Just after 2 a.m. Friday morning security plucked the Palma Violets from the Parish stage, pushing, dragging and carrying the four London rockers to the backstage room and then forming a human barricade around the door to keep them from making their way back to the stage. Why the sound guy didn’t just cut the volume if the band was playing past time beats me, but it made for a heck of an exit — even for a band that I suspect doesn’t typically end their sets with hands locked taking a much-deserved deep bow center stage.
Of course, in SXSW (and, increasingly I’m starting to think, Parish) fashion things were running right on schedule, which is to say every band was about 20–30 minutes late getting set up. So whether it was all for theatrical effect or if the band was really “screw the sound guy” determined to get their full mini SX set in, it was a rowdy conclusion to a rough-and-tumble rock show. Still it was all about as professional as an encounter between security and a band can go that involves the use of physical force, so kudos to band and staff for not beating the snot out of each in the process.
The Palma Violets’ rock sounds like it could have come from your garage, if your garage was used for making meth. They’re not quite as over-the-top unhinged as Black Lips, but wild bassist Chilli Jesson got close at times — jumping all over the stage and nearly biting it in a puddle of spilled beverage, throwing himself into the crowd, playfully harassing the keyboard player by nibbling on his face while he, unfazed, focused on the next Southern-fried wobbling electric organ line. Front man Sam Fryer was dressed like a thrift store Jack White in a wide-brim hat and a battered old brown suit with his belt undone. Sam and Chilli play off each others spastic energy perfectly and make for quite the spectacle even if you’re not into the sound.
The crowd was at its most moshing, hopping, floor integrity-testing frenzy mid-set with the band’s first single “Best of Friends,” a burly pub song that demanded slurred screaming along from fans front and center and sent even more drinks flying than were typical throughout the rest of the set. (My wife caught a full Solo cup to the back of the head, and I got a back full off ice water —at least I’m telling myself it was water — but hydration is important so I can’t complain.)
Palma Violets followed the similarly rock-y and similarly British The Vaccines, who return to SXSW after being the buzz band du jour back in 2011. The Vaccines, dressed in all black with all white gear (including a stunningly minimal white acoustic guitar), offered a more polished rock show experience with a mix of reverence for ’50s rock ‘n’ roll and ’80s arena rock theatrics with choreographed turns to the drum kit and returns to the microphones for choruses with backup vocals and huge guitars.