Shearwater Wows a Late-Night Crowd

Mar. 12, 2008
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In 2006, Shearwater released Palo Santo, one of that years best albums, but despite the loudening accolades, the group has yet to break through the way their friends in Okkervil River have. That could change this year, when they release a new album on Matador Records.

Turnout for their first SXSW show was modest, about four dozen attentive listeners (with more in the background drinking and chatting indifferently), but thats probably to be expected from a 1 a.m. Wednesday show, especially when he Austin group has two additional shows later this week, and especially when R.E.M. is finishing up their show down the block. Their low-key set was a treat nonetheless.

Jonathan Meiburg possesses the purist voice in indie-rock, an expressive, choir-boy falsetto that ebbs and flows with his swelling songs, exploring every crevice. When that voice soars, its nothing short of bone-chilling, and when it snaps, its heart-breaking. Its a voice perfect for sad songs, but these days his group is more than just a sad band. Theyre a brooding, powerful band, and they make music too baleful to be dismissed as merely pretty.

Shearwater turns up the volume live, as Meiburg sneers over crescendos of snapping drums and dire trumpet. They made a strong case for returning to see their follow-up sets later this week.

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