SXSW: Echo & the Bunnymen at Stubb's

By Friday afternoon, SXSW fatigue has taken hold. You're walking a little slower, less inclined to whip out the notebook to jot down every little observation - Rocks Off has seen many journos just typing notes into their BlackBerries, a trend that both intrigues and dismays him - and wondering how many more pairs of plastic day-glo sunglasses you're going to see before you finally snap.

Luckily, Echo & the Bunnymen came along just in time to interrupt the homicidal thoughts brewing in Rocks Off's brain. The Liverpool quintet's brooding, hazy, post-punk psychedelia made an excellent tonic Friday afternoon. The one-two punch of "Rescue" and "Crocodiles," from Echo's 1980 debut Crocodiles, submerged the Spin party crowd in deep pools of bass and Will Sergeant's skittering guitar. The acoustic overlay of "Seven Seas" made them sound almost like a folk band, albeit an especially perverse one.

The majestic "Bring On the Dancing Horses" threw a dubby curveball, and "I Need It Too" - new? rare? Rocks Off had never heard it before, regardless - revealed Echo's debt to the Velvet Underground is as great as ever, which they didn't exactly try to dodge with a slow, cosmic-country take on Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side." Ian McCulloch, who proved it's never too warm to take off the peacoat, curled up to the space-psych roots and folk heart of "Killing Moon," while Sergeant dominated "The Cutter" with menacing power chords and one of the greatest bridges of the '80s.

And, of course, no Echo set would be complete without "Lips Like Sugar," played here as a dead sexy stalker drenched in reverb. For a few minutes, that SXSW fatigue floated into the atmosphere like one of Echo's elusive sugar kisses.

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray