SXSW Friday: TV On The Radio, Puro Instinct, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti

Videos by American Songwriter

TV On The Radio
Stubb’s, 5:00 p.m.
It says a lot about your band when your drummer steps up to handle bass and keyboard duties when your bassist takes a leave of absence. (Sadly, Gerard Smith is sitting out the band’s current tour, as he fights lung cancer.) But that’s exactly what multi-instrumentalist Jaleel Bunton is doing. TV On The Radio originally formed around singer Tunde Adebimpe and guitarist and producer Dave Sitek in 2000 and rounded out a few years later by adding singer and guitarist Kyp Malone. But Smith and Bunton have been the band’s not-so-secret weapons, and have formed the rhythmic bed for the band’s funky two-guitar, two-singer melange of indie rock and electronic soul. The band was in top form as the headliner for Spin‘s day party on Friday at Stubb’s, despite Smith’s departure. In addition to selections from 2008’s highly-acclaimed Dear Science as well as older material, the band highlighted a song from the forthcoming Nine Types Of Light, due April 12. “We’ll play a new song if you dance,” Adebimpe told the crowd, before warning, “It might be terrible.” It wasn’t terrible at all, but instead showed TVOTR in all their elegant eclecticism. The song started sparse and electronic but began building steam midway through, with Adebimpe singing “what’s the matter with your next door neighbor” over screeching guitars, before a thrashing heavy metal ending. If this song and the recently-unveiled “Will Do” are any indication, Nine Types Of Light will easily be one of the year’s best releases.

Puro Instinct
Klub Krucial, 9:00 p.m.
At the official SXSW showcase on Friday night for indie label Mexican Summer and indie blog Gorilla Vs. Bear (they had an unofficial party at the same venue during the day), the heat was the main event. Klub Krucial, a grimy but intriguing local spot tucked into the near east side of 6th Street, was steaming from the day’s 85 degree record high and an afternoon of partying. After Lower Dens and No Joy took the stage, Puro Instinct warmed up the crowd before an exhausted Toro Y Moi lumbered their gear up around 10:30 p.m. Puro Instinct is a young band. Sisters Piper and Skylar Kaplan popped up with Pearl Harbor a year or so ago but have now morphed into Puro Instinct. It’s a full band with Piper taking lead vocals, which were basically mush in the Klub’s sweaty sound system, and 16-year-old Skylar on guitar, with some other youngish, rakish L.A. dudes filling out the band. Most of the band danced along to L.A. garage god Ariel Pink at Kiss & Fly later that night. Mr. Pink stars in Puro’s video for the song “Stilyagi,” and by comparison, shows that his young L.A. upstarts have a lot to learn.

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
Kiss & Fly, 12:00 a.m.
Everything with Ariel Pink seems to be slightly surreal. With his slight stature, unkempt dirty blonde hair and sunglasses, his resemblance to Kurt Cobain is uncanny. At one point during the show, L.A.’s DāM-FunK, a major artist in his own right, appeared unannounced for a single song. While Pink has wallowed happily for years as an underground pop genius, he’s now come fully into the spotlight, with a stunning 4AD release last year. He’s ditched the tape cassette ammo belt and train-wreck performances for a tight-knit synth-funk outfit that captures the accomplished songs on Before Today perfectly.  It was Pink’s one-and-only SXSW appearance – and at a small venue with a 300-person capacity, to boot. By the time the band hit the opening hook of “Round And Round” (na na nahhh) – possibly the standout track of 2010 – the crowd was going absolutely ballistic.

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