Chvrches Check Out Deftones, Bleachers Teases Second Album & More at SXSW Day 4

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Iain Cook and Lauren Mayberry of the band Chvrches perform onstage at the Austin Convention Center on March 18, 2016 in Austin, Texas.

As SXSW marched into the weekend and its fourth day, Billboard was on the ground at the annual Austin fest to check out the sets that stood out on Friday, March 18.

1:15 p.m. -- The massively-popular electro-pop group Chvrches called this afternoon's set in the Convention Center's Hall D "acoustic," but a quick glance at the trio onstage showed that absolutely everything was actually electronic -- someone get them a dictionary (and spellchecker, while you're at it.) That said, songs like "Afterglow" and "The Mother We Share" sounded great pared-down, which is really what they've done; without the histrionics and lasers that usually are trademarks of their live shows, it's clear that singer Lauren Mayberry and her bandmates have actual chemistry, with songs that soar more than they wither. She also proved the band has a sense of humor: after joking that you wouldn't hear them in a club even though they're considered a dance band, she summed up a potential experience being turned on by the band. "[Someone's] walking by a shop [playing our songs] and they're like, 'I'm uplifted -- but sad.'" -- Jeff Miller

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2:40 p.m. – A white-jacketed Christopher Baio, performing with the synthy duo that bears his surname, cracked that since he last played the Spin Party eight years ago with his main band, Vampire Weekend, "I look older. You guys don't. What's your secret." Baio nevertheless delivered an energetic, quickly paced set drawn from his 2015 debut album, The Names, during his set at Stubb's. – Gary Graff

3:07 – Deftones' already fierce set at the Spin Party elevated at the start of the third song, "Digital Bath," when rapper Bushwick Bill charged onstage to freestyle as the group wound into the song. Though the bash was originally slated as Deftones' only SXSW show, the quintet had also been pressed into service for a Thursday night show at Auditorium Shores to sub for an ailing Ray LaMontagne, spinning the night from heady to headbanging. At Stubb's, frontman Chino Moreno noted, "This is our first time ever playing SXSW. This is the first time anyone's invited us." After a blistering and rapturously received nine-song, 40-minute set -- including the first single, "Prayer/Triangles," from Deftones' upcoming album Gore and older favorites such as "Diamond Eyes," "Swerve City," "Change" and "Summer" -- you could only wonder what took so long. – GG

4:28 p.m.  – "The last time we were here we didn't have a record out. No we have two, so we've grown up," Chvrches singer Lauren Mayberry told the crowd during the British trio's closing set at the Spin Party. The group – which performed just two hours earlier at the Austin Convention Center -- played songs from both albums during its 40 minutes onstage, while Mayberry recounted that she and bandmate Martin Donelly were almost chased away from side stage while watching Deftones. "They looked at us like, 'That man doesn't belong near the guitars!' Mayberry said.  – Gary Graff

7:07 p.m. -- From the first note of Kevin Garrett's set, it was clear that the audience at St David's Cathedral was about to experience something special: while lightning cracked outside of the stained glass windows, inside was a jaw-dropping set that sounds like Bon Iver and the Postal Service's love child. Leading a trio that includes a second keyboardist and a drummer, Garrett's falsetto (often doubled to create self-harmonies) lifts itself above the glistening and gurgling synths; when he brings it down to a croon, there's hints of Sam Smith in his lilt. This was one of those sets that defines SXSW: a stumble upon Garrett's a revelation, and an easy one -- there's not much competition at 7 p.m., in-between the day and night showcases, which means that it's probable that most of the audience here is discovering him for the first time. The roaring applause at the end of the set means they'll all definitely be back for more. -- JM

9:31 p.m. – Luther Dickinson's all-star band -- Amy LaVere, Will Sexton and Sharde Turner -- brought in yet another ringer when Jimmy Vivino, the Conan bandleader who was in town to play with Dion on Thursday night, joined for the final two songs of Dickinson's set during the New West Records showcase at Maggie May's Gibson Room. Vivino added his guitar to renditions of Dickinson's own "Blow Out" as well as the blues staple "Back Back Train." – GG

