The Arcs & The Strokes SXSW 2016

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Words and Photos by: Lindsay Krause
The Arcs and The Strokes offered a mind-blowing experience at the exclusive Samsung Galaxy Fest for South By Southwest.

Above: The Arcs going down the wormhole in Austin

Galaxy phone owners and Interactive badge holders had the opportunity to attend an exclusive and intimate performance from The Arcs & The Strokes this past Friday for SXSW. As it was announced last minute, the news seemed like some sort of blessing from the rock and roll gods. It’s pretty much impossible to catch The Strokes and Dan Auerbach in a 400 person capacity space.

The floor and the ceiling of the performance room glowed a neon robin’s egg blue, similar to the shade in The Strokes video for 12:51.  A giant sectioned video screen took prominent display behind the stage, adding to the ambiance of a futuristic disco heaven. Fans that were not in the first 4 rows  with the Platinum badge-holders and photo crew were sectioned behind a barrier that seemed incapable of containing the upcoming madness.

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Dan Auerbach’s latest creative venture, The Arcs, is only a slight departure from the signature fiery blues slingshots of The Black Keys. Yours, Dreamily was released last September, and the debut album for the new group shows a bit more breathing room for the Ohio musician. This new chemistry was evident in their live presence, each member subtly glancing at each other to feel into the next  groove. Accompanied by the sweet falsetto of drummer Richard Swift (also a member of The Shins), “Velvet Ditch” gave a nod to Junior Kimbrough with Auerbach singing “Pour some drink for Mr. Junior/Juke all night for free and never leave”. While the impact of the legend was still present, the guitar solos were injected with mind-bending and soaring takeoffs,which were reinforced by the polychromatic lighting. The Arcs maintained an air of relaxed cohesion, with the mellow”Flower in Your Pocket” churning enough soulful butter to feed the entire room buttermilk biscuits. “Stay in My Corner” proved to be a swoon inducing Motown moment. Closing with “Outta My Mind”, arguably the most 60’s influenced take off of the album, the energy was palatable and left you wanting more. The Arcs will return to Austin for Levitation Festival next month.

“Flower in Your Pocket”

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“Cold Companion”

The energy shifted considerably after the openers exited the stage. And so will the viewpoint of this article as a result. As I believe you to be a connoisseur of culture and art, you probably acknowledge that set, setting and mindset can alter ones idea of reality considerably. It would be untruthful for me to give a review of the rest of that evening without taking the surroundings into account, as it was the prominent filter for my experience. There was a discord between the evenings live music and the DJ set occurring before each act. If I could think of a synergistic playlist that included The Strokes and The Arcs, it wouldn’t include Big Sean’s “I Don’t Fuck With You” or Soulja Boy. Jus sayin. Also, the commands from the DJ to “Hold those Samsung Galaxy’s in the air” and “something about Snapchat filter blah blah blah” felt abrasive. The commercial aspect and elitist attitude of the organizers started to unveil itself.

The Strokes have mastered the magic they brought to rock’s forefront in 2001. The set was mostly geared toward the well-known tracks from their nearly 15 year lifespan, yet the enthusiasm from the crowd could not be measured. This did pose a safety issue in the small venue, with the inadequate safety barrier separating the wild as shit and mostly inebriated crowd from a snooze-fest front row VIP section. T

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After playing several core tracks from Is This It, such as”Someday” and “Hard to Explain”, the space  literally erupted when the opening chords of “Last Nite” surfaced. Maybe it was the tension and discrepancy between the fans behind the VIP, or the excitement of the first day of SXSW. The risk on being trampled on front row was very high, as the flimsy gate wavered in front of the security team, who at one point used it as a shovel to scoot the crowd further back than necessary. Julian’s signature quips were noticeably absent, with his only remark being a playful rendition of a few lines off of Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “Can’t Stop” (which was included in the DJ’s baffling set).

The band successfully ripped through each track, though I noticed they did not tackle any songs off of 2013’s Comedown Machine, mostly sticking to their earlier material. I’m not sure if they cut their set short due to the situation in the crowd, or if that was the plan all along. Amid rumors that they would debut new music, the set seemed like a flashback to their early days. According to Governor’s Ball Festival in NYC,  the fresh tracks will make their debut there in June. This has really piqued my curiosity about the direction of the confirmed new album. I feel very lucky to have witnessed arguably the biggest rock and roll band of my generation in such a unique and intimate space. However, the gruff security team and lack of ardor from the blessed VIP section overshadowed my enjoyment in a way. Had the event organizers taken more effort to include the fans in the event, I believe this could have gone down as one of the pinnacle performances of their career. This is often the criticism of corporate sponsored events, and the situation is not entirely unique. All I know is, if faced with this predicament again, I will be knocking over the barrier during “New York City Cops”. I think Julian would approve.

“Killing Lies”

Setlist:
Someday
Heart in a Cage
Barely Legal
Machu Picchu
Killing Lies
Hard to Explain
Last Nite
Reptilia
New York City Cops
Automatic Stop
Take It or Leave It
Encore:
Is This It
What Ever Happened?
The Modern Age

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