Melkbelly’s journey to their first SXSW was not an easy one. They drove for 26 hours from their home base of Chicago, and along the way they blew a tire and ran into problems with their brakes and their steering wheel. They took the stage at their official showcase for Carpark Records almost an hour late — a lucky twist of fate that the also-great Snail Mail had to cancel their performance at the same show, which afforded them the luxury to do that — but, if anything, the delayed anticipation made their set feel only that much more powerful. I saw them again last night, at our unofficial Austin Oasis show at Hole In The Wall, and they were just as on point. Calling anyone the “best rock band” at such a large festival like SXSW is obviously hyperbolic, but Melkbelly are so impressive that I might just believe it.
Both sets opened with “Mount Kool Kid,” a track from a 7″ the band put online last year. It’s an imposing wall of sound, and vocalist/guitarist Miranda Winters acts as the spirited incantation leader — think Metric by way of sludge rock. She delivers her lines with an intense, wide-eyed stare directly out into the audience. It’s captivating, and made only more so by the technically astounding feats that the band pulls off with what appears to be little effort at all. They played another highlight from their small discography, “Doomspringa,” that demonstrates the chaotic but controlled hold they have on their own sound, pulling in and out of these dramatic swells like it’s no sweat. Watching drummer James Wetzel maneuver these twists during their set is an invigorating experience.
They performed a couple of new songs between the two sets I saw, and they’re equally as impressive as what they’ve already put out. They capitalize on the the band’s abrasive chemistry, and whenever they get around to putting out their debut full-length album, it’s going to be really special. For now, though, listen to what they’ve released so far and be sure to catch them if they roll through your area soon. I can’t get enough.