SXSW 2011 hit fever pitch on Friday (Mar. 19), with hundreds of bands packing every available club, bar, restaurant, rooftop and street corner in downtown Austin. But if you were a fan of indie rock, there was no better place to be than Billboard’s sold-out event at Buffalo Billiards. Revelers lined up around the block to catch some of South-by’s most buzzed-about bands hit the stage for the rockin’ (and sometimes rowdy) third night in our series of showcases.
Topping the bill was New York quintet the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, who took the stage just after midnight and kept the crowd captivated with their jangly indie-pop jams. The band’s energetic set consisted of songs from their anticipated forthcoming album “Belong,” as well as material from their acclaimed self-titled 2009 debut.
Frontman Kip Berman’s airy ethereal vocals hovered over the group’s sometimes tender, sometimes tense tunes. Working with famed producers Flood and Alan Moulder during the recording of their new album also seems to have enhanced the band’s live aesthetic, as Pains packed a more polished and powerful punch on stage, which was especially apparent on standout tracks like “Heart in the Heartbreak” and “Come Saturday.”
The evening kicked off with performances by Australian folk-rock quartet Boy & Bear and bluesy New Jersey ensemble Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers, but it was London trio The Joy Formidable who drew the night’s biggest crowd. The audience – which included Adam Duritz of Counting Crows, plus members of the Drums and Boxer Rebellion – stood in rapt attention as the group powered through their set up grungy, epic indie rock. The on-stage prowess of frontwoman Ritzy Bryan was rivaled only by Marisa Paternoster of New Jersey ‘s Screaming Females, who trashed her way through the trio’s raucous set of high-energy punk.
A Place to Bury Strangers, the night’s closing band, pushed the venue’s production to the limits. Levels ran into the red as the New York trio unleashed their psychedelic wall of sound on the audience, as hypnotic strobe lights and stage projections intensified the sensory overload. The band got so caught up in the chaos, they literally played until the house lights came up and the venue cut their sound. Equally unruly were Brooklyn’s Beach Fossils, whose energetic set of lo-fi indie rock ended with the band trashing the stage – an act which resulted in them being chased down Austin ‘s 6th St. by the venue’s security team.
The rowdiness is sure to continue tonight’s (Mar. 19) Billboard showcase when L.A. hip-hop collective Odd Future takes the stage at 12:05am, topping a Buffalo Billiards bill that will also feature performances by Big K.R.I.T., Curren$y, CyHi da Prynce, Black Milk and more.