Gold Chains, Chicks on Speed, Louie Austen at SXSW

For the six of you who aren't familiar with South-by-Southwest (SXSW), it's a music and film festival in Austin, Texas. Nine hundred bands play at 18 clubs in five nights. Last Friday at Emo's was a Kork Agency Showcase featuring Gold Chains, Louie Austen, The Mooney Suzuki, Atmosphere, and Chicks on Speed. I had come to see Chicks on Speed, so I missed the beginning of Gold Chains. What I did see was this guy yelling into a mic while his iBook played mediocre beats. I decided to check out the smaller stage, and when I came back, the next act was just starting. A sixty year old lounge singer in a white tux came out on stage and began to sing "The Lady is a Tramp." This is some kind of novelty act, for sure, something to go inbetween the other acts. Then, before the next song, Louie Austen introduced himself and told us, that two young men (M. Neugebauer) approached him and asked him what he thought of electronic music. Before I know it, a beat has started and Louie is singing "Music Keeps Me Staying Alive." It's lounge IDM. Maybe this is what I'll listen to when I'm sixty and I go out to clubs. Louie was extremely entertaining, and his performance and charisma were 60% of the reason that act was so enjoyable. Next came Mooney Suzuki, a high energy mix of indie rock and garage punk. Excellent set, very entertaining men. The drummer, Will Rockwell, and the guitarist, Graham Tyler, are amazingly talented. Their new album, Electric Sweat, is coming out in the next few weeks, and it is quite good.
Then came Atmosphere, and I was looking forward to this set, but it was a dissapointment. The sound levels were off at the beginning, so they never really got started well. If it were'nt for their DJ, Mr. Dibbs, I would have gone to the other stage. He was great, mixing in Ozzy when they started to lose the crowd. I'd say that the highlight of the set was a medley they did of spoofs of other rap artists, i.e. "I'm a slug" and "My name is . . . Tim Daley." But overall, I was not impressed with the band, as they started a fight on stage, and then Mr. Dibbs put some kid who was trying to buy his merchandise in a chokehold for no apparent reason. Maybe they aren't cut out for fame.
Last was Chicks on Speed, and this made the whole night worth it. They had a bad start, as the monitor levels were off , which seemed to be a theme that night, but once they got started, they did an amazing set. They had well-composed songs that were heavy on bass and full of improvisation. Their girl-punk vocals really made the act stand out from everything else that night, and I couldn't get over how captivating they are as performers. They paint themselves and use homemade instruments, like their electronically altered vinyl belts that they play during "We don't play guitars!" They are smart musicians and they really know how to play a crowd. After the false start, they grabbed our attention, spraying us with water and getting off the stage to roam the audience. Chicks on Speed appear to be a retro-novelty act, with neon lame and fishnet hose, until you listen and realize that they are making really good music. I bought the album on my way out, and I haven't been sorry. -