SXSW: Life of the parties


"Is everybody having a good South By thus far?" asks The Family Crest's keyboardist-flautist Laura Bergman before an enthusiastic crowd at downtown Austin's sweltering Clive Bar patio.

Barring some as-yet-unheralded new British Invasion, her's was most likely the only case of Shakespearean English slipping into the stage patter during today's South by Southwest Festival, where the unofficial parties start earlier and earlier each year.

San Francisco's newish orchestral-pop septet — who were chosen as NPR Music's "Favorite New Band of 2014" — also provided what were conceivably the the most transcendent moment of the afternoon's musical celebrations, particularly during the near-operatically ambitious title track to last year's Beneath the Brine album. Factor in a cellist, violinist and trombonist (alongside the usual rock instrumentation) as well as the occasionally Poe-faced lyric ("Now the dark is nigh, and she lays here at my side"), and this might all start sounding a little pretentious. But the band's wide-eyed enthusiasm and self-deprecating manner make it just the opposite. It also doesn't hurt that Liam McCormick is a phenomenal vocalist on a par with Jeff Buckley.

This afternoon's show was one of four SXSW appearances The Family Crest will be making this week. Other repeat performances included The Ting Tings (who at times gravitated toward more Deee Lite-style electro-funk than their tinselly pop albums might suggest), British hip-hop newcomer Little Simz (who raps fast onstage than she does on record), and Barcelona's Macaco (whose frontman Dani Carbonell made his name in flamenco music but is now trafficking in more Train-like acoustic pop).

In addition to the proliferation of daytime showcases, there were still more than 50 panels to choose from today. More on those tomorrow, but in the meantime, there's still a full night of music ahead.

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