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SXSW 2016: Samsung’s Galaxy Life Fest Launches With The Strokes and Arcs

For the launch of Samsung's Galaxy Life Fest at SXSW, held Friday evening (March 11) for a few hundred in a former Austin post office downtown, it was a meeting of the old school and the new school…

For the launch of Samsung’s Galaxy Life Fest at SXSW, held Friday evening (March 11) for a few hundred in a former Austin post office downtown, it was a meeting of the old school and the new school with performances by The Strokes and The Arcs.

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One might think that the latter, the latest project from The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, might’ve been easily upstaged in this scenario. But while The Arcs just released its full-length debut, Yours, Dreamily, last September, the act appeared more seasoned than expected — and for good reason.


“Five years ago we started recording,” recalled Auerbach during a pre-show interview. “We had about 70 songs, and that’s when we realized we should probably start releasing some of this. Instead of cherry-picking from those old songs, we decided to just record new songs just for this record. It was more focused.”

Julian Casablancas of The Strokes performs onstage at Samsung Galaxy Life Fest at SXSW 2016 on March 11, 2016 in Austin, Texas. Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for Samsung

The cumulative chemistry of all those years stringing jams together certainly shone through during a plethora of feel-good freak-outs, mostly underscored by Auerbach’s frequent psyched-out guitar solos. While The Strokes teased no new material and suffered from frontman Julian Casablancas’ flubs on sections of a few essentials like opener “Someday,” “Last Nite” and “New York City Cops,” Auerbach and backing quintet — with two guys on full drums kits — continually fostered a free-wheelin’ feeling.

The organ-guitar duel, plus soaring vocals of “Keep on Dreamin’,” did the trick early on and continued with boisterous bursts of shred on “Pistol Made of Bones,” and nearly peaked on “The Arc,” a rollicker as bounce-worthy as Black Keys’ “Lonely Boy.”

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But show closer “Outta My Mind” was the incontestable crux of The Arcs’ crowd-pleasing craft. Auerbach treaded easily between soulful wail and finessed falsetto over salvos of riffs-on-riffs-on-riffs while the band’s just-gritty-enough groove came across infinitely more genuine than any of The Strokes’ perennially precise selections.

If the performance left audience members wanting more, all the better, because this batch of songs is only the first phase of The Arcs, according to Auerbach. “We’re almost done with the second record … a mixture of things that we like that we’re trying to make cohesive,” he said. “We’ve got some 7-inches ready to release.”

Galaxy Life Fest continues Saturday (March 12) with performances from Public Enemy and the live debut of ColleGrove (2 Chainz and Lil Wayne). It concludes Sunday with Elle King and Sia.