Florida's Surfer Blood was the perfect buzz band, with its noisy blend of influences old (Modern Lovers) and recent (Vampire Weekend). There were swinging drum patterns and flickering rhythm guitars, occasionally touched by Afrobeat. A cleanly handsome voice quivered through flatly sentimental lyrics.
These guys were genetically designed for an eight-star Pitchfork review.
Looking more surfer dude than bloodied anything, guitarist/singer John Paul Pitts had his manly warble down pat as he coursed through the reverb-heavy "Twin Peaks" and its creepy nasal harmony vocals (the best part of the David Lynch tribute is that its melody was reminiscent of the '60s AM radio fave "Windy"). The high-pitched and plucky love ballad "Harmonix" was sonorous and tender, but went on too long and seemed hermetically sealed. "Miranda" went on forever, too, a new song with a strangled guitar line whose chorus was close to being memorable but fell short. Before boredom overtook, Surfer Blood struck a one-two punch and found its big chorus moment with the tightly wound jangle of "Fast Jabroni" and "Take It Easy." That was close.
It had to be hard to follow the brusquely energetic, intricate sound of Austin's . . .And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. These boys weren't afraid to sweat as they ripped though an unfussy mix of taut punk and malingering prog rock. A pummeling drum sound that threatened to fall through the stage floor, a blend of ragged, atmospheric guitars topped with anxious lyrics about interplanetary visions and bad romance - Trail of Dead's leaders Jason Reece and Conrad Keely truly harnessed that mad mess.
The two artfully screaming singers (each played guitar and drums) took on hard-core rage topped with the chorus of Patti Smith/Van Morrison's "Gloria" on "A Perfect Teenhood," yelped through a melody more diabolical than a Dario Argento soundtrack on "Spiral Jetty," and turned the softly psychedelic "Weight of the Sun (Or the Post-Modern Prometheus)" tense and grouchy by song's end.