To conclude this year’s coverage of the Micro-Pixel-Rites showcase at SXSW, which only lasted one day but has somehow filled up over a month of retrospective blog time, I thought I would point out that Rangers was not the only one-man recording project that had mysteriously blossomed into a full rock band by the time they touched down in Austin. After reading Sawyer Carter Jacobs’ most lavish and writerly description of the new Pill Wonder record on the Underwater Peoples blog, I half expected main-man William Murder/Murdoch to climb up on stage and pound away on a toy drum kit, mac n’ cheese boxes, and a triangle for half an hour. Instead, he rolled up with an live instrumental powerhouse consisting of two drummers, a bassist, a lead guitar player, and a multi-tasking, bespectacled fellow “on” two laptops and a synth.
The signature vocal merry-go-round that we hear on the album version of “Wishing Wonder” was lost slightly beyond earshot, but this rendition made pretty much everybody in attendance as giddy as six-year-old on Christmas morning. When you catch a band for the first time and every third person in the audience seems turning to his neighbor and breathing an awestruck, “Who are they?,” it’s hard not to feel a little shiver here and there. With Pill Wonder, that shiver felt collective.
Capping off the evening as the sun set over the city, Jeff Walls Campfires project — here, reincarnated as a traditional four-piece — rocked us out of our cumulative ultra violet stupor with a few high-energy song bytes — not dissimilar to the compact musical “short stories” he channels on recent cassette Burning Rivers, TV Flickers, Drifting Off to Bed (Leftist Nautical Antiques), but suddenly more vivid and three-dimensional, as though those stories had died and come back to life.