After the Gena Rowlands Band's set I ran back to the Parish so that I could catch British meta-rock goofballs Art Brut. I knew that this showcase would be packed, so I made alternate plans in case the venue was at capacity. I remember what happened at last year’s SXSW at the Futureheads showcase, during which I stood way too long in the wristband line, even though they weren’t even letting people with badges in at that point. Fortunately, I only had to wait in the badge line for about 10 minutes before the bouncers let me in. I even managed to maneuver my way through the crowd and get a nice spot in front of the stage.
Four-fifths of the band walked on stage and began a shocking instrumental rendition of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” The drummer and rhythm guitarist, both clean-cut blondes, looked like the kind of guys who normally wouldn’t be caught dead near the spiky-haired punks who played bass and lead guitar. When oddly-mustached vocalist Eddie Argos walked on stage in a gray suit, black loafers and pink socks, he looked like the kind of guy whom the other four members normally wouldn’t be caught dead near. The lack of a uniform image suits a band know for writing songs that blur the line between irony and sincerity, between making fun of rock excess and reveling in it.
As soon as the Metallica cover segued into the opening chords of “Formed a Band,” everyone in the audience got CRUNK…and justifiably so, as Art Brut’s songs are made to shout along to. They played two-thirds of their debut album Bang Bang Rock & Roll, along with two decent new songs. On the impotence lament “Rusted Guns of Milan,” Argos interrupted his verses with asides like, “How do you apologize for that sort of thing?” He interrupted “Emily Kane,” a notorious ode to a childhood flame, with a rant about how he finally got over her after reestablishing contact with her.
Argos jumped into the crowd during “Modern Art,” leaving the rest of the band to jam for a couple of minutes while he wandered around the club, singing the chorus directly in people’s faces. Their set was an invigorating fusion of driving post-punk and self-deprecating comedy that ended the first official evening of South by Southwest with a bang.