Late on Thursday morning, I was sitting in traffic turning in and out of lanes in an effort to catch an early set by one of my favorite new discoveries of the year, The Naked and Famous. Trekking from the main stretch of Sixth to the west side of town at Waterloo, eventually I heard the familiar sound of The Naked and Famous opening their set. There was a sparse crowd in the Waterloo parking lot, many trying to kick start their day with some upbeat music or eyeballing the Third Man van parked outside the venue. I settled in right up front, and the band had their instruments turned up loud. From the second I found my spot, I was entranced by the music I heard for the next half hour straight.
The band played a set primarily drawing from their excellent debut LP, Passive Me Aggressive You. For a young band, their sound is huge, blasting guitar and keyboard lines with an unbridled passion. They combine electronic pop and indie rock perfectly, always focusing on their songwriting craft and catchiness. All I could think watching their set is how impressive they were, feeling lucky to catch such a great band at the start of their career. If I had to bet on any band really breaking into something powerful from my SXSW experience, it’s The Naked and Famous. I envisioned arenas full of fans singing along taking in their set, a tough feat for a nooner on a Thursday in a record store parking lot.
There were a few real standout moments throughout their set. Early on, possibly opening the show up, they tore up the album opener “All of This”, breaking into an anthemic tone that carried through the whole set. “Punching Up A Dream” had the crowd really moving for the first time, featuring perfect vocals from frontwoman Alisa Xayalith, who stalked the stage, bouncing in time with the energetic beats behind her. The set closed appropriately with their single slowly breaking in the States, “Young Blood”, drawing some cheers from the crowd on the opening notes. The set drew a perfect end, but I would love to have seen more. I actually tried to catch them on Saturday for a second time but couldn’t get into the Cedar Street Courtyard. I can’t say enough good things about this band, and their album continues to get plays on my commute, nodding my head along knowingly with what’s to come for The Naked and Famous. I never would have guessed the best show I would see would be a noon set in a parking lot, but at SXSW, the unexpected always is the best musical gift.