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Spoon and Broken Bells Kick Off SXSW Day 1


It’s Austin and it’s Spoon.

If Britt Daniel couldn’t get elected mayor of this music mecca, he’d at least be toasted as the crown prince of its indie constituency, judging from the adulation showered on the quartet during its 75-minute performance at the outdoor stage at Stubb’s Wednesday night. The heaping helping of home cooking capped an NPR showcase at the South by Southwest Musical Festival that included sets by Broken Bells, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, the Walkmen, and Visqueen.

Spoon’s insistent grooves took the chill out of the evening air, to be sure, but the sonically muscular display wasn’t without at least one surprise. Eight songs in, Daniel and his bandmates busted out a cover of the Damned’s 1979 single “Love Song,” giving it a thick bottom and serious purpose.

The rest of the set was vintage Spoon, cocksure rhythms and prickly guitars. Daniel was energetic but all business, segueing effortlessly between songs from the band’s new self-produced release, “Transference,” and catalog favorites such as “Don’t Make Me a Target,” “The Underdog,” and “I Turn My Camera On.”

The hometown heroes were preceded by heavily buzzed Broken Bells, the collaboration between James Mercer of the Shins and uber-producer Danger Mouse. Some of the subtleties of their sextet’s Spectoresque psych-pop were lost in the expanse of the venue – at times, it was like trying to hear a chorale at a frat party – and Broken Bells’ trippy visuals didn’t fare much better on the stage’s uneven backdrop.

Then again, Broken Bells is not exactly the kind of music you’d make your party anthems for St. Patrick’s Day. The washes of psychedelia were excellent for cleansing the palate; they did not, however, leave a memorable aftertaste beyond Mercer’s aching tenor.