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SXSW 2014: Day One Recap

Mark Davis, Getty Images

As usual at South by Southwest, there was no shortage of bands to see Wednesday, as the Austin festival kicked into high gear. The trouble, as always, was choosing which ones.

Early in the day (that is, shortly after noon, which is early by SXSW standards), English punks the Eagulls glowered into the sunshine at the Spin/House of Vans day party at Mohawk, churning out a series of noisy songs that helped jump-start the bleary-behind-Ray-Bans crowd that turned up to see them.

Later, inside at the same venue, the punk-country singer Lydia Loveless (pictured above) offered a full-throttle set of tunes from her latest album, ‘Somewhere Else.’ With newly red hair peaking out from under a trilby, the Columbus, Ohio, singer turned her booming voice loose on ‘Verlaine Shot Rimbaud,’ her paean to turbulent love, and sang harmonies with guitarist Todd May on ‘Head,’ which she has said they wrote as a sad song about oral sex.

A few blocks away at Rusty’s, the Austin trio Ume flung themselves through a fierce performance of guitar-heavy rock songs. Between tunes, singer Lauren Larson thanked the crowd in a small, soft voice, and then rocked out on guitar with volcanic power.

Brooklyn’s Lucius led what amounted to an audience sing-along with at the Paste magazine day party at the Swan Dive. The crowd joined in on quintet’s hooky indie-pop tunes, adding to the wordless chorus on ‘Wildewoman,’ and belting out the refrain with Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig on ‘Don’t Just Sit There.’ The band’s performance was a demonstration of what a year on the road can do for a group: They played with a tightness and precision that only comes from playing together over time.

Nothing says nighttime rock ’n’ roll like the So So Glos, and the band of Brooklyn brothers delivered a revved-up performance of pounding punk-rock tunes at Karma. With plenty of awesome rawk poses and no small amount of careering around onstage, the foursome manages that tricky balance between being serious about their music but not about themselves, and they blew through ravers like ‘Lost Weekend’ with rollicking joy.

The Wytches were a little less joyous during their spot at the British Embassy showcase at Latitude, where they spent the early part of their set wrestling with sound problems. It all came together in time for ‘Gravedweller,’ though, and the trio of 19-year-old Britons were ferocious as trebly guitar circled the menacing bassline before the whole thing exploded in a blast of screaming vocals and flying hair.

Next: Coldplay Kick Off SXSW

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