New Pornographers Give A Kinks-Sized Performance At SXSW

Power pop ruled Friday night at Austin's La Zona Rosa — and the Kinks' Ray Davies was on hand to help.

AUSTIN, Texas — Power-pop sextet the New Pornographers got a little Kink-y Friday night during their South by Southwest showcase at La Zona Rosa.

After playing a string of songs from their debut album, Mass Romantic, the group surprised the audience by bringing up conference keynote speaker Ray Davies, the Kinks' frontman, and launching into his legendary band's "Starstruck."

The onstage collaboration with Davies seemed fitting for a project that is collaborative in nature: The New Pornographers are the brainchild of songwriters Carl Newman, also the force behind Zumpano, and Dan Bejar (Destroyer), but are most notable for the vocals of indie-rock/country chanteuse Neko Case. Members of the Evaporators and Limblifter round out the lineup, and so far, the combination has been magic — Mass Romantic, released last year, took home the honor for Best Alternative Album at last month's Juno Awards, Canada's equivalent to the Grammys.

At Friday's show, the group — which got its name from evangelist Jimmy Swaggart's reference to rock as "the new pornography" — opened with "The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism." The uptempo pop number warmed up the crowd for a show of musically similar songs, full of '70s and '80s pop references and described as Cheap Trick mixed with Gary Numan.

Case sent congratulations from the stage to the band's keyboardist Blaine Thurier, who won Best Narrative for his indie movie "Low Self-Esteem Girl" at South by Southwest's film festival. Thurier wrote and directed the film, a dramedy about a girl on a quest for confidence.

The band went on to play other songs from Mass Romantic, including the title track and "Mystery Hours," but chose not to do any tunes from their numerous other bands.

A little later in the evening the Manchester peppy pop band Brassy took the stage. Featuring the rapping/singing/cheerleading of Muffin Spencer, sister of Jon Spencer of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Brassy are the kind of band you can't stop yourself from dancing to. They have very simple lyrics and beats, mostly regarding how much cooler they are than every other band, but put on an interesting stage show.

Because each of their songs is an average of two beat-packed minutes, Brassy were able to work in all 14 songs and three interludes from Got It Made into their hour-long set. Highlights included "Work It Out," Spencer going solo on "No Competition" and "B.R.A.S.S.Y."

In case the crowd didn't know, Spencer yelled from the stage that Brassy "stole the show," "rocked the house" and "tore the roof off this f---er." The only thing missing was breakdancing.

Brassy closed out the evening chanting about themselves and making the kids in La Zona Rosa dance uncontrollably — all in all, a successful show.