Had South by Southwest been in-person this year, Black Country, New Road would’ve been one of the must-see acts to catch, the band buzzed about early and likely hyped through word-of-mouth throughout the week behind their dynamic performances.
That excitement pulled through in the septet’s Thursday evening headlining position of the formidable British Music Industry showcase. In fact, the entire set seemed designed to build toward their spectacular sturm und drang. Putting a provocative spin on the two biggest trends currently importing from the UK – talked-over bedroom beats and angular punk – each act leaned into an increasingly experimental edge.
Starting with the calm, smooth melodies of Matilda Mann, the showcase set up a steady build across the four artists. Mann coiled with a meditative, dreamy pull that belied the depth of her songwriting, the four-song solo run anchored by the intimately detailed earworm of “Japan” and jazzed tones of “Paper Mache World.”
Black Country, New Road’s climax proved a study of tension and release, working through only two songs in their allotted 12 minutes.
Virginia Wing, meanwhile, torqued the anxiety of the evening that never let up. The Manchester trio laid down lead track “I’m Holding Out for Something” from fourth full-length Private Life before ascending into ambient, haunting sound collage, looped up and washed out. Frontwoman Alice Merida’s sing-talk style played out like a beat poet jam.
Likewise, Sinead O’Brien fronted guitar and drums as she scatter-shot through “Most Modern Painting,” dark alienation pattered out against the increasingly anxious maelstrom. If recent breakouts like Shame and Idles re-imagined classic Brit punk, the New Wave influences here ran more Ian Curtis and Mark E. Smith.
Black Country, New Road’s climax proved a study of tension and release, working through only two songs in their allotted 12 minutes. The troupe delivered the closing tracks from February debut For the First Time, “Track X” droning in Isaac Wood’s dark vocals against plucked violin. A jagged edge to “Opus” whirled behind klezmer rhythms and bending sax.
The set swelled in dramatic, epic fashion, but as a tightly wound ball of knotted kinetic energy. The breakout won’t be contained.