SXSW Overflow 2011: Day Seven (Rooftop Vigilantes, Secret Mountains, Country Mice, Chris Bathgate, & More)

Day 7 of the SXSW Overflow Fest at Super Happy Fun Land, and eh, I can’t even come up with anything witty to say about the thing in general, except that the bills are getting better and better (and I’m starting to recognize some of the names, like tonight’s Rooftop Vigilantes & Boats).

Oh, and apparently two of the folks playing tonight, Joel Streeter and Greg Smith, are collecting canned goods for charity, which is always a cool thing… Here goes:

ROOFTOP VIGILANTES: Wild, rambunctious, guitar-heavy power-pop that sounds like it should’ve floated across the pond from Birmingham or South London, rather than come boiling up out of Lawrence, Kansas. The Vigilantes marry bouncy rhythms to snarling/sliding, Sonic Youth-y guitars, sung/yelped vocals, and an awesome organ sound, and the end result is like a band of confused-yet-smart kids who sound and feel like they’re going to explode in a ball of nervous energy.

SECRET MOUNTAINS: Been wanting to check out these Baltimoreans for a while now, in part because I’m told they’re not a whole lot like their spastic Charm City brethren/sistren. And after a listen to the band’s Rejoice 7″, yeah, that’s pretty much dead-on — the band’s way, way more low-key and soulful than most of Baltimore’s hipster acts, rumbling and rolling along like a post-millennial reincarnation of Big Brother & the Holding Company, all jam-y, drifting guitars and head-nodding rhythms. Singer Kelly Laughlin‘s the best part of the whole thing, though, holding it all together with that beautifully smoky voice.

Check it out right here:

COUNTRY MICE: I’m a little mystified by the Country Mice folks — one second they’re backroads-driving roots-rockers raised on a diet of Uncle Tupelo and The Jayhawks, and the next they’re art-damaged post-punks as at home with Wire as they are with Jeff Tweedy. Even more mystifying is the fact that it works on both ends of the band’s bizarro equation. See here for a full review of their Make Your Own Fun EP.

CHRIS BATHGATE: I listened to Chris Bathgate not expecting much, honestly — another singer/songwriter, yadda, yadda — but I’ve walked away pretty impressed. The music the guy makes is folky, no question, but it’s folky in less of an indie-folk fashion and more of a folk-folk fashion, pulling from stomping music echoing out of the Appalachian valleys and the more earthy end of its progenitor tradition, English/Scottish folk music. There are parts of this that make me think of The Swell Season, which is no bad thing, but barring the occasional electric guitar, it’s The Waterboys that come to mind more than anything else.

BOATS: Like I said above, I’d actually heard of Winnipeg-dwellers Boats prior to this show (although I kept confusing ’em with BOAT, which I think is pretty understandable, really). But with that said, I really wasn’t prepared for what they sounded like, in the end — that insanely, can’t-be-real, high-pitched voice stopped me square in my tracks and made me double-check what the fuck I was listening to. Once I’d confirmed that yep, this was indeed Boats, though, the band’s chirpy, rubbery stomp-pop started to worm its way into my skull, and now I’m muttering what I was able to make out of the lyrics under my breath. Think CocoRosie crossed with Machine Go Boom, and you might be in the neighborhood…

JOEL STREETER: I had some high hopes for Joel Streeter based on the fact that Absolute Powerpop, which I like/respect quite a bit, tagged him in their list of top 100 albums from last year, and yeah, he hit the mark pretty well, I have to say. Sweet-voiced, warmly Brit-ified pop that reminds me of Crowded House at several points and unsung pop heroes Jellyfish at others, I have a feeling I’m going to need to hear more of this guy.

LANDS & PEOPLES: Another band of Baltimoreans, this one a bit more spaced-out and drifting than the Secret Mountains gang; Lands & Peoples, instead, kind of meander and stumble quietly along, half-conscious of where they are or where they’re headed, mining murky, distantly-echoed melodies and sounds along the way.

GREG SMITH AND THE BROKEN ENGLISH: Decently countrified, jangly roots-pop, and not bad for that; Greg Smith‘s got a pretty great, gravelly voice and a steady-strumming hand to match, coming off like a less-hardscrabble William Elliot Whitmore on the tracks I’ve heard so far.

SCHOOL: Hrm. I really want to like SCHOOL a lot more than I do, but there’s something off-putting about their decidedly experimental take on jangle-pop; I can’t put my finger on what it is, but part of each sound just doesn’t sound right to my ears, and it’s making giving the band a serious listen a difficult task. I definitely like the instrumentation and the delicate, low-down female vocals — it’s just that the “bent” notes are digging into my eardrums right now… When they do hit the mark, think a cracked version of Hem with strings, slightly skewed strings and banjo, and stuttering, meandering rhythms.

There you go, y’all. Once again: get on out there, head downtown to SHFL, and be blown away by people you’ve never heard of before.


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