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  South By Southwest 2006 - Day 4 night showcases  



Austin, TX


IMA, Faceless Werewolves, The Essex Green, Superchunk

Reviewed by:
  Tracers and PostLibyan  
Photographs by:



We started our evening late and at The Lava Lounge, a venue off the main drag. We walked in (or rather, out, since the bands played on a patio) to catch the last two songs from IMA, a three-piece from St. Petersburg who played bizarre thrash jazz. That is, the rhythms were insanely complex and almost jazzy at times, then suddenly the band would extremely rock out! Odd. Why are Floridian bands so very strange? Well, at the very least IMA were fun for two songs. I think they would go on a bill with Atlanta's Rizzudo. (Or Rahim, for that matter, who also would have gone well with Rizzudo...)

The band we had come to see was up next. They are called Faceless Werewolves, and in addition to having a great name, they were recommended to us by various folk at the Peek-a-boo Records barbeque. Indeed, a few members of Black Lipstick were in the crowd tonight.


Luckily for us and our late running escapades in the afternoon, the Faceless Werewolves didn't go on until almost 9. I wasn't sure what to make of them as they set up. A female drummer and another female guitarist stood next to an Asian guitarist. They looked a little scruffy, but not affectedly so. Hmmm….

Faceless Werewolves in action.


All three of band members sing, and they play a type of music that is really fast-paced rockabilly that was reminiscent of the band X. EvilSponge loves X, so we really enjoyed this performance. Some of their tunes, the ones that featured the bass instead of two guitars, had an almost Cramps-ish feel. I personally really enjoyed them, and even bought a single after the performance. Very fun.

Faceless Werewolves: left-handed guitarist.


Faceless Werewolves were loud, frenetic and really fun. They had an early SoCal punk feel to most of their music, and the dueling vocals of the female drummer and male guitarist had the same edge as early X. Their energy drove them through a short performance, and I would have liked to see them play longer. And, to top it off, it seemed like they were representative of part of the local Austin scene, which proves to be vibrant.

Faceless Werewolves: drummer singing like Exene.


So now we were faced with a conundrum: we wanted to see Superchunk, and that means we have to stand in Antone's and see whoever is before them. It was Merge Records night at Antone's, and while i once enjoyed the entire catalog of that label, many of their recent signings have failed to impress me.

Case in point: The Essex Green, who took the stage at Antone's not too long after we got there. This band is a 5-piece band with women on bass and keyboards, a male drummer, and two male guitarists. They played a sort of boring country-tinged pop. No, really: this band refused to rock. To make matters worse, the female keyboardist has a whiney voice rich in natural tremolo. I know that is a type of voice often found in old country music, but, well, her voice grated on my nerves.

The Essex Green: i just don't like her voice....

The male lead singer, on the other hand, had a great voice: a nice rich baritone. My advice to The Essex Green is to focus on his singing more. But that's just me. I admit that i was not their target audience. No one really seemed to be getting down to them at least from what i could see of the crowd. Then again, the music wasn't very dancey, so maybe people were enjoying their quiet country-tinged pop in their own quiet way. I couldn't tell.

The Essex Green: the better vocalist.


The Essex Green, like The Ladybug Transistor long ago, were not a great opener for Superchunk. They're a vaguely gentle twee band that would be more at home on a stage with an old Elephant 6 act like Olivia Tremor Control. Plus, at least back where I was, the crowd weren't all that into their show and were instead rather distracting with incessant talking and chatter. Many times when the female vocalist sang, her voice was lost amongst the background noise. It didn't really matter, as I more liked the songs led by the primary male vocalist. Yet, I suspect that I would have enjoyed The Essex Green more in a different venue, and especially with a more appreciative crowd.


Well, they were done, eventually. And then we rushed to the front near the stage so that the Minions could take their traditional Superchunk viewing position in front of lead guitarist Jim Wilbur.

Superchunk: our guitar hero, Jim Wilbur.

I grew progressively more and more excited as Superchunk set up. I had not seen them in years, but look: Jim still has the same old guitar.

And look, Laura is wearing glasses now. Good for her -- contacts suck!

Mac still looks the same, but dear lord does John Wurster need a haircut!

Seeing them really took me back. I have been a fan of Superchunk for over 10 years as of this set. I have now seen Superchunk perform live in 4 states, a fact which i can't say of any other band!


The core of EvilSponge revolves around an appreciation of Superchunk. I've seen them live on numerous occasions, and as PostLibyan points out, we always seem to end up in front of Jim Wilbur. In fact, the only time I can recall us standing in front of Mac, he stage dove over me… But anyway, I had been looking forward to this show throughout the entirety of SXSW, and I was certainly happy to be there, ready to hopefully see a good set.


It seemed to take forever, but eventually the lights dimmed and the band stormed on stage. A brief nod at the crowd, and they tore into Driveway To Driveway. And the crowd went crazy, dancing, singing along. I should know: i was one of them. For a band that hasn't played in three years, Superchunk sounded great. In between songs Mac kept cracking jokes like, "Hey Jim, do you think we're gonna get signed tonight?" It was a standard hilarious good time with Superchunk.

They basically played a greatest hits set, including Tie a Rope to the Back of the Bus, Cool (a personal favorite), Nu Bruises, Animated Airplanes Over Germany (a welcome surprise), and Cast Iron. They also did a few "new" songs that sounded pretty good. But then, to make all of SXSW worth it, to provide one of those life-reaffirming moments that carry us through the bad and boring times, Superchunk ended the show with Precision Auto: about a thousand indie rockers bouncing up and down like maniacs screaming along with Mac. "Do not pass me, just to slow down. I can move right through you!" It was wonderful. Simply wonderful.

Some Actions Shots:


It's been a long long time since I've seen band get a crowd so incredibly jazzed up. All around me, people of varying ages bounced around, singing along with the band. As they launched into each song, I was ecstatic, thinking, "I can't believe they're playing this song; this is even better than the last." And then they ended with what I consider Superchunk's signature ending song: Precision Auto. The crowd moved as one, screaming along with Mac.

And as the last note faded away, I was done. Yeah, there were other bands and other venues. But nothing could top what I had just heard and felt. I was too happy to listen to anything else.


We stumbled out of Antone's and into the chilly night. There was no other band at SXSW who could even have topped that performance. So we wandered off towards the hotel, and an early but well earned and well contented, sleep. Another great festival successfully completed.

Related Links:

Read the entire South by Southwest 2006 review:
    Day 1: Dayshow
    Day 1: Night showcases
    Day 2
    Day 3: Dayshow
    Day 3: Night showcases
    Day 4: Dayshow
    Day 4: Night showcases
Added bonus material:
    Photo gallery: Signs around Austin
    Photo gallery: hollow-bodied guitars at SXSW06
    Photo gallery: Pedal fetishism
In addition, some of these acts have been reviewed before. Links within the review point you to the appropriate places.


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