“This is a feminist anthem we’re going to play at all the people waiting to see Dashboard Confessional,” singer-songwriter Caroline Rose said before launching into “Bikini” at the Waterloo Records outdoor stage Thursday afternoon. With its surf-y sound and stuttered “da-da-da-dance,” it may be the most party-friendly song about female objectification you’re likely to hear at South by Southwest. “Or maybe we’ll play it for the people here to see us,” she said, drawing cheers from the crowd. “That’s a lot… We actually travel with 200 inflatable dolls in the car in case no one shows up, so I’m glad we didn’t have to use them today.”
Rose approaches serious subjects with humor to spare. There’s a tell-it-like-it-is, screw-it bluntness in her songs, delivered with ear-grabbing slinky synth lines and playful guitar riffs that can belie the gravity of the lyrics at first glance. Rose excels and entertains as both a crafter of sing-aloud-in-the-car pop and a clever lyrist. She’s also just plain cool.
Her just-released (and endlessly listenable) LP Loner features her in all red workout gear with a seemingly impossible number of cigarettes jammed in her mouth. Thursday at SXSW, Rose was sporting a similar look: red sweatband, red track jacket, red knee-high socks, red sneakers—the same outfit she seemed to be wearing in the portrait of herself on her T-shirt, which also featured another portrait of her on that T-shirt…
Multi-instrumentalist Rose headbanged her ponytail and swapped between guitar, keys, and even plastic recorder on an interlude to sinister single “Money.” With its dank rockabilly guitar paired with menacing gonzo keys, the song seems to have developed into more of a shredder live.
Caroline Rose plays again at 11 p.m. tonight at the Vinyl Me, Please Rising showcase at Empire Control Room before squeezing in several more SXSW performances, including appearances at Hotel San Jose Friday and Rachel Ray’s Day Party at Stubb’s Saturday.