What do Glenn Beck, Bill Maher, the Oklahoma City Thunder, Lady Gaga, “Annie” the musical, AC/DC, Jerry Seinfeld and the “JoBros” all have in common?
Heading back to Sixth street, I grabbed a Philly cheese steak (my second of the fest from the same vendor; I am pretty enthused about these sandwiches) and caught the last few songs of Oberhofer's set. I'm always on the lookout for great pop songwriters, and I definitely saw one in this set. Whether in an electronic medium or a guitar-based one, his melodies are infectious and memorable. His cheery tone helps, too. I'm not sure why a great many geniuses look like scruffy young ruffians, but Oberhofer certainly fits the description. His band went nuts on stage with him, and the songs had a festive air. I expect big, big things from the band, and the set only reinforced that opinion.
I stuck around to hear Lord Huron, another cheery pop band that I've been digging. Their sound pulls a lot from Calypso music, which is the most bubbly of all music genres, but the band still had the songwriting skills to ground the melodies with a overarching sense of seriousness that lent a credibility to the tunes. They went from being carefree pop songs to hard-won happy songs, as you could hear the sadness and seriousness creeping in the margins. It's not often that upbeat pop songs can be truly powerful, but Lord Huron takes after "Graceland"-era Paul Simon in being able to create depth out of unusual forms not known for their emotional resonance. I was sad that technical difficulties cut their set short, but glad that I was able to hear it at all.
With my handy dandy SXSW app, I was alerted to the fact that King Charles was playing just down the street from my location in fifteen minutes. I rushed over and took up residence to hear his afrobeat/classic rock/pop. Yes, all of that happened in his nearly hour-long set, from AC/DC-worthy guitar noodling to tunes heavy on pop moods and vocal harmony with detours into world music. King Charles (the person) got more and more into the set as it went on, going from reserved at the beginning to headbanging with his incredibly long dreads (down to the small of his back!) and breaking the head clean off a guitar by slamming it against cymbals and other stuff. Hilariously, the guitar-smashing came at the end of the second-to-last song; file the closer under "anti-climactic." The set was much heavier and grittier than I expected, but the quick vocals and charming harmonies of the quieter songs were exactly what I was looking for. And who doesn't like seeing a guitar get smashed?