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  • Perfect Pussy @ SXSW Bridge Show 3/13/2014
Tags: , / Credit: Nina Corcoran
Perfect Pussy

As the drunken apocalypse that is 6th St. and the heart of SXSW wound down Thursday night, a different show was just getting started off in another corner of Austin. Sometime in the afternoon, retweets had begun to make the rounds, announcing a show called “Above The Bridge” with a poster sardonically emblazoned with a cheesily romantic pink-hued image of Anthony Kiedis from the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Under The Bridge” video, like some sort of long-lost 1991 nightmare. Starting at 2:10 AM last night, Ex Cult, Nothing, and Perfect Pussy took to a pedestrian bridge standing above Lady Bird Lake, removed from the typical madness of downtown Austin. In the near distance, the only signs of life were the glowing reddish neon letters of Taco Cabana’s logo, and cars intermittently coasting quietly down the highway that ran alongside the river and below the final stragglers of Austin’s skyscrapers, themselves as silent and immobile as to suggest they’re never populated by humans, ever.

This was intentional. Though bridge shows are a frequent SXSW occurrence and — to some longtime attendees — a hallowed tradition more in touch with the festival’s roots than its current, more corporate-friendly situation, this wasn’t officially sanctioned by the city. So, you had to get just a little off the beaten path, and you had to know where to look. Or get close enough to follow the rumbling noise of Perfect Pussy’s opening set echoing over the water.

Working with a small setup of two speakers and a generator, the bands played in small circles, tightly enclosed by a crowd pressed together in an effort to gain either visibility or warmth in the chillier winds that came off the lake. Perfect Pussy has been making the rounds already at SXSW, blasting through short, no-nonsense sets comprised of songs from their forthcoming, much-hyped debut LP, Say Yes To Love. Frontwoman Meredith Graves thrashed around as usual, wearing a floor-length silver skirt, the shimmery surface of which contrasted with the tattoos lining her bare arms and the veins pulsing in her neck. She was actually barely audible through the mic itself, but due to the close proximity you could still hear her full-throated screams un-amplified, which gave the experience a heightened sense of the fury and intimacy that comes with any Perfect Pussy set. When they finished, Greg Ambler threw his bass over the rail and down into the shadowy water below us.

Philadelphia’s Nothing came on next. True to the shoegaze tradition they draw upon, Nothing’s vocals are often low in the mix — another textural element rather than a lead. After a brief soundcheck where they teased the intro to Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box,” they played a set where those vocals ceded almost entirely to layers of churning, billowy guitar distortion, the occasional punk-inflected drumbeat an underpinning keeping it all from becoming entirely diffuse and floating off altogether. Some fans climbed onto the bridge’s landscaping in order to get a better vantage point, while others broke off into satellite groups where they could talk and have a cigarette without fear of burning those still shoulder to shoulder right in front of Nothing. At times, it took on the feeling of a bunch of people throwing a party more so than a show, Nothing serving as the house band for a temporarily-claimed public space.

Ending my night with the bridge show meant that I saw a few different versions of SXSW on Thursday. Having spent the preceding several hours at the iTunes-curated Soundgarden show, and then seeing Blondie play in front of a Yahoo logo, the simpler, rawer, and more impromptu experience of a bridge show seemed the embodiment of that old SXSW people will tell you about over and over. It seemed truer to the festival’s original spirit. “This is what SXSW is supposed to be about,” one of the show’s organizers said. “Not branded Charmin shit. Just a band playing to people who like them.”

[Photos by Nina Corcoran/Stereogum.]

Comments (8)
  1. chris ott is right; this band is just blog SEO $$$$

    • I don’t think their music doesn’t deserve some polite acknowledgement from the position of it being sloppy amateur punk music, but the level of intense praise they’ve amassed which makes them seem like they’re more than that is a bit overwhelming. Ben Greenberg of the Men’s review of their debut album for the Talkhouse was a refreshing read because it pointed out many of their flaws (to which the band passive aggressively replied “Nailed it!”) Their live show, which to me seems like its tailor made for young 20somethings looking to blow off steam, is what is putting them over.

      I think they’re a promising new act, but not at all together proven or deserving of more than a pat on the back (preferably the intimidatingly ripped one from the Nothing drummer’s.) But then again, SXSW is in the business of pouring gasoline over the hype, so I wouldn’t expect it to pan out as anything less.

      • Hype-wise, PP is bringing to mind Savages last year…quality of album-wise/having their shit together-wise, there’s no comparison. Gotta say though, Interference Fits is a solid song. I just wish they made a full album of similar songs

        • Good call on the Savages hype comparison. PP’s new live tape EP that’s also coming out and is only four songs long is actually a better sounding work than the actual full-length, as far as I’m concerned. So much of that hissy noise they hide behind in the proper recordings isn’t there and you can actually hear the lyrics and melodies better.

          • Hmmm where can I hear? Also, I remember reading your twitter a couple of weeks ago and you mentioned you listened to your AOTY thus far, but wouldn’t name the album yet. I’m curious what it was?

          • If you find the downoadable leak, the last four tracks are the live EP.

            The album I was referring to was Creative Adult’s Psychic Mess, but I think I heard an album tonight that may have trumped it so it’s still too early to say!

  2. Great front woman, terrible vocalist. More performance art than band.

  3. But they will sound great on PONO!

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