AUSTIN, TX—Musical highlights on my first night in the clubs were few and far between, but I was mightily impressed by two high-energy acts from Los Angeles that were my first great finds of the festival.
Fidlar is a pop-punk quartet—“slackers at heart” who “only really care about skateboarding,” as they describe themselves—reworking yet again that familiar fast-moving, highly hummable formula patented by the Ramones, honed by Screeching Weasel and Green Day but sounding fresher than ever as part of indelible originals and a well-chosen nigh-octane cover of Warren Zevon's “Carmelita.” (“Carmelita hold me tighter, I think I’m sinking down/I’m all strung out on heroin on the outskirts of town.”)
The group performed at a temporary venue called the Main sadly occupying the space that once was home to the legendary punk club Emo’s, driven to a new location by the forces of gentrification, and playing no role in SXSW this year.
Later at a club called Beauty Bar Backyard and every bit as invigorating as their homeboys was Bleached, a project led by sisters Jessica and Jennifer Clavin. Devoted to effervescent garage-pop and delivering a blur of one tuneful anthem after another, the group reminded me of the second coming of that chronically forgotten but much-loved ’80s band from France, Les Calamités. Vive le pop!
The night also delivered a lot of fair to middling music not really worth mentioning, as well as one truly awful band that is: Brooklyn’s Miracles of Modern Science, a painfully precious and twee indie-pop band consisting of drums, standup bass, violin and mandolin. The only way it could have been worse: If the latter had been a ukulele.