The Naked and Famous – Mar. 18 @ Maggie Mae’s Rooftop
With Buffalo Billiards running behind schedule due to some highly publicized sound and security problems (see: Beach Fossils), our proposed lineup packed tighter than our carry-on suitcases, and rumors of a long line outside Maggie Mae’s — where the Naked and Famous were set to play a 1:00 a.m. nightcap — we’d all but given up hope of seeing these electronic wizards from New Zealand. But nothing could stop our eager ears (and throbbing feet) from trying, as we set what must have been a land-speed record for the fastest 100-yard dash down a crowded 6th Street. Apparently we weren’t the only ones eager to see this Auckland quintet — with the elevated rooftop viewing area completely full, we were relegated to the lower deck, where we had a view of nothing but the backs of the bouncing masses above. But auditory senses trumped ocular ones here, as the synth-heavy grooves of “All of This” and “Punching in a Dream” needed no visual accompaniment to have an impact. As on their debut full-length album, September’s Passive Me, Aggressive You, the backhanded love letter “Girls Like You” got closing honors — the perfectly sweet chaser for a set-long shot of booming energy. — J.J.
Sharon Van Etten – Mar. 19 @ Central Presbyterian Church
We’ve been a fan of singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten for quite a while now, and after careful consideration of the SXSW schedule, we determined that of all the shows she had, the one at Central Presbyterian Church would be the best for spotlighting her emotionally raw, stripped-down vocal style (also, we like to save the best for last). This venue is the perfect spot for any band, thanks to its amazing acoustics, but when you consider such a talent as Van Etten performing there — pouring out her soul with intimate songs revolving around heartbreak, sorrow, life and, well, everything else — there’s really nowhere that would be more ideal for her than a church. This was the last show of SXSW for Van Etten, and her performance was made even more hauntingly beautiful by the fact that she had virtually no talking voice left after all her other shows — yet she still managed to power through her songs and sound incredible. We don’t know how she did it, but it was truly amazing. And based on the standing ovation she got after she finished, the rest of the audience agreed, too. — A.F.
Typhoon – Mar. 19 @ Central Presbyterian Church
Two men walked hypnotized to the front of the room, as if pulled by a tractor beam, ending up squarely in the center of the aisle at Central Presbyterian Church. On the pulpit before them was Typhoon — the 12-member outfit from Portland, Ore., led by Kyle Morton — who were in the midst of playing their 11th (!) show of the week. “Why are you guys sitting?” one of the men — the only people standing besides those around the nave’s perimeter who simply couldn’t find a pew seat to park in — turned and asked us. When they could finally, reluctantly be convinced to sit (next to us, naturally), they effused loudly about the band until shh-ed into submission. While we disagreed with their way of showing it, after being transfixed and then transformed by Typhoon’s stirring set, we understood the pair’s passion. Morton, who as a child survived a life-threatening illness, sings mortality-laden diary entries set to a beautiful mélange of music, which fluctuates between stirringly quiet valleys and rapturous crescendos. Despite the lack of a standing-room-only constituent (sorry, fellas), the church provided the perfect venue for the band’s singing-to-the-heavens, chorus-like feel. By the time they hit the hallelujahs in “The Honest Truth," we had seen the light. — J.J.
FM Belfast – Mar. 19 @ Emo’s Jr.
We can honestly say that this was the first time in the history of our attending SXSW that we’ve seen an audience steadily chant “more, more, more, more…” despite knowing that there was no way the band was going to give them what they so desperately wanted. For those who don’t know how SXSW works, bands get half an hour to perform, and that’s it. Blow a speaker and take a few minutes to fix it? Tough. Break a guitar string and have to re-string and have only 10 minutes left to your show? Tough. You get 30 minutes, and you’d better hope all goes according to plan, because if it doesn’t, you’re out of luck. In the case of the Icelandic band FM Belfast, we’re pretty sure they could power through anything. A couple of strangers actually recommended them to us (by way of apologizing for smacking us in the face with their backpack), and it was, without a doubt, the best dance party we’ve ever seen. Whether it was from the guy playing the fluorescent green cowbell; the suspender-clad, bow-tied, sunglasses-wearing lead singer; or the drummer in red suspenders — we couldn’t help but smile and jump up and down right along with everyone else. So, if whoever told us about FM Belfast is reading this, all is forgiven; this band was amazing and we are forever grateful to you for telling us to go see them. — A.F.