The Devil, Probably – Austin – Texas Union Ballroom, TX – 2001-04-20

The Devil, Probably
Where: Austin – Texas Union Ballroom, TX.

When: 2001-04-20

Ah yes, yet another rock show in Austin, Texas (the self-proclaimed Live Music Capital of the World). Rather than the usual venues, this extravaganza took place on the University of Texas campus in perhaps the nicest looking “ballroom” I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit. With electric chandeliers, a hardwood floor, and pristine couches, the rather massive room was surprisingly comfortable. Thank God for small favors, because four bands on one bill is a bit much for me.

I knew absolutely nothing about The Devil, Probably. I presumed them to be yet another local act, which proved correct. These guys played with, you guess it, heart and emotion. I almost dread using the “emo” word here, because the songs are much more than what that genre implies. While the off-kilter rhythms and the slicing guitars would certainly fit on the Emo Diaries comp, the band has a slightly artsy edge that helps distance them from the pack. And while their stage presence was none too exciting, the pace and creativity of the set grabbed the audience’s attention right away. Too bad they couldn’t stay on longer.

Next came another local act, Explosions in the Sky. These guys are fantastic. To dismiss them as just another “post-rock” band would be quite foolish. While they occasionally fall back on clichés (the pre-recorded spoken intro), the vast majority of the songs are innovative and entertaining. After a few technical setbacks, the band began unfolding their vibrant soundscapes. The impressive melodies morphed and twisted as the band played with the standard loud/soft dynamics. Rather than always building to noise, Explosions inserted moments of suspense and anti-climax, keeping the audience on its toes. The varied percussion and an excellent taste in effects added texture, and the set never sounded complacent. Ending with a short burst of fury, the band left the stage covered in sweat as the crowd tried desperately to return their jaws to their upright position.

After placing three projectors, four guitar amps, a drum kit and a keyboard on stage, Windsor for the Derby proceed to bore everyone to tears. As far as I could tell, each song consisted of a three-note melody played incessantly with absolutely no regard to songwriting. I like avant-garde as much as the next indie rock dork, but there is no way this band deserved to play this show. And please, please add some low end to the mix so that I don’t feel like someone is shrieking in my ear. When the band finally left the stage, some joker yelled “encore,” then quickly repented by shouting, “Just kidding, please don’t hurt me!”

By the time Built to Spill played, I was ready for bed. The set focused almost entirely on old songs, with only two from Keep it Like a Secret. The band was tight and fun, and the audience almost bobbed their heads (I was one of two people dancing at all). Doug was obviously the ringleader, going off on different tangents with each solo. Oddly the band skipped a few favorites (“Car,” “Carry the Zero”) and instead played some obscure (at least to me) Halobenders covers. All was fine and dandy until the last song, which featured 7 minutes of unnecessary backwards guitar that drained the already exhausted crowd.

The house music went on the minute the band left the stage, killing any possibility for an encore. Which, at 2 am, seemed ok to me. With the exception of Windsor, I had seen plenty of great music for one night.