March 27, 2006

SXSW Report #24: The Bats @ End of an Ear

After the Weird Weeds' set, I braved the crippling traffic and drove down to South Austin to see the Bats play at the End of an Ear record store. It’s not often that a New Zealand band gets to tour on these shores; the fact that said NZ band is also one of the biggest institutions in that country’s independent music scene made seeing them a priority for me. The Bats are one of those bands that write the same four or five songs over and over again, but their fans don’t mind because they’re all good ones!

Chief songwriter Robert Scott kept his sunglasses and baseball cap on throughout their set, as if he didn’t plan on staying at the store long enough to take any of it off. He strummed three or four chords on his guitar and sang in a voice that was as plain and plaintive as his lyrics (“It doesn’t look good/and I’m feeling like a block of wood”). Drummer Malcolm Grant played steady yet understated rhythms; Kaye Woodward added simple lead guitar parts and sporadic harmonies. I think that bassist Paul Kean was the busiest musician of the four, which isn’t saying much. When it comes to the Bats, what you see is what you get: four nice people playing unpretentious pop songs. I liked what I saw enough to buy a copy of their compilation Thousands of Tiny Luminous Spheres from them after the set.

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