Walking through the Austin Convention Center on Monday night was a strange exercise. The techies in town for SXSW’s Interactive festival, making last-ditch efforts to pitch their “hardware” or “4K quality video,” were meandering away from the city as SXSW Music took over for the home stretch.
Monday night, for me, was at the Onion/AV Club’s showcase at Mohawk Austin. If there was ever an iconic stage view in town, it’s the Mohawk’s split-screen stage with a diagonal view of the band below and the cityscape above. Police cars in the foreground, with their sirens lit, had an ominous feel on this particular evening, as news of deadly parcel bombs on the outskirts of the city lingered in the air. Sometimes, the only thing that can wash away the sadness of yet another American atrocity is music. And here we were.
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Bully took the stage at 8 p.m., and frontwoman Alicia Bognanno was nothing short of perfect, hitting what felt like every single note. I’m hard-pressed to think of a band that growls and howls quite like Bully, let alone one that can execute their sound so consistently. What sets this band apart is the inherent melody that pierces through Bognanno’s fierce lyrics, and it was in full display on tracks like “I Remember” and set-opener “Feel the Same.” Make no mistake about it, seeing Bully live is spiritual.
Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak.
For the first time ever, the duo of Wye Oak took the stage as a three-piece. Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack were joined by Will Hackney on bass as they played songs from Wye Oak’s upcoming record, The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs. “Not only is this our first time playing these songs live, but it’s our first time in our 10-year history playing as a trio!” Wasner excitedly told the crowd.
It was vintage Wye Oak, with Wasner’s incredible voice front and center. While it felt like the new songs were primed to get better live, this is what an accomplished outfit like Wye Oak comes to SXSW for, to hone new material ahead of a national tour. Couldn’t think of a better way to kick-off the week ahead!
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