Music Sound and the Fury 

A week on the scene – Foggy notions

After being consumed by the mayhem and music of South By Southwest for four days, a little reflection is at last possible. Although time conflicts were inevitable, and the days were in constant flux, no matter how hard you wished, you couldn’t divide yourself in half to be in two places at once.

On the local front, electro-pop duo Hyperbubble delivered their first-ever SXSW performance — and only their second in Austin — and charmed the Elysium crowd with their endearingly goofball robot moves and propulsive sing-along anthems about vending machines, cats, and x-ray vision.

After the gig, go-go booted singer Jess DeCuir said the intense fog swirling around the stage made it difficult for her or keyboardist Jeff DeCuir to make eye contact with the crowd, but also helped avert any showcase nervousness. Their orchestral maneuvers in the fog were preceded by Single Frame, an ’80s-flavored quintet with possibly the oddest shtick at SXSW: their lone female member sat at an office desk and spent the entire gig taking notes, looking either like a bored temp worker or a bored undergraduate cramming for mid-terms.

At the Dirty Dog, The Heligoats — a one-man endeavor from Chris Otepka of Troubled Hubble — delivered songs laced with pure honesty and infused with calm explorations of memory. At the Saddle Creek Showcase, Criteria was a predictable highlight. Steven Pederson always gives it his all and never holds back. The Long Winters dove into their set with poppy, boisterous conviction and carried the crowd along.

Circle takes the Square was as cathartic as hardcore can possibly be. Ambient openings were lengthy, but created fulfilling buildups. The group fiercely handed over observation in their songs, and the crowd anxiously accepted.

Dengue Fever, a Los Angeles sextet, was a chance encounter that proved to be a festival highlight. Describing themselves as “a Cambodian pop-rock psychedelic dance party,” they are rock ’n’ roll with a global twist that turns cliches sideways and transforms them into revelations. Ch’hom Nimol’s voice resonates and sparkles like none that we heard in Austin, and it was accented by farfisa organ, saxophone, and keyboard. Whether singing in Khmer or English, her expansive voice was undeniable.

Compiled by Gilbert Garcia and Francesca Camillo

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