What It Was Like: The Black Keys, The Little Ones, Helio Sequence, British Sea Power

British Sea Power does it epic at the Mohawk. (Pete Freedman)
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Oh, Friday. You weren't as hot as hyped weather-wise. But, musically, you were simply en fuego. Delightful stuff again, Austin. Here's What It Was Like on Friday afternoon...

Band: The Black Keys, the greatest blues rock duo to ever come out of Akron, Ohio. Where: La Zona Rosa What It Was Like: Listening to any Black Keys record. Seriously, these guys are tight live. Verdict: It was entertaining stuff from this duo...to an extent. Maybe I'm jaded from seeing some 15 sets (or more? I've lost count...) over the past two days, but sounding like you do on the record ain't enough, fellas. You've got to be visually stimulating. Random Note: The Keys' next album--Attack & Release, due in April--was produced by Dangermouse.

Band: The Little Ones, the poppiest little noise poppers in Los Angeles. Where: Red Eyed Fly (inside) What It Was Like: Rooting for the benchwarmers to score a bucket during garbage time in an NCAA tourney game. The Little Ones were having serious sound trouble--the sound system at the Red Eyed Fly's inside stage picked up only the slightest amount of this five-piece's lead vocals. Yet the crowd managed to remain entertained, enjoying the backing chorus efforts, the summertime/beach pop and the effort lead singer Edward Nolan Reyes gave in spite of the technical difficulties. It was tough not to root for them to do well, given the circumstances. Verdict: The sound stuff was a drag, but it could've been worse for these guys. I still dug their vibe--and the fact that they ended their set with the super catchy, super poppy single "Lovers Who Uncover". If only every wannabe indie pop group produced such sugar-y tracks... Random Note: I just noticed that "Lovers Who Uncover" is up for download on the band's Myspace page. Get to it, folks.

Band: The Helio Sequence, Portland's synth-filtered indie rockers Where: Red Eyed Fly (outdoors) What It Was Like: A muddled, slightly unclear daydream. Here's the deal with the Helio Sequence: Its sound is suppose to be a bit distant. And on this day in Austin, it was. Verdict: Oh yeah, that distant thing? It worked out well for them today--like woah. Mixing a few old tracks into its set of mostly new stuff (off the band's highly underrated new disc Keep Your Eyes Ahead), The Helio Sequence played to a crowd that seemed fairly familiar with its catalog. Yet even those who'd seen the band live before were impressed. Quoth the guy standing next to me at the end of the set: "Amazing, right?" Amazing? Well...I dunno. But really good? Yes. Random Note: Unlike many of the duos here in town, The Helio Sequence didn't bring in extra members to perform its backing tracks. The band was content to perform on its own, and the fact that they had the whole stage to themselves actually enhanced the set, in my opinion. Crowded stages are fun from time to time--but since when did every band in the world become a seven-piece?

Band: British Sea Power, the UK's answer to Arcade Fire--except with more post-punk influence, less Bruce Springsteen derivations and less focus on the build-up. Where: Mohawk's oudoor patio What It Was Like: Seeing the SXSW experience from afar. I had a nice perch on one of the Mohawk's rooftop patios, so I spent the set watching the act and observing the crowd on the main level. It was pretty amazing to see, actually, the various reactions to the music and all. Verdict: Most of the crowd's reactions--and mine, too--were positive. British Sea Power has an interesting sound; it's very influenced across the board, but at it's core,it's tought not to hear a hint of the '90s American alternative rock scene. Somehow that's not a bad thing, though; the crowd of people watching through the slits off the fence surrounding the Mohawk's outdoor stage was proof of this. Random Note: The Old 97's' Rhett Miller was in attendance, checking out the show. Also: Both of the band's guitarists were sporting "Ice Cream Man" stickers on their clothes. The folks from "Ice Cream Man" are all over SXSW handing out free treats. I recommend the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles one with the bubble-gum eyeballs. That one's delicious. -- Pete Freedman

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