SXSW recap: Marshall Funhouse with Black Angels, Farmer’s Wife, Kiwi Jr. and more


Thursday and Friday day shows at South by Southwest have been my standard intake each year for about nine years now. Some year, I’ll finally plunge all the way into the SXSW experience off the high-dive. But pick the right day parties, and those two days can make for plenty of memorable, satisfying sets and sights.

That was the case this year with my singular choice for both days: the Marshall Funhouse at Parish. The former North Door site hosted local, national and international acts alike, providing both diversity and dive-y, small-club excitement. Here’s a recap of the artists I checked out on March 14 and 15, starting Friday and working backwards.

Friday, March 15

Alex Maas and his fellow Black Angels do their trippy thing.
Alex Maas and his fellow Black Angels do their trippy thing.

Black Angels — My first live encounter with this highly revered local act, and I came away nothing but impressed. The Angels are veteran experts at setting one delicious scene: psych-rock at its end-of-the-’60s trippiest, with Alex Maas’ alarmist nasal drone putting the cap on top of the lava lamp. Its impact in person was everything that could be expected — hypnotic and invigorating at the same time, bathing and backing the Angels in the colorful, psychedelic light they need to take you all the way there. Plus, they made up for going on appreciably late, playing for over an hour anyway. More than anyone else over these two days, the Black Angels’ set presented as a contiguous semi-spectacle, captivating throughout.

Kiwi Jr. — Possessing a gift for insistent tunes, these Toronto garage-popsters suffered a bit from the lead vocal level not being loud enough, despite an effort by singer Jeremy Gaudet to ask for more after opener “Murder in the Cathedral.” Perhaps partially because of that issue, the smirking tone that permeates much of Kiwi Jr.’s work (specifically a wryness in Gaudet’s voice) wasn’t really evident. Although it never really got fixed until possibly when the Black Angels played (see cumgirl8), Kiwi Jr. still showed why they’ve become a thing in the indie-rock sphere the past few years. Offerings like “Unspeakable Things” injected the color of organ-ish synth into their charging performances. The superlative “Cooler Returns” seemed a tick faster than on the 2021 album of the same name and didn’t disappoint.

cumgirl8 — One of the dozens of performer dropouts of official shows because of the U.S. Army’s sponsorship of SXSW (and one of several among the performers I saw), cumgirl8 made sure their message was heard when they did perform. Each of the goth-ish, all-female post-punk quartet’s players rocked sheer, DIY-style croptops with a tape-lettered message on the front: “SXSW IS OVER.” Before their final song, they invoked the war — although it was hard to hear most of what drummer Chase Lombardo was saying, because the mic amplification was inadequate. Like Kiwi Jr. later on, bassist Veronika Vilim asked for more vocal early in the show, without much of an appreciable improvement. Despite that, the Manhattanites left a dark, moody and effective impression as a roaring live act, although the wildly performative closer, the electro-dark wave freakout “picture party,” didn’t leave the same mark as the rest of the set. It’s more interesting on record.

BALTHVS — Acting as the lead-in to the Black Angels, this Colombian trio could hardly have been more palatable to hardcore fans of the headliners. BALTHVS’ psych-rock is eclectic, a little danceable and instantly accessible. Balthazar Aguirre, the cowboy hat-clad lead vocalist, exhibited star-quality work on his guitar; simply put, that dude can play.

Thursday, March 14

Farmer’s Wife — These locals (top photo) packed a lot of heavy indie power into a short set, giving live life to their short but impressive body of recorded work. Highly expressive frontwoman Molly Masson is a versatile vocalist, well-suited for everything from the roaring hard rock of “Bones” to the dynamic build of “Swarm,” during which she suddenly busted out a heart-shaped guitar. “Greg Abbott’s Maxi Pad,” the band’s “oldest” release (late 2022), packed the righteous, vintage Sleater-Kinneyish rage you might expect from such a title, with Masson taking her way into the relatively small but impressed crowd for that one.

Font — I about lost count of everyone Font reminded me of in 27 minutes of work, which is an impressive thing. They’re at baseline a classic new wave/postpunk/synth-pop-type band, and not too surprisingly, the futurism of Devo definitely reared its head. But at various times during their set, I got notes of Thom Yorke and Bono from singer Thom Waddill’s elongated, dramatic vocal phrasing. Other times, closer to their basic template, the quirky jerkiness of Talking Heads seemed to get nods. And were there even some vocal elements of Rob Thomas pathos in there? Waddill — one of three band members who handles synths along with Anthony Laurence and Roman Parnell — has more stylings than you’d expect from Font’s two singles on Spotify, both aggressive, noisy numbers right in the new-wave/postpunk wheelhouse. Font’s also better live than they are on record, thus far.

Snõõper — Wild times, wild stuff. Decorating the stage with fully duct-taped, old-school arcade game console-looking monitors (one of them displayed an error message as the set began) along with a traffic light sculpture (also duct-taped), Snõõper basically wants to play their breakneck, explosive and sometimes tongue-in-cheek punk as fast as possible, incite some moshing and get out. Mission accomplished for this Nashville crew, which would’ve either been more impressive or more exhausting in a longer set; I can’t decide, to be honest. But they were enjoyable at this dose.