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Austin’s (delayed) Powers

| March 20, 2012

While the industry goes off to play, IE take a well-earned respite from the hype machine to enjoy our inboxes’ inactivity. If it says “SXSW Party” in the subject, it goes immediately in the bin. The whirlwind gets reaped the Monday and Tuesday after. Delta Spirit with Waters, Chuck Prophet, Andre Williams, Paperplanes, and Jeff Loomis lead the initial assault.

A small irony can be found in our haughty responses to publicists in the weeks leading up to Austinparty: all those bands eventually make it through Chicago anyway, and we don’t have to put up with abbreviated sets and homeless wifi spots.

If one band can bring all the hype in its pockets, they’re Delta Spirit. Not a knock on their originality, but the San Diegans are purely a product of their times. This month’s shiny new record on Rounder ticks all the appropriate indie boxes, from Arcade Fire drama, to Les Savy Fav single-string guitar lines, to (in the case of “Idaho”) gang vocals and MBV-esque shoegaze. They hired Chris Coady to produce the effort, and his credentials — Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV On The Radio, Smith Westerns, Beach House — boast Pitchfork-level standards, though in that world you can’t just skate down the middle of the road. Frontman Matthew Vasquez spends the tracks reconciling his peccadillos against the average strength of his band, giving them wings when he needs them to have them, but never lapsing into type. Openers Waters show substantially more teeth on Out In The Light (TBD), putting a modern glow on the stomping blooze rock of The White Stripes. Inexpicably, however, “Ones You Had Before” and a sprinkling of quiet interludes directly invoke quiet-time Arcade Fire, ruining what was a contagious, if tasteful party. (Friday@Metro.)

You might know Chuck Prophet as the guy headlining the tour for Miles Niesen, whom you’ve read about here. He’s not quite the flagbearing type, however. Recommending someone else fight the power while he fights a cold on Temple Beautiful (Yep Roc), his lyrics aren’t the only thing that make his music more Athens, Georgia than Athens, Greece. A slacker’s karma floats these dozen, Replacements-worthy asides that do a little more work than they’ll admit. (Friday@FitzGerald’s with Miles Nielsen.)

You can’t predict the weather, so you’ll have to forgive soul-roots vet Andre Williams if Hoods & Shades (Bloodshot) sounds disproportionately cranky. Opening with “Dirt” — humanity’s destination whether rich or poor, winners or losers — it’s tough to recognize the blaxploitation spirit of the cover art. Williams, who’s been playing around town with The Goldstars as his backing band (who play this release show) but collects an impressive cast of Don Was, Jim White, and Dennis Coffey among others, eventually finding some shuffling grooves on this mostly acoustic — and expletive-free — set. (Friday@Hideout with Jon Langford.)

Eyes begin to roll like slot machines while taking in PaperplanesRhinestone Republic; the often-imitated tones of Flying Burrito Brothers and early Wilco bounding off the helmet like so many bullets. But then, you realize there’s a sense of humor at play that doesn’t tie itself to parody or snark: it’s like Mercury Rev descended on these country-rock tunes and decided to have a little fun. (Saturday@Ace Bar with Counting 10.)

Jeff Loomis has always been a metal guitarist’s guitarist, though larger fame was once a potential reality. Denied a spot in one of Megadeth’s many incarnations because of his age, he went on to underground success with Sanctuary and, to great acclaim, Nevermore. For his latest outing, a solo tilt titled Plains Of Oblivion (Century), could have been ripped from the pages of Guitar For The Practicing Musician circa 1987, with a guest list including Chris Poland, Marty Friedman, and Tony MacAlpine; as you’d guess, it’s a riff orgy the likes of which has few peers these days. (Sunday@Bottom Lounge with Protest The Hero and Periphery.)

— Steve Forstneger

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