9:34 p.m. -- Barnes Courtney has the unfortunate luck of a name that sounds suspiciously like 2014 buzz act Courtney Barnett, but they're nothing alike: at a private party in East Austin for Beats One, thrown by the same mysterious dudes behind the No Name bar in L.A., Courtney followed the route plowed by Ted Leo and tons of punk troubadours before him, growling through songs and pounding on the duct tape he'd run on his guitar even as the industry crowd treated him like background noise. In the VIP area after the show, the sweaty singer talked to Morning Becomes Eclectic producer Rachel Reynolds, who gave the 25-year-old huzzahs not just for his songs but his so-simple-it's-stupidly-smart self promotion: he's written his name in tape on his guitar case, which he leaves open onstage, ensuring that everyone watching knows exactly who he is. -- JM

9:41 p.m. -- A brass band marched down second street with pallbearers carrying a casket, stopping at various intersections, which had the date 3.25.16 written on it, as well as YSL and Slime Season 3 logos. It became a bit of a cult phenomenon, with people following the band down Sixth Street as it performed the same slow dirge on repeat. Rumors flew -- was Thug in the casket? Would he pop out and start performing? Why is there a casket in the first place? -- with fans noting he was scheduled to play the Pandora Discovery Den in a matter of hours. He wasn't, of course, but the procession down Sixth caught everyone's attention. -- DR

10:29 p.m. – Here's one we didn't see coming: Houston singer-songwriter Robert Ellis led his band into a cover of Joni Mitchell's "Free Man in Paris," calling it "one of my favorite songs of all time" during the New West Records showcase at Maggie May's Gibson Room. "I make weird fucking records," Ellis noted in a salute to his label. "I've made three records and you let me do it and don't fuck with me at all. I really appreciate it." -- GG

11:41 p.m. – MisterWives' party of a set at the Bud Light Factory took a political turn before the group's hit "Hurricane," when frontwoman Mandy Lee took on Donald Trump. The singer called the leading Republican presidential candidate "a monster who wants to truly rob this country of everything that makes it great. We will not allow a racist, homophobic, intolerant motherfucker to run this country." MisterWives also premiered a new song, "Chasing This," that's slated for the second album the sextet is currently recording.  -- GG

11:44 p.m. -- Covers are few and far between at SXSW, but when they come they can often feel revelatory -- especially after a long night of stumbling amid unrecognizable music. So it was when the six-piece Tuscon band Xixa started playing the Meat Puppet's "Plateau" to end their set at the Palm Door. The familiar guitar part -- made famous by Nirvana at their MTV Unplugged gig -- was given new life via a dusty-sounding reverbed-out effect and the band's arrangement, which oscillated between desert airiness and Tom Waits growls. It was unclear whether the audience knew it was a cover, but it didn't matter: the band delivered it with such conviction that it could very easily have been their own. -- JM

1:10 a.m. – "Hey, is this the latest show we ever played at night?" Jack Antonoff asked his Bleachers bandmates five minutes into their headlining slot at the Bud Light Factory -- the band's first show in three months, according to Antonoff. "I should be in bed doing stupid things. But this is Austin; we're playing a show!" The energetic 50-minute, 10-song show -- just two blocks north of where Bleachers played its first show ever two years ago at SXSW -- was certainly familiar, basically the same set it played during its fall North American dates, including a cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way" and the new, unreleased "Shadow of the City" amidst favorites such as "Like a River Runs," "Wild Heart," "Wake Me," "Rollercoaster" and "I Wanna Get Better." Antonoff told the late-night crowd that he hadn't left the studio since coming off the road, working on Bleachers' next album, and promised that "I can't wait to come back and play it for you when it's done." -- GG


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