SXSW: Genghis Tron, Anathallo
I totally blew out my right eardrum taking this picture of Genghis Tron. I hope you enjoy looking at it.
Thurs. March 13
A ragged throng has gathered outside Emo's Annex, trudging slowly through the badge line, and as Philly prog-metal dudes Genghis Tron (possibly a Top-10 Band-Name Pun, maybe even Top 5, though no threat to unseat, say, the Self-Righteous Brothers) are hammering away inside, some dudes stand on tip-toe to glimpse the chaos over the chain-link fence. As I walk out a short time later, I also see several gentlemen enthusiastically air-drumming. This is an amusing sight on its own; all the more so because Genghis Tron don't have a drummer. If they did, they might look even more like the heavy-music Blue Man Group.
No, all the spastic, pulverizing drum parts are sampled, as the GT three wail mercilessly, finger-tapping guitar gymnastics punctuated by lung-scouring shrieks. But all that's overshadowed by the tubes. There are a series of a tall, thin cylinders hanging behind the band, and they light up and change color in time to the beat, be it slow and droning or double-time histrionic. Depending on your mood this effect is either bizarre, mesmerizing, or hilarious. In any event it gives you something to look at as Tron cycle through their violent mood swings: brood, scream, wail, jam, repeat. You sit around waiting for the deceptively calm synth-pop parts to get all badass; eventually they do. And when they do, it sounds like Dan Deacon covering "Happiness in Slavery" with bitchin' lighting effects.
This is one way to put on a show.
Anathallo, packt like sardines in a crushd tin box
Another way to put on a show is to cram as many folks and as many wacky instruments onstage as possible. Horns. Keys. Giant-ass bass drums. And shakers. You can never have too many shakers. Chicago's Anathallo make relentlessly precocious indie-pop with Sufjanesque symphonic toy-factory aplomb, a blizzard of handclaps and singalongs and goofy facial expressions. Very appealing. "Fey, Christian, and into music theory," smirks my companion, who'd suggested the show. We watch for awhile. "Don't tell anyone I like this," he eventually adds. He shouldn't be so ashamed. This here is 10 pounds of cute in a five-pound bag, the frontman's cheery banter rambling on so long they run out of time and have to scrap the last song he'd promised us. All the while a blaring capital-R Rock band -- not quite Genghis Tron, but forceful nonetheless -- kicks up a clearly audible din at the club next door. Like the noisy, hostile outside world encroaching, threatening, but failing to overwhelm us.
The band after Genghis Tron was called Municipal Waste, writ in that gnarly, barely legible metal-dude font. You can buy T-shirts with that logo on the front and a few different slogans on the back: either "Thrashin' of the Christ" or, even better, "Sadistic Magician." Another reason I found both of these shows equally endearing.