SXSW 2013: OK Sweetheart / Defining Times / Samantha Crain

OK Sweetheart knows how to write a pop tune, whether it’s a slow ballad or a peppy, full-band sing-along. The Tulsa quintet showed both sides of their prowess during its set. The latter were marked by enthusiastic clapping from the band and audience.

This energy carried over to the songwriting, as the bass lines were notably fun and the dual keyboards made for great melodies. Erin Austin’s lead vocals were the centerpiece of both the up-tempo and down-tempo songs, as her dusky alto voice covered both tasks easily.

The delicate beauty of the gentle guitar-and-voice arrangements in the slow songs framed her voice beautifully. Both the fast and slow numbers were enthusiastically received, and I came away from the set smiling.

Defining Times’ whirling, turbulent rock sent the night in a completely different direction than OK Sweetheart.

The Oklahoma City indie-rock band’s work is impressive in its control of mood and atmosphere, largely playing up the instrumental interactions instead of the vocal melodies to create vast, sweeping sections of music, as in “Swan Dive.”

They aren’t just an inscrutable artsy band, either; the music can be very pretty as well There was still plenty of clapping along, as the group encouraged the audience to get into the songs with them.

I picked up their new CD, Separate Tongues, and I look forward to hearing it.

Samantha Crain’s gentle folk could barely drown out the banging of drums that off Sixth Street, but even with that distraction, her gripping tunes more than had my attention.

Armed with a distinctly memorable voice, notable lyrics and a strong band, the Shawnee native charmed her way through the set with smiles, jokes and stage banter. The tunes themselves shone, with the spare arrangements complementing her voice perfectly; as heard on her Kid Face disc, Crain’s new songs have a easygoing confidence and maturity that make them a joy to listen to.

It’s easy to see why Rolling Stone recently named her one of 20 must-see acts for SXSW 2013. An excellent set all around. —Stephen Carradini

Hey! Read This:
Defining Times interview     
Samantha Crain interview   
Samantha Crain’s Kid Face album review     

Stephen Carradini

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