SXSW 2009: Teaching the Indie Kids to Dance Again With Passion Pit and the Bar-Kays

Passion Pit (Emo's)
The Bar-Kays (Dirty Dog Bar)
SXSW Thursday Night, March 19

Tonight's minor tragedy: 8Ball & MJG cancelled. Avast. No angst is perceptible at Emo's, however. The sight of three dudes bashing on synthesizers simultaneously is generally the stuff of deranged dream sequences, but here we have Passion Pit, their buoyant indie-pop almost outrageously exuberant, Michael Angelakos' yelped vocals high-pitched to the point of being karaoke-proof. When "Sleepyhead" hits everyone suddenly starts dancing, which it suddenly strikes me is extraordinarily rare at an SXSW show, and rare anyplace, really. Inspiring such fervor is hard, disorienting work. "We're playing again I think tomorrow," Michael informs us. "I don't know where."

Three dudes with synthesizers are also on display at the Dirty Dog Bar (nice logo), in the stylish person of the Bar-Kays, the decades-strong funk-soul-r&b institution, led by bassist and sole original member James Alexander, who didn't die along with Otis Redding and the rest of the band only because there wasn't a seat for him on the plane. An extended Otis tribute medley dominates tonight's set -- it's not until "I've Been Loving You Too Long" that the lack of a horn section a) occurs to me and b) bothers me. Plenty of distraction, I guess: There's 10 guys bashing away up there, the front line in Bedazzled white suits, blasting through hard-edged synth-funk sleazeballs like "Sexomatic" and "Freakshow on the Dancefloor," both expertly titled. Hopefully freakshows are going back in style.

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