One paradox of a hyper-cross-scheduled festival like SXSW is that even an artist with multiple gigs booked can be difficult to catch in the act of performing. By the time I got to Austin’s Cedar Street Courtyard last night to see Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward’s band She & Him, the badge-holders’ line was already snaking around the block. I loitered by the entrance a few minutes to see if I could see or hear their set from outside. Deschanel’s winsome vocals were soon wafting to the sidewalk where I stood, but not clearly enough to be worth sticking around. I resolved to see their day gig this afternoon.
When I arrived at the IFC Crossroads House shortly before their 1 P.M. show time, attendees were grumbling at the announcement that — unlike the other bands playing live streaming sets there for IFC.com — She & Him had banished all observers from their studio space. I settled into a seat near a large observation window, through which members of the press were told we’d be able watch the performance. Only, after waiting 40 minutes, we were apologetically informed that the band now insisted on keeping those studio windows curtained. The band finally started playing at 1:49 P.M. Those of us who hadn’t left in annoyance had no option but to direct our attention to several TV screens showing the action taking place mere inches behind us in the veiled studio.
I’m not sure why She & Him were so shy. Joined by five backing musicians, Deschanel and Ward gave perfectly lovely renditions of “Black Hole” (from 2008’s Volume One) and “Thieves” (from next week’s Volume Two; below). They are a very capable live act! And that was that. Two slices of reverb-soaked folk-pop in ten minutes, and She & Him exited the building. I suppose I’d have liked to see them play for longer — or, you know, actually observe their set with my own eyes — but perhaps that would have been asking too much.
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