SXSW: Polica as the road team

Categories: SXSW
Photo by Erik Hess
Some of you may know that our recent cover darlings Polica, a local band of note filled with members of other local bands of note, is in Austin this week for South by Southwest. Billboard magazine knows it, because they're the ones who who hosted the group's showcase at ACL Live, aka the spot where Austin City Limits records. MTV vet Downtown Julie Brown knows it, because she gave them a nuanced introduction before saying their name in her tantalizing British accent. And, Austin knows, because there were a lot of people there.

As important as it is to play properly on your home court, the true champions have a mean road record too. Polica used this opportunity to pretend like they were taping an episode of Austin City Limits, and judging by how wondrous it sounded in there, they may get to do the real thing sometime soon.
Photo by Erik Hess

Simply put, in the smashed-together scheduling and hectic pace of the drag-out music trade show, most of these shows are bordering on awful all the time. Singer Channy Leaneagh looked decently rested, and she proved that her shoulder bones need not be confined to any set rhythmic pattern to speak of as she took advantage of her ample stage space. Bassist Chris Bierden and drummers Drew Christopherson and Ben Ivascu all kind of do the same thing whenever they perform, but there was a poise and confidence propping them up in a roomful of strangers.

Speaking of those strangers, I could tell that most of them were not from Minnesota because they were actually dancing and not worrying what anyone would think of them. Not like a little head-nodding sway you do while waiting for a latte at Dunn Bros if a Black Keys song comes on, but a mustachioed gentleman next to me was absolutely pouncing on this material like an underfed timber wolf. At one point, a colleague asked me "How much of their popularity is due to the singer being really hot?" Vintage Trouble, the band that played before Polica, was fronted by a handsome lead singer with charisma -- but the material was like the flattest version of Kings of Leon trying to play James Brown covers. I love this photo, but I will assure you that the band's sound is so bland that a good percentage of the crowd left, and a small percentage of those who stayed were grooving.
VVM-SXSW-Wed-16-Vintage Trouble.jpg
Photo by Erik Hess
This guy.
So, sure, it probably helps that Leaneagh is genetically blessed with an inability to take a bad picture and a rapturous voice. But people -- especially busy SXSW people -- get bored really fast if you can't do anything with it. For the Twin Cities folks who need some validation that "Lay Your Cards Out" elicits a response outside of Muddy Waters, this is it.

Polica knew that it sounded good in there, they probably had a chance to sound check, and they knew they could play "Wandering Star" and let the crisp-as-ever beats from the dual drummers singe all in proximity. On a bill that included the freak-out color stripes of Wallpaper; The-Dream stoking the crowd with embarrassingly graphic R&B; and Lionel Richie just basically pretending that the '80s never ended in front of many willing participants; a Minneapolis band was just a band that could've been from anywhere and played like they want to go everywhere.
Photo by Erik Hess

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