South By South Mess

By MICHAEL MAROTTA  |  March 21, 2012

There was a moment Thursday night at the Soho Lounge ILG showcase when Tennessee's MAGIC WANDS gave a good consolation prize for those starting to queue but unable to get into the Belmont for Jesus & Mary Chain further uptown. "Kaleidoscope Hearts" and "Black Magic" are two of the more enchanting psych-pop gems of recent years, and their moody haze of aural alchemy was augmented by frontwoman Dexy Valentine's Reid Brothers impersonation: leather jacket, black Ray-Bans, deadpan delivery. Earlier in the night, Brooklyn's SECRET MUSIC ripped through a fiery set of Bushwick rock and roll (or is it Park Slope?) that was as much a sonic sucker punch as it was a deep kiss. The band features Chase Nicholl, formerly of Boston electro-pop hopefuls Yes Giantess, and they're ready for bigger rooms across the country.

Still the best part about SXSW is stumbling upon new bands. Tuesday night at Bernadette's Bar, a roadhouse of a joint far from the downtown hustle, Seattle's JUPE JUPE were playing their newer-waved modern rock, recalling Depeche Mode and other '80s synthpop acts while maybe being the best electronic band to emerge from the Northwest since Satisfact. Last year's Reduction in Drag was truly a lost record of 2011.

Elsewhere, TANLINES thrilled Day 3 of the Mess with Texas party with a frenetic, beat-heavy pop display; promising Brooklyn dudes FORT LEAN showed us how the Strokes should have evolved after 2005; and the dark ladies of BLOUSE brought gloomy post-punk to the Texas overcast in a handful of daytime shows.

UK shoegazers 2:54 played the Fader Fort at — yup — 2:54 pm Wednesday afternoon, but their sisterly psych-pop was, like Kindness, better suited for late-night indoor parties. The gang vocals of Los Angeles punk trouble crew FIDLAR had us nostalgic for home, especially on St. Patrick's Day weekend. California's GROWLERS bounced feel-good indie-pop off a receptive crowd at Valhalla on Thursday night, and Georgia's REPTAR and Michigan's STEPDAD, two of the Phoenix's 50 Bands 50 States picks last year, offered a sparkle jam of electro-pop sweetness at several shows throughout the week. Maybe they'll build that long-lost thing called buzz after all.

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