Stereogum Range Life 2023 Was Awesome And We Have The Photos To Prove It
The 2023 edition of Stereogum’s Range Life party went down Thursday afternoon at Cheer Up Charlie’s in Austin. For six hours, the indoor-outdoor venue was graced by some of the greatest artists at this year’s SXSW, a genre-jumping slate of acts who never ceased to keep the robust crowd entertained. It was like the pages of our venerable weblog had sprung to life! But seriously, the show was fantastic, if we may say so.
(On one hand, we were so lucky that the forecasted thunderstorm never materialized. On the other hand, what are we going to do with all these unused Stereogum-branded ponchos?)
Set up in a circle on the floor with Doug Dulgarian’s backed turned to the audience, They Are Gutting A Body Of Water kicked things off at noon with a set of searing shoegaze on the indoor stage, interspersed with electronic interludes that seemed to come at you from all angles. From the dense walls of distortion to the piercing guitar melodies to the ballistic drum ‘n’ bass breaks, it all came across like some noise-fucked alternate-universe pop music. Outside, Algiers morphed in different ways, conjuring a sort of apocalyptic industrial soul music guided by Franklin James Fisher’s howling vocals. His hypeman-slash-backup singer had some serious dance moves.
TAGABOW’s Philly friends Knifeplay were up next with a more plaintive and regal form of dream-pop that sometimes drifted into folk-rock and slowcore without losing its out-of-this-world qualities. After Hotline TNT singer-guitarist Will Anderson blessed us with a run through pop-country smash “Need You Now” during soundcheck, the band brought a classic shoegaze-pop vibe to the outdoor stage, letting their three-guitar arsenal blur into a mesmerizing alt-rock churn. Back inside, Truth Club matched Travis Harrington’s laconic vocals with an assortment of indie-rock sounds. Sometimes the guitars veered off at acute post-punk angles, while other times the music took on the feel of a bashed-out punk-rock drag race, but whatever form it took, it always led somewhere exciting.
Outside, the siblings of Frost Children turned the whole show on its head with a wild, theatrical extravaganga that segued between shout-along hyperpop, snotty pop-punk, unhinged noise freakouts, and even a lengthy spoken-word piece about Bob Dylan and capitalism. Despite the band’s knack for pop pageantry, it was very much a rock show too. (They also helpfully informed us, “If you’re a vegetarian, you should be taking iron pills.”) Inside, hometown heroes Portrayal Of Guilt warned anyone who didn’t like heavy music to clear out, then proceeded to play the filthiest, bleakest, heaviest set of the day. Miltarie Gun brought some melody back to the proceedings on the outdoor stage, playing rugged rock music that sprang from hardcore and landed somewhere near mid-’90s alternative radio. If MTV still played videos, we’d have Ian Shelton barking at us once per hour.
On the indoor stage, Strange Ranger continued their metamorphosis from indie rock to experimental electronic pop, keeping one foot in each genre with stirring, fascinating results. Rising indie-world superstar Bartees Strange played a stripped-down set outside: sometimes solo, sometimes accompanied by a second guitarist, always summoning a powerful depth of feeling. Turns out his songs pass the campfire test! Debby Friday closed out the inside stage with a commanding performance that involved singing, rapping, strutting across the stage, and sauntering into the audience to spit bars directly into people’s faces. (Also, her backing tracks were sick.) The afternoon ended on a perfectly chill note with headliners Coco & Clair Clair, whose hyper-online pop-rap hit just right after six hours of festivities. The hooks were intuitive, the rhymes idiosyncratic, the vibes immaculate.