March 26, 2006

SXSW Report #20: Xiu Xiu @ Emo's Annex

I stuck around after Erase Errata’s set to see Xiu Xiu play. They’re one of those bands whom I love dearly, but don’t talk about often. Their debut Knife Play is one of my favorite records from the last decade. As much as I liked their subsequent releases, Xiu Xiu didn’t live up to that’s album promise until they released last year’s masterpiece La Foret.

I was curious to see Xiu Xiu’s performance because I knew that they’ve had a bad history with Texas in general. The first time they played Houston, one of the members got punched in the face by someone in the audience. The last time they played at Emo’s, they opened a mismatched bill with Okkervil River and Azure Ray. Half of the crowd loved them; the other half threw lit cigarettes at them. This evening, though, they played to a very appreciative audience, and deservedly so!

Jamie Stewart and his partner Caralee performed songs through the band’s history with an arsenal of guitars, keyboards and percussion instruments. They were augmented by backing tracks that rarely sounded like the studio versions, which added a nice element of surprise to the performance. I didn’t even recognize “Don Diasco” until they got to the chorus! Caralee did a lot more singing this time around (even taking the lead on a new song!), and her quiet, plain alto contrasted nicely with Jamie’s histrionic tenor. She and Jamie huddled around the same microphone to sing “Fabulous Muscles” together. I never thought a song with the words “cremate my body after you come on my lips” could sound so tender!

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