Survive’s creepy, cool ‘Stranger Things’ synths draw big SXSW crowds

Survive’s in an unlikely success story. Before office water-coolers were abuzz about this show “Stranger Things” and its creepy, cool synthesizer score, I would have thought a retro instrumental electronic band finding a massive audience would be as likely as ASCII printer art replacing photography. But Thursday night, the audience they found was at Hotel Vegas Patio, where the speechless Austin four-piece played to a packed backyard with fans watching from the line outside.

A good space, good sound, and good lineups at the East Side venue have really cemented Hotel Vegas’ place as a top SXSW Music destination the past couple festivals, easily warranting the 10-minute jaunt from downtown. The venue’s soundsystem was put to the test with Survive’s massive, moody horror-film sound summoned from an assortment of analog synths and drum machines.

Survive’s set opened with waves of cross-panning static washing into warbly keys and peckish snare and cymbals clicks and continued on across one seamless sweep from song to song. The performance was paired with psychedelic visualizations projected on top of the band, a good distraction, as watching four guys softly bob their heads while toiling over synthesizers is about as thrilling as watching four guys checking their email.

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But, as the crowd there knows, Survive is about the sound, not rock-show spectacles.

That sound is one of nostalgia, not just for a time, but a tone — the warm, foggy songs of VHS horror movies and the chirp and hum of Nintendo boss battle music, simple but effective machine-made music. As the set powered on, android arpeggios wove their way through the menacing crawl of bass and synth roars and screeches in one continuous mix of dystopian robot dance music. As fans bobbed their heads, smoked, chatted and held up smartphones to record what will surely be the most riveting live concert footage to hit social media, Survive played on, offering up a chilling and chill ending to another SXSW Music day.


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