Smallpools’ SXSW set at IFC Fairgrounds on Saturday night started with a little mayhem: Frontman Sean Scanlon’s keyboard stopped working halfway through their first song, and guitarist Mike Kamerman said he broke a string on-stage for the very first time ever. After that, though, there was only pure, poppy polish.
There was no line to get into the sprawling outdoor venue, probably owing in part to the viscous, muddy terrain left by the weekend rains. The Los Angeles band still packed an eager crowd of notably young faces.
Songs like “Streetfight” and “Over and Over” floated in the air thanks in great part to Scanlon’s “cool sounds knob” (read: synthesizer). Gems of the set included a couple of covers: Electric Youth and College’s “A Real Hero” from the movie “Drive” and the briefest snippet of The New Radicals’ “You Get What You Give.” When the crowd repeatedly calls for a song, though, it’s a good bet that that one will be a winner, and the driving, hooky earworm of “Killer Whales” came to those who waited.
Smallpools does earnest synth-pop distilled to its platonic ideal: a little cheesy, but a lot joy-inducing, too.