spunt of No Age, who stood rapt in front of Parker throughout his set).
KIT, a San Francisco four-piece featuring Vice Cooler on drums and George Chen on guitar, followed by upping the energy levels even further, sprinting through a 15-minute set of short, sharp melodi-punk. The growing crowd was probably there to see the next act—hype-magnet Best Coast—but if they didn't have fun watching KIT, they need to find some other art form to pretend to be into.
There wasn't any pretending going on at the showcase that ended my night, run by brethren scuzz-noise labels Siltbreeze and Load. Relegated to the appropriately unpretentious, dirt-encrusted confines of Club 1808 a few miles from all the other action back downtown, the energy generated here was less about heat than physical and sonic violence. When I walked in, Providence's Tinsel Teeth were all shirtless and sweaty, slamming out noise-punk that sounded like it hurt.
Their SXSW bio says "we want to fuck yr ears on the first date," and it definitely looked like their bra-only lead singer was trying to hump something, falling to the floor several times until it held a cocktail of dirt, sweat, and blood. That was fun, but the hardest work of the night was executed by British punk dolts Todd. While his bandmates, all of whom looked to be pushing 40, churned a smeared-noise version of post-Fall punk, Todd's lead singer jumped, crouched, sprung, and ran in place like a footballer who'd been hit in the head a few too many times. Their set was somehow the night's most effective antidote for the cold, even if it meant having to endure a few extra smells from a crowd more interested in sweating viciously to these oldies than standing dourly in lines downtown.