March 20, 2006

SXSW Report #3: People @ Mrs. Bea's Patio

Once the Arm’s set ended, I walked across Interstate 35 to the Todd P/Rambler party at Mrs. Bea’s. It was odd to see the bar’s regular patrons, most of whom were old Mexicans, intermingling with the young white hipsters. The music, though, was even odder.

“We are People,” drummer Kevin Shea said, “and we are playing music on the stage while you are sitting in front of us. People often ask us, ‘What is music?’ Well, we’re not here to answer that question.” He and guitarist Mary Halverson then launched into a set of songs that suggested what the Shaggs would sound like if they were music majors.

Mary sang awkward melodies in her pitch-perfect alto while playing obtuse chord progressions. Meanwhile, Kevin played constantly shifting rhythms that resembled an endless Max Roach solo at triple the speed. He’s the kind of drummer who always knows where the one is, but frequently disregards it. Mary’s guitar playing did more to outline the rhythms of the songs than his drumming did. Kevin is also able to generate a multitude of tones from a shockingly minimal setup (kick, snare, cymbal and hi-hat). He’s just as weird, though, as he is talented. He referred to the first song as their “encore,” and narrated the rest of the set in reverse order. He also undercut his own stage banter by beginning songs in mid-thought.

Overall, People struck me as the kind of band that takes joy in confusing everyone who hears them. Of course, this means that I love them to death!

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