Since making their South by Southwest debut back in 2010, Swedish indie-pop act Miike Snow has gone from one-to-watch to big-print-on-the-poster festival mainstay. Last night, they closed out a meaty line-up at sausage shop and beer garden Banger’s, an intimate Rainey Street setting for a band with a Stubb’s-sized following. The set marked Miike Snow’s sole announced SXSW 2016 appearance.
Before the main event (and following Grizfolk and Poliça) Vampire Weekend bassist Chris Baio, who performs as Baio, gave the crowd a taste of his solo material with a table of sequencers and synths and live guitar courtesy of his touring partner George Hume. The producer and singer was part lovable dork and debonaire dancer in a blazer, white leather shoes, and red bow tie, which he wore “because anything less would be uncivilized” with such talent sharing the bill. Baio’s tropical grooves and electronic beats provided the perfect showcase for some notably excellent booty shaking. (Note: GIF makers looking for your next Drake or Future Islands-level dancing meme, look no further than Baio.)
Twenty minutes after midnight, with an at-capacity crowd and a line of onlookers on the sidewalk outside the gates, Miike Snow was up for their first show in Austin in four years.
The set was high energy and kept the packed house pumped and moving. (Though it’s worth noting here that “packed” at SXSW 2016 seems thus far to fall much shorter of sardines levels than it has in over-crowded years past.)
Fortunately as Miike Snow’s crowds have grown, so have their songs. While the initial clutch of tracks from their 2009 self-titled debut remains their strongest material, it’s hard to deny the crowd-pleasing power of the songs from their latest album, iii, showcased Wednesday night. “Genghis Khan” with an infectious melody catchy enough to overshadow its cringeworthy lyrics (e.g., “I’m just a little bit Genghis Khan, don’t want you to get it on with nobody else but me.”) proved undeniable dance floor jet fuel in the band’s tour-hardened hands. Heck, even the bland “Heart is Full” was more than salvaged live with a tweaked, slow and soulful opener shining the spotlight on the song’s bones.
It helps here that frontman Andrew Wyatt and his producer pals Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg (also known as Bloodshy & Avant, the beat-makers extraordinaire responsible for Britney Spears’ “Toxic”) are wise enough to keep the laptops off stage, opting to play synths, Rhodes piano, guitars and other live instruments rather than just pushing play on a MacBook. It frees the band to evolve their songs and jam out a bit and helps songs that could come off as dull or filler material feel alive and electric — while also giving Wyatt space to flex those buttery Bee Gees-like highs that remain the band’s most alluring element.
While they turned duds to dynamite early in the set and covered the highlights of their past two records, the band stacked their top tracks near the set’s end, hitting the crowd with “Silvia,” “Black & Blue,” and “Animal” back to back to back. Playing “Animal” second to last and not last last was probably a mistake, and when Wyatt launched in to “Longshot (7 Nights)” from their latest LP for the finale he took a moment to tease the quickly dispersing crowd. “I see some people only came for the old songs. That’s OK. The cool people will hang around for the new song.” Those new songs might not have the hooks to keep “play the single!” crowds in their places, but if they continue to develop at the rate they are now, they’ll be keeping fans glued to their spots in no time.
If you didn’t make it into Banger’s last night, the beer-and-brat-lover’s venue is hosting plenty of other top-tier talent this week, including Tanlines and Bloc Party tonight and Sting’s daughter Eliot Sumner and local crowd-pleaser Ghostland Observatory Friday night.