Some of the WXSW bands who visited Plush on Sunday night had clearly been to the Old Pueblo before. David Broecker--who pulled double guitar duty in both Telekinesis and Say Hi--asked the crowd, "Is Café Poca Cosa going to be open for lunch tomorrow?" When Telekinesis frontman Michael Lerner wondered whether the barbershop in the Hotel Congress should be patronized or not, the crowd's response was dubious.
Telekinesis's opening set was muscular and succinct. Their fabulous upcoming debut, Telekinesis! (out April 7 on Merge Records), provided most of the material. Songs like "Coast of Carolina" and "Great Lakes" came off as tight but rougher than the album's breezy versions. Lerner, who sings and drums, was fun to watch, and his treatment of the drums offered some combination of severity and abandon, like if Animal from The Muppet Show were blessed with both verbal eloquence and a love of classic '60s/'70s power-pop.
Both Say Hi and San Diego's Rafter (aka Rafter Roberts, a James Urbaniak-esque guitarist/vocalist whose herky-jerky antics conflate the yelping, urgent sexuality of a young Gordon Gano with the autistic theatricality of David Byrne) played diesel-fueled sets markedly more aggressive than their albums would lead you to expect.
There was little of the lush, mellow cool you'd find on Say Hi's Oohs and Aahs present in their 45 minutes on stage. Eric Elbogen and Broecker gyrated with the best of them, cranking out hard-hitting renditions of songs like "Hallie and Henry" and "Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh."
Rafter's performance, emphasizing last year's Sweaty Magic, was the evening's most lurid and caffeinated. He managed to somehow be both creepy and weirdly sexy at once, all set to massive distortion, raucous drumming and a host of mysterious auditory effects. (Rafter himself describes this phenomenon as "acousmatic" on MySpace.) In between songs, he bragged about eschewing the use of a guitar strap, which enabled him to swing his guitar like a lightsaber, lean on it like a crutch and wave it in the drummer's face like a really big ... you get the idea.
Finally, headliners Viva Voce took the stage before a crowd at least 10 times the size of that which saw Telekinesis, and gave a solid, faithful rendition of most of their fine upcoming release Rose City.