This afternoon I went to the Spin party to see X. The band played all of the hits, from 'Los Angeles' to 'We're Desperate'. John Doe, always the storyteller, told the audience that 'Nausea' was how we'd feel after the amount of beer we'd all been drinking and that 'Motel Room In My Bed' is where we'd be when we woke up feeling sick. (For the record, I was drinking ice tea, which is how I understood what he was saying).
Before X were Vampire Weekend, who I saw yesterday at The Parish. It's a shame so many people left after Vampire Weekend and missed X's show. VF are a fun band to watch, but I find their live performance (and songs) overly considered and, frankly, lacking much soul or passion. I could listen to their record over and over, dance to it, enjoy it, but it will never move me. But I suppose music, like other forms of art, serves different purposes. If Vampire Weekend are a summer beach read, then good for them for delivering the warm weather a few months early.
I also caught Times New Viking, one of the bands I'd been hoping to see at SXSW. Their albums are lo-fi with the treble turned up to 10. Live, they have a heavier guitar sound, which I prefer to the thinner tones. There is always an element of surprise when you first see a live band, your expectations bump up against realities, and you have more senses with which to marry the musical experience. What I first noticed about Times New Viking was that their drummer is the main singer and front-person. With maybe the exception of Levon Helm in the Band (sorry Genesis and Eagles), I always find that when drummers sing lead, the energy of the band is tilted in a strange and disorienting direction. But Times New Viking's music is so forward moving and fast, I didn't care about how off-center or imbalanced the stage set-up seemed. In fact, it forced the keyboardist/singer and guitarist to turn inwards, which only intensified the dynamic. Plus, all their songs are around two minutes. In some ways, I wish every band at SXSW had only 20 minutes to play. That's two songs by the incredible My Morning Jacket and ten songs by the sonic blink that is Times New Viking.
(If you haven't already, check out the live taping NPR did of My Morning Jacket. That is one amazing live band—lot's of jamming and eight new songs.)