Exactly 75% (six out of eight) of the people to take the stage at Swan Dive Saturday before last were women—a refreshing statistic that filled me with joy from the moment I first saw the bill listed. These women weren’t just members of each band; they’re the creative forces behind them. What’s more is that every band delivered powerhouse performances. I mean in no way to limit that compliment to female fronted groups, an implication that I always find off-putting. These are great bands, period. Believe me, boys, anything you can do, they can do better.
Pop Press International recently wrote about GALPALS, a band that continues to garner positive press as they play an increasing number of shows. Their live set contains that same youthful vigor as does their recordings. Lauren Mikus and Jillian Tally play music that comes from the heart—not necessarily in terms of lyrical emotion, but in raw energy. Unabashedly, I can say that I love pop music. So, the straightforward, catchy pop leanings of GALPALS have one foot in my door from the beginning. But the duo offers more to consider than it might first appear. A band with no bassist isn’t easy to pull off, but equal parts of rebel attitude and musical prowess allow Mikus and Tally to succeed. The two create an amazing amount of sound for two members, achieving this effect by frequent vocal harmonies over distorted guitar. After their set, Mikus informed me that a friend of hers (just as I had commented in my previous article) was reminded of the Tammys when listening to GALPALS. It’s an indicator that, for me, means great things are on the horizon from this band.
Follow That Bird performed next under the leadership of Lauren Green. At one point, an earlier incarnation of the band had an all girl lineup, but bass responsibilities are now handled by Paul Brinkley. The trio has become increasingly expansive as they have crafted and honed their approach more carefully, weaving a beautifully textured, ethereal fabric of sound. Simultaneously, Follow That Bird manages to be delicate and foreboding, as haunting melodies sprawl out above deliberately chaotic, powerful instrumentation. Having recently finished recording a new full-length in Marfa, TX, the group played some newer songs that promise to have the full attention of the Austin music community and, in all likelihood, a listening audience on a national scale. Swan Dive’s crowded space in front of the stage indicates the band’s avid fan base, which includes a veritable who’s who of Austin’s DIY scene—members of Sour Notes, Villette, folks from Transmission Events and bloggers like Austin Bloggy Limits. Follow That Bird has been a buzz band for a while now, and thankfully, they’re showing no signs of letting up.
Finishing out the phenomenal bill for the evening was Tristen, who foregoes her last name of Gaspadarek when performing, opting for simply her first name. As innocuous as this decision seems, it bears importance as a sort of indie-pop tradition for some of the greatest twee-pop bands of all time, such as Beat Happening and the Lucksmiths. Tristen’s music often features acoustic guitar and sugary melodies, but also follows a trend present throughout the evening—the songwriter has some tricks up her sleeve. While songs like “Eager for Your Love” remained straightforward, some of Tristen’s newer songs employ copious amounts of electronic effects and vocal augmentation, and the trio used only a drum machine as percussion for the duration of the show. The approach worked perfectly to create fresh, danceable arrangements as Tristen moved between guitar and keys several times during the set. Tristen’s other wild card lies in her incredible stage energy; she’s a born performer. She sneers, rocks out, and paces restlessly. During a climactic part of the evening she rid herself of all instruments, holding only a microphone, and danced with confident allure, rolling her shoulders and wildly tossing her jawbone-length hair. She also made her way over to bassist Jordan Jordan Caress, and both women sang passionately into the microphone. Tristen’s set blew everyone out of the water; if you have the opportunity to catch her in this last week and a half or so of her tour, it is strongly advised. If you missed her, cross your fingers for a return after the release of her new album, which is complete but won’t be out for a few more months.