Photo Gallery: Visqueen Live From Stubbs SXSW 2010
On Wednesday, lead singer Rachel Flotard — incredible, powerful voice — was gracious, repeatedly thanking the audience for having them. She opened the set with just a cellist and dedicated the song to her sister and niece back in Seattle. Then Flotard said, "Now we're gonna bring out some meat." When the full band kicked in the players really lit it up. On stage Flotard joked that someone mistook her for Olympic snowboarder Shaun White and asked her to sign a copy of Rolling Stone magazine with White on the cover. Though Visqueen's set was just under 20 minutes, the group's performance was a great way to kick off NPR's opening-night showcase.
Visqueen's latest album, Message to Garcia, is a towering collection of punchy, careening power-pop. Given the album's driving pace, crunchy guitars and pristine vocal harmonies, it's not immediately clear that it's a tribute to frontwoman and songwriter Rachel Flotard's late father. A burly New York City steamfitter, Flotard's father had an indelible influence on the singer, and even influenced the album's title. (Taken from an 1899 Elbert Hubbard essay detailing the trials of a soldier in the Spanish-American War who accepts a daunting mission without question or complaint, Message to Garcia is the only book that the elder Flotard, a voracious reader, insisted his young daughter read.) Rather than mark his passing with a sad, mournful record, Flotard instead crafted a triumphant celebration of his life.
Leaning heavily on Flotard's charismatic vocals and propulsive guitar riffs, Visqueen sounds a bit like Neko Case if she preferred Gibson Les Pauls and crashing drums to gently plucked acoustic guitars. Appropriately, Flotard made appearances on Case's two most recent albums, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood and Middle Cyclone, and Case returns the favor by contributing backing vocals to Message to Garcia. Visqueen opens NPR Music's showcase at Stubb's in Austin, Texas, on March 17.