Volume 75, Number 45 | March 29 -April 04 2006

Scene and Heard

By Jen Carlson

This is where I attempt to recap the past couple of weeks in downtown music, while myself and most of the bands I know were all in Austin for the South by Southwest music festival—also referred to as SXSW, or simply “South By.”

Before I departed for Texas, I caught a couple of shows in the city. First was an invite-only launch party for LostWriters.com that I went to because I can’t get enough of Slowlands (www.slowlands.com), who I also mentioned in my first column. They’re compared to such buzz bands as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, but their sound is unique and layered. It not only created a beautiful full length album, but it also sonically builds one of the best live shows I’ve seen in this city in quite some time.

Next on my show list was Isobel Campbell at Joe’s Pub. The setting and musician fit perfectly, and slinked back in a cushy booth drinking a glass of pinot grigio I was in perfect harmony with it all. The ex-Belle and Sebastian frontwoman was accompanied on stage by a dapper man with a smooth voice that resembled a modern-day Leonard Cohen.

James Iha, of the reuniting Smashing Pumpkins, was spotted at the Isobel Campbell show. I didn’t see him down at SXSW like I had the year before, but I’m sure he was there somewhere. One other downtown New Yorker spotted in Austin: comedian and actor David Cross (of “Arrested Development” fame) at the Vice Afterparty, making out with a girl at 3 AM and later, at 4 AM, knocking on car windows trying to find a ride back to 6th Street (the main drag in Austin).

I thought I’d be all rocked out after Austin, but I’m looking forward to hearing some old faves in the week to come. Sondre Lerche (www.sondrelerche.com) plays his artful Norwegian pop to what will undoubtedly be a sold out crowd of his adoring fans at Bowery Ballroom April 6th. The same night, New Pornographer Neko Case (www.nekocase.com) will start her two night run at Webster Hall. She plays a lot of covers, and a lot of instruments, but the focus is always on her voice, which is crafted to perfection. For those looking for tickets under $20, I suggest Rahim, Foreign Islands and Other Passengers (www.otherpassengers.com) at Rothko, also on the 6th. The latter has been one of my favorite New York bands for a while. Their stage setup looks like they’re attempting to construct an airplane out of instruments and scrap metal, and their sound is a toned down version of that look.

I also caught Voxtrot (www.voxtrot.net) a couple of times down in Austin and their anthemic, fifties-style rock is still stuck in my head. I’ll likely be checking out their show at Mercury Lounge on the 9th. Another band I caaught in Austin was Australia’s Wolfmother (www.wolfmother.com) — band that strings together Led Zeppelin, the White Stripes and Styx. That’s right, I said Styx, and I mean it in a good way — this band will rock your world. They play Bowery Ballroom on April 11th. Be there squares.

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