By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
By the time I’d witnessed the Japan Girls nite at Elysium, where I saw Noodles, a competent Ramones-loving band of young women (good players — it’s fun to be in a rock band, I know, it’s like Little League baseball), I ’d grown tired of watching this “indie” idea of tearing down the wall between performer and fan, and strolled about in search of real rock stars. I stopped by the Emo’s adjunct tent to hear Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, that ferociously hyper trio from New Jersey who put the power back in pop and seemed happy hearing their puffy new-wavy offal blasted at deafening, cartilage-dissolving volume. The drummer beat all holy crap outta his kit. Ted bounced around a lot and hashed at his guitar. The songs? On record they’re perfect; live, the soundman mixed ’em like Ted was a death-metal band, and it just sounded ludicrous. What’s going on here?
Well, I did say I wanted to see real rock stars, and I believe I did, of two very different white stripes. Sweden’s the Hives parked their monstrous tour bus outside Emo’s and jumped on a stage adorned with a neon THE HIVES sign aglow and, in their matching white suits, proceeded to move the masses with some good old-fashioned Big Rock Show. Their classic rock-punk-garage trash messes were thrashed out with wicked abandon and, crucially, extreme precision. Lead singer Pelle Almqvist is a new, improved David Johansen, full of hilarious American-accented bullshit, full of himself and radiating supreme confidence in the godlike supremacy of his band. There was no room in the house for any other stars, in other words.
The most purely inspired and musically rich performance I caught at SXSW was a set by the Thrills at the Filter mag/ Virgin/ KCRW party off Fourth Street. Whether the cool breeze that came through as they played had something to do with it, I don’t know, but a kind of true stardom seemed to pour off the stage as the Irish band delivered a short, sweet and very no-B.S. set of the glorious West Coast/country-inspired stuff from their justifiably raved-about So Much for the City album on Virgin. They seemed very intent on playing their music correctly, keeping an ear on the volume and dynamics and keen harmonies while playing in the studiously rough and unfussy vein of, say, The Band. The lads looked very focused, and calm, as if they knew they were on the way straight to the top — and you knew it was true.
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