STL by Southwest

Local heroes Nadine drove hundreds of miles to perform at SXSW, the music industry's biggest clusterfuck. Was it worth it?

Every attendee will experience a different shock of discovery, but the 1,000 or so who saw the Albuquerque indie-pop band the Shins, a cross between Pavement and REM or maybe Guided by Voices and the Beach Boys, were certain that sometimes buzz doesn't lie. On Friday night at Stubb's, probably Austin's best medium-size outdoor venue, Bare Jr. pushed his band to the absolute freak-out point, spewing beer across the stage and ending with an atomic medley of the Cars' "My Best Friend's Girlfriend" and the Who's "Baba O'Riley." Pity the band to follow, especially when that band is Marah, which has apparently left more than its native Philadelphia behind. Memo to the band: Oasis is so '90s, and amulets are so Dark Ages. If you're going to sell your soul to the devil, as Marah's matching upside-down pentangles and rock-star smirks suggested, you might at least get some hot guitar licks out of the evil bargain.

Nadine at SXSW
Mary Wolcott
Nadine at SXSW

Nadine's early-Friday-evening showcase on the back patio of the Gingerman, a cozy downtown pub, was both surprisingly packed and thrilling. New drummer Merv Schrock cut loose the rock, and the band as a whole seemed to find that difficult balance between the growing maturity of their craft and the unbridled spontaneity of a great live band. Steve Rauner channeled his nervous energy through his amp, and Anne Tkach sparred with him, singing the kind of harmonies for which Nadine's melodies have always yearned. Their set focused on new songs recently mixed in Denton, Texas, and even a crowd that didn't know Adam from Adam shut up when Reichman lightly strummed his Rickenbacker and sang "Lead the Way." His voice broke beautifully as if no one was listening, even though, at least for a moment, everyone was.

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