SXSW (Friday): Parenthetical Girls, Future of the Left, Trail of Dead, Third Eye Blind
Various; Austin, TX

At SXSW, you shall never want for geeks or snobs, but I doubt you will find them in more abundance than at The Onion/A.V. Club/Decider Par-Tay. Held in the afternoon at the Radio Room, I only managed to catch a couple bands, the first being {Parenthetical Girls}. Another hapless victim crushed by the gears of the SXSW hype machine, Parenthetical Girls were dull, dull, dull. Comprised of a violinist, vocalist, drummist, and synthesizist, Parenthetical Girls sulked their way through a room-clearing set of forlorn tunes. As obvious enthusiasts of Morrissey’s and The Arcade Fire’s worst qualities, most of the crowd chose to emigrate to Ra Ra Riot on the decidedly more upbeat outside stage than stick around for this mopefest. Perhaps if Parenthetical Girls played closer to the evening, or better yet closer to a Noam Chomsky lecture or a television stuck on C-SPAN 2, the mood would have been more appropriate -- but come on, this is The Onion, dammit! Bring on the fun!

The powers that be tried exactly that by trotting out some hapless comedian after Parenthetical Girls. I can’t recall the comedian’s name, but god bless whoever he was for trying his best to follow the most dour opening act in history. Rather than catch the ass end of Ra Ra Riot after the comedian, I stuck around inside to see {Future of the Left} again. They were just as intensely affable as they were last time, when perhaps I was a bit too unfair to compare them so much with mclusky. I reckon that’s just residual bitterness on account of major mclusky withdrawal, but one of these days when I grow up and get over the fact that mclusky are no more, I’ll be able to enjoy Future of the Left for what they are. That day is not today, though.

I sauntered outside for a trip into my past with {And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead…} I’ve basically ignored every Trail of Dead release since 2002’s Source Tags & Codes, so I wanted to see if I was missing out on any mind-blowing new material. It turns out I am not. Gone were the ripples of melody and tidal waves of confrontational sonic blasts I had so enjoyed so much in high school, replaced by what appeared to be just a normal hardcore band. Conrad Keely can still belt out a raw one with his often holstered but still sharp falsetto, but other than that, the songs didn’t hold much water. Victims of the hype system before it was even fashionable, it’s hard not to watch Trail of Dead without expecting the life-altering experience promised by so many others. But once Trail of Dead is stripped of all the excess pretensions heaped upon the band through no fault of their own, what’s left is just a pretty okay punk band, and that’s the way it should be.

So, I saw {Third Eye fucking Blind}. Two British gentlemen, who obviously knew long before I did that this was to be the funniest decision either of them would ever make in their entire lives, dragged me to the convention center for what was to be the funniest decision I would ever made in my entire life. The queue for the show was enormous, which only fueled the fire of perhaps Third Eye Blind’s most pathetic characteristic – they still think they’re famous. Most people at the back of the crowd were there for the same ironic reasons as me, but a loyal contingent of Third Eye diehards encouraged the fantasy by sincerely dancing and singing along with every stupid song. Actually, probably Third Eye Blind’s most pathetic hallmark is that lead singer Stephan Jenkins is somehow under the impression that he’s incredibly witty. And why shouldn’t he think that? He croons in one song, “Are you real to me, or are you just non-dairy creamer?” A positively cutting remark with smacks of Wilde. In another song, he laments about how his ex-girlfriend loved her shower massager more than she loved him. Ah yes, an eternal subject that flourishes with the romantic grace of a John Donne or perchance a Bret Michaels. Still, for all their clueless attempts at poignancy, I heartily admit to singing every fucking word of “Jumper,” taking me back to those salad days of Catholic grade school when my only worries were choking down my Lunchable and getting called “faggot” a lot. I do not miss the past.

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