The Non was winding down the first evening of The Buffalo Lounge’s three-day stand at Austin, Texas’ South by Southwest music festival, when a fascinated reveler couldn’t hold his thoughts in any longer.
“Is that what Oklahoma sounds like these days?" he yelled.
Yes, it is.
Held March 15-17, the first official SXSW showcase for Oklahoma bands, sponsored in large part by the Oklahoma Film & Music Office, went a long way to taking Sooner music out of stereotypes and into reality in listeners’ minds. From the Ramones-esque punk of Broncho to the blistering metal of Rainbows Are Free and the singer/songwriter tunes of Sherree Chamberlain, a wide variety of sounds were represented.
Deerpeople’s dance-oriented indie rock served as the score to a theatrical performance featuring costume changes, giant insects, tentacled monsters, knights in armor, deer heads, Mardi Gras masks and more. The blink-and-you-miss-something-cool set brought a party atmosphere capped off by vocalist Brennan Barnes crowd-surfing amid a sea of bubbles.
Colourmusic mesmerized people, too, but through the power of performance. Its dedication to rhythm, bass and ferocious rock ’n’ roll resulted in a powerhouse set. Lead singer Ryan Hendrix's impassioned vocals set the energy level for the rest of the band, which responded in kind, thrashing away. There's depth to be explored in Colourmusic’s layered and varied songs, but if you want your mind melted, you can just revel in the booming glee.
The Non also set out to wow people, but the members did it purely through music. The act sports neither vocals nor theatrics, impressing audiences strictly with unique instrumental rock. Part Explosions in the Sky, part Sigur Rós, part guitar wizardry, part funk genius, The Non writes songs no one else can. Its acrobatic, emotive guitar work and lightning-fast bass fretting meshed with solid drumming to create a sonic whirlwind.
If The Non is a whirlwind, The Boom Bang is a tornado. The band’s garage/surf blend created physical and musical chaos. Lead singer James Smith was an electrifying presence, pinballing through the venue while hollering at the top of his lungs. In addition to riding piggyback on his guitarist’s back and cussing out all of SXSW, he at one point left the venue while singing so he could be closer to the crowd gathered outside to listen.
When Nikolas Thompson, front man of Kite Flying Robot, left the stage, it was to sing a song closer to the audience inside the venue. The rest of the spot-on group played its melodic, calm indie pop with a bevy of instruments: violin, trumpet, keyboards, electronic beats and more. It was an incredibly enjoyable set from a band with a bright future.
The Pretty Black Chains’ Zeppelin-esque rock featured a cameo verse from rapper Jabee, while Emory Grey (formerly rap act 8Bit Cynics) also featured him as a guest. Tulsa represented well with memorable sets from hip-hop force Snorlaxx, rocker Fiawna Forté and jazz-pop outfit OK Sweetheart.
The Buffalo Lounge’s location inside the bar Friends was a boon for the bands, right in the middle of the SXSW action on Sixth Street. Many people walking by stopped outside to listen, only increasing exposure for Okie performers.
Here’s hoping for an encore.