SXSW Overflow 2013: Day Eight (The Bengsons, Jonathan Warren & The Billy Goats, Irene & The Sleepers, sami.the.great, Lost Weekend, & More)

thebengsons1Yep, trying to keep up with the ever-excellent SXSW Overflow Fest over at The Land of the Super Happy Fun. Tomorrow — Saturday, March 16th — is Day Eight of the festivities, with 14(!) left to go, which is both awesome and extremely demoralizing, considering I’m hoping to write up every damn one of ’em…sigh.

Either way, though: this is a good, good slew of bands. Sadly, I won’t be there to see ’em (again), as I’ll be down in Surfside, trying to survive the St. Patrick’s Day madness and the in-laws. With that out of the way, here we go:

THE BENGSONS: After reading about NY band The Bengsons, I’ll admit to being a little wary; when an artist’s bio starts by talking about the band’s “experimental mixed-media folk opera,” there’s a fair-to-middling chance that it’s going to suck colossally — Spinal Tap’s “jazz odyssey,” anyone?

Happily, husband-and-wife duo The Bengsons (plus a cast of seemingly billions of friends & fellow musos) have the talent to back it up, and what they’ve created, Hundred Days, is like what might happen if Jim Steinman collaborated with Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold, rather than with Meat Loaf (and maybe they dragged Colin Meloy into it, too, just for fun). It’s ornate and intricately-built and insanely layered, it’s catchy and driving as all hell, and yet, with all that, it’s folky and gospel-y and old-timey-sounding at its very core. Whoa. Consider my mind blown.

Think I’m kidding? See for yourself:

JONATHAN WARREN & THE BILLY GOATS: And then, on the far end of the folk spectrum from The Bengsons, there’s Jonathan Warren & The Billy Goats, who live way, way, way deep down in the darkest part of the holler, so deep and dark the sun rarely seems to shine that far in. They live in a rickety old house made of boards stolen from coffins, and they stomp and dance and sing their mournful dirges; if you listen carefully on a dark, clear night, you just might hear them wailing over the hills.

Okay, so that’s probably not all true, but damn, it sure sounds like it might be. Warren and his Goat cohorts play a rootsy, seriously Appalachian breed of folk that’s not strictly “folk,” per se, but also has bits of bluegrass and blues stitched into it. And yes, it’s pretty damn good:

IRENE & THE SLEEPERS: Yes, yes, yes. I’ve got a serious soft spot for bands like Shreveport quintet Irene & The Sleepers, one that’s Americana but rock rather than country, with hardly a twinge of folkiness anywhere in sight; think of early mid-’90s bands like Buffalo Tom or the brilliant-yet-underrecognized Get Up Kids spinoff Blackpool Lights, and you’ll get the idea. These guys are equal parts Tom Petty, Springsteen, Foo Fighters, and The Replacements, and it’s all really damn great.

I’d heartily recommend checking these guys out, honestly; they’re fiery and sweet at the same time, roaring and sweaty and smiling as they bash away, and I’m digging the hell out of the organ sound, in particular. You can listen to EP Love Anyway right here:

GLORY: Jesusified, hip-hop-tinged reggae-rock from Alabama. No, I’m not kidding. And try as I might, I can’t think of a damn thing else to say beyond that, so I’ll let the music speak for itself:

SAMI.THE.GREAT: phew. Okay, I’m back; I had to go do something else for a little while there… And hey, sami.the.great (all lowercase, with periods in-between) is no bad thing to come back to, with her shiny, bouncy, pretty-yet-bitter electro-pop bubbling through the speakers.

I’ve only been able to dig up one song to listen to, “Dresser Drawer,” which is the first single from her self-titled 2012 full-length, but I’m liking it quite a bit. It’s electro with a soul, and despite the sweetness of the music, it’s a sharp-edged kiss-off of a song, blending psych with Goldfrapp-esque vocals that are detached yet gorgeous. Check it out:

FORCED INTO FEMININITY: SHFL headman Brian Arthur specifically recommended Illinois Forced Into Femininity, but he really didn’t give me any idea what to expect, so naturally, I’m sitting here going “what the hell was that?” Spastic, skronking, vaguely rhythmic noise, over which two(?) people thrash around in a synchronized fashion while wearing nothing but in strips of silvery materials. And then they do it again. Holy fuck:

LOST WEEKEND: Okay. Back, somewhat, to reality, with Winnipeg electro-pop band Lost Weekend, who come off like early Interpol or long-forgotten duo Pulsars more than anything else; the music is glacially beautiful, with seriously Brit-influenced vocals, nu-New Wave gloss, sci-fi-style bleeps and bloops galore, and the occasional funky dancefloor explosion.

And while I don’t generally like stuff like this all that often, heck, it works really damn well, halfway to The Killers back in their Hot Fuss heyday. Here’s a taste of their to-be-released EP:

All for now; on we go…

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