SXSW: An afternoon with The Thermals, Frightened Rabbit and Telekinesis

Hutch Harris of The Thermals performs at Mohawk during SXSW.

This SXSW has been really fun, but the schedule has often aligned so that 10 things I want to see are happening all at once and then I have nothing to do (or five bands I’ve already seen) immediately following.

This has happened all week, and today was more of the same. Lucky for me, a lot of the bands I’ve seen have been excellent, so catching The Thermals and Frightened Rabbit again was dessert on top of a tasty, filling meal.

The Thermals busted out a great set the other day, but today’s at Mohawk (the A.V. Club’s day party) was even better. They played with energy and the audience, though very sweaty and standing in the sun, fed the energy right back to them.

Today, the Portland punk band played much more of its older material, as well as songs from its upcoming album, “Born To Kill.”

They ripped into “It’s Trivia” first, and singer/guitarist Hutch Harris hopped into the audience and played his guitar while surrounded by his fans.

On the next tune, drummer Westin Glass hopped into the audience and started a mosh pit as Harris and bassist Kathy Foster played the lead to “Here’s Your Future.”

That kind of stuff, including Harris crowdsurfing a few times while playing solos, happened for the rest of the set and made the audience, already ready to rock, pour even more energy into it.

It was such a rager that Chevy Anderson, who’s covering the fest for HearNebraska, jumped into the pit with his camera. I even saw a security guard decide to crowdsurf, which was hilariously awesome.

I think they were sorta sick of the new stuff after having played it for six shows previously. They also played “My Little Machine,” “Born Dead,” “Back to Gray,” “A Pillar of Salt,” “No Culture Icons,” “Overgrown, Overblown!” and “Returning to the Fold.” The only new ones were “Born to Kill,” “Sunset,” “Wait For Me” and “You Will Find Me.”

“Thanks so much, guys,” Foster said. “This was awesome.”

“This is the … best show of the whole week,” Harris added. “This is great.”

Baths, a one-man pop singer, followed with a set that was better than I thought it might be, but simply OK for the most part.

Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit sings at Mohawk during SXSW.

Frightened Rabbit got a late start to its set (again) and had to rush its set (again) and skip some songs on its setlist (again… I grabbed copies of each one I saw them at and they skipped at least one song in each set).

“Welcome to our last show at SXSW,” singer Scott Hutchison said once they finally got set up. “Thanks for coming down. I hope you (pause) have a nice time? I can’t even construct sentences at this point. Let’s just play songs, then.”

And that they did. Without much time to stop, let alone retune their guitars, the band ripped through six songs in about 30 minutes.

Again, almost everything was from their new album, “Pedestrian Verse.” This time, the Scottish band included “The Modern Leper,” which had people screaming once they heard the opening notes. The triumphant note was when the band hit the line “and I’m too ****ed up to care” and the audience shouted it back.

After “Backyard Skulls,” “December’s Traditions” and “Woodpile,” Hutchison apologized again for coming on late.

“We have a lot more songs to play, but we don’t have a lot of time,” he said. “We’ll see you again.”

“Acts of Man,” which starts with a piano melody and Hutchison singing falsetto, built from soft song to loud rock bash. At the end of the tune, Hutchison ripped into his guitar, causing a string to pop. In his final act, he tossed the guitar on the floor and then knocked over his mic before smiling and the audience.

Great way to end the set.

Very quickly, I poked my head inside Mohawk to catch the very, very end of Telekinesis‘ set. I wanted to see them earlier this week, but the band was playing about two miles away and I didn’t have time to hoof it.

Bandleader Michael Lerner shared drum and lead vocal duties, and finished out with the poppy “Tokyo,” a great cover of INXS’ “Don’t Change” and its own “Please Ask For Help.”

I only saw them for a few minutes, but it was fun.

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