If TV on the Radio wanted to reintroduce themselves to their audience and get people excited about April’s Nine Types of Light, they couldn’t have done much better for themselves than their headlining set to a densely packed, sun-baked throng at SPIN’s annual party at Stubb’s BBQ in Austin. The absence of bassist Gerard Smith, who is being treated for lung cancer, necessitated some shuffling, as drummer Jaleel Bunton switched to bass and Death Set drummer Jahphet Landis sat behind the kit, although this arrangement may change as the band continues to play out. Still, it’s to their credit that the chemistry didn’t suffer in the slightest.
It helped that the set didn’t attempt to go too deep into the new material, sticking instead to songs you’d want to hear TV on the Radio play for 45 minutes after drinking beer all afternoon — “Dancing Choose,” “Staring at the Sun,” and the set-closing “Wolf Like Me,” which had even the most jaded and weary dancing giddily near the stage.
The Kills would probably be happy to take a mulligan on their set — sound problems plagued Jamie Hince and Allison Mosshart after their first song, the new “Future Starts Slow,” and the duo even walked offstage for a few awkward minutes while things were tended to. But the Kills’ primary weapon is Mosshart’s natural onstage magnetism and charisma, which is just as easily fueled by frustration as hampered by it.
A pared-down version of ’80s synth-pop progenitors OMD played what would turn out to be the less eventful of their two shows at Stubb’s, in that nothing collapsed and hurt anyone. (Although it could certainly be argued that a cameo by Moby on bass is eventful-ish.) Their sound may be more familiar today than their name, but the opening notes to “If You Leave” and “Enola Gay” were met with “Oh, these guys nods of recognition. “All of a sudden, you’re 18 and in high school again,” quipped singer AndyMcCluskey, conceding his band’s status as a walking John Hughes reference, while refuting it by offering up songs from last year’s solid History of Modern.
Brit darlings the Vaccines have been all over Austin this week, and they seem to get looser and more confident with every show since their much-ballyhooed U.S. debut a couple months ago, running through a fistful of songs from their about-to-be-released What Did You Expect From the Vaccines.
“Does anybody here remember 9/11?” You can’t say legendary Black Flag singer turned frontman for hardcore all-stars OFF! doesn’t know how to work a crowd. His rants against politicians, traffic patterns in Austin, deceased friends, the kids today with their shitty music, and those tiny bags of peanuts you get on airplanes were every bit as entertaining — and in some cases longer — than the coiled little punk songs they introduced. Morris dedicated a song to the Gun Club’s Jeffrey Lee Pierce, and lobbied to play the Super Bowl halftime show, a notion we could not support more enthusiastically.
The long afternoon got off to a nice start thanks to Chicago’s Smith Westerns, making the most of a presumably unenviable 12:40 start time. Expanded to a five-piece with a touring keyboardist, the entire notion of these guys being “lo-fi” or “scrappy” or whatever your chosen synonym for unpolished garage-rock went out the window. Slower and more deliberate than you’d expect from this precocious young band that’s just learning as they go, with an increasingly large crowd watching each bit of progress.
Oh, but wait. That’s not all. DJ sets from Anika, Designer Drugs, and the heavily hyped Skrillex spun between sets outside, while an inside stage boasted capitalization-happy up-and-comers like Young the Giant and DOM. It’s kind of like South By Southwest writ small: More than you can possibly take in, and more than you deserve.