SXSW Day Two: NO CEREMONY///, Ex Cops, Peace, CHVRCHES, alt-J, | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, January 25th, 2021  

Alt-J

alt-J, CHVRCHES, Ex Cops, NO CEREOMONY///, Peace, SXSW 2013

SXSW Day Two: NO CEREMONY///, Ex Cops, Peace, CHVRCHES, alt-J,, March 13th, 2013

Mar 23, 2013 Photography by Mark Redfern
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Can we take a moment to talk about festival survival guides? You know, those well-meaning blog posts that aim to help you though the glut of shows with advance such as, “Remember to use sunscreen,” “Bring along a phone charger,” and “Never go with a hippy to a second location.” (Sorry, these things bring out the Liz Lemon in me.) Obviously, it’s all good advice. But Austin is not Nam. If you get a blister or can’t answer a text, chances are good that you’ll live to fight again. On the second day of SXSW, I found myself scoffing at such dramatic stances on what’s otherwise an exercise in hanging out with friends and listening to tunes. The whining (as it usually does) would come later. Despite our high hopes and daisy-fresh worldviews, Wednesday night was a mixed bag, with sets from Peace, NO CEREMONY///, Ex Cops, Chvrches, and alt-J.

We got to Red 7 early in hopes of not being shut out for blog darling, CHVRCHES. Our forethought gave us time to catch another rising name, Peace. While certainly not wanting for energy, little about the four-piece—from their ten-minute shoegaze jam session, to their paint-by-numbers Brit rock—felt particularly fresh. Even ending the set with confetti cannons didn’t do much to stir the passive crowd.

My companion and I were split about the next act on the bill, NO CEREMONY///, who were performing in the smaller indoor stage. While he contends that the female-fronted four-piece sounded detached, I called them mysterious. While he said they didn’t make an impression, I wandered away wanted a bit more. I’m totally okay with being Under the Radar’s resident contrarian. Just call me the patron saint of 1980s-flavored dream pop. (On second thought, don’t.)

Regardless of what we saw so far (for better or for worse) it was agreed that waiting two hours to see CHVRCHES wasn’t in the cards (gotta justify the pricey badge price somehow, right?), and we headed over to The Parish to catch Ex Cops. Surf pop without being sloppy, twee pop without being cute, the Brooklyn-based outfit delivered what was easily one of the best sets of the evening. On second (and third) listen heir debut True Hallucinations is a strong contender for end of year lists. 

Back at Red 7, we endured an achingly long line, where we were left to question our choices. Would we get back in time? Was our foray worth missing CHVRCHES—whose single “The Mother We Share” has already wormed its way into our heads and hearts? Spoiler alert: It totally would have been worth it. 

We had enough time to high-five each other before CHVRCHES hit the stage. While the Glasgow trio’s forthcoming EP Recover is perhaps one of the finest pieces of electro pop to be released this year, live, their stage presence falls flat. Lauren Mayberry boasts a voice that drips of sugar and spice (and everything nice), but in front of a large crowd she’s still an overly reserved frontwoman—not quite prepared to sell her outstanding product. After a few songs, we excused ourselves in search of other fare.

Thankfully we were able to walk right in to see alt-J, whose Stubbs’ showcase was distressingly half-empty. Was it the late hour? Despite a Mercury Prize win, is their angular pop simply not destined to catch on stateside? Ignoring creeping exhaustion, I found myself sucked in by the art-school meets Radiohead tunes of their debut album, An Awesome Wave. The British four-piece are tight performers. Here’s hoping someone notices. Our evening finished on an upbeat note, we limped into the night, perhaps rethinking our cavalier views on survival guides as we went. 

(www.sxsw.com)

(www.noceremony.com)

(www.excopsband.com)

(www.facebook.com/peaceforeverever)

(www.facebook.com/CHVRCHES)

(www.facebook.com/altJ.band)




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