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This Little Underground

Bao Le-Huu takes on Kasabian, Hacienda, Youth Lagoon, Alcest and more



At the very least, the Trayvon Martin case has triggered people to organize and act in the name of justice. Better come correct, Sanford.

The beat

For every trespass of intellect British block-rockers Kasabian can be guilty of, their total lack of subtlety makes for one motherfucking whopper of a live show (March 18, the Beacham). Their sound was so completely megalithic that it rattled my bones and upset some pretty basic bodily functions (you should see some of the gibberish I tapped into my phone for show notes due to disrupted finger dexterity). With 100-story anthems and a bass response so deep and clean that it would make 2 Live Crew shit their pants, Kasabian's live blitzkrieg just swallows you whole. And I haven't seen a crowd this demonstratively pumped in ages. If there's one thing we can learn from the Brits (or at least avid Anglophiles) it's how to demand an encore. While indie crowds here seem to have difficulty sustaining basic applause for more than five aloof seconds, these fans mustered a chanting, foot-stomping cry straight out of a soccer – er, sorry, futball – stadium that lasted for minutes.Well done, guys.

Despite some considerable stars in place for them, including being on dope imprint Alive Records and under the wing of Dan Auerbach (Black Keys), Texan opener Hacienda has a relatively low profile. But don't sleep on 'em. Their trad-rock has dusty kick, bluesy heft and Southern grandeur. While their sound is thick and juicy, their melodic sense is large but light. And they had me at “Don't Turn Out the Light.”

Considering the lukewarm live reviews they've been garnering, hot new Idaho act Youth Lagoon (March 21, the Social) gave a legit performance.Besides genuine piano chops, principal Trevor Powers showed that he has a lovely and able voice in reality, a bit of a surprise considering how secondary his vocals are in the studio mix. Although there's scale and volume to their show, their typically florid music is actually more distilled live. In rolling back some of the layers, they prove that concrete songwriting fundamentals are what anchor this whole thing. It also highlights the flair for dramatic, unfolding arc in Powers' arrangements. Like a good cook, he knows that some things need time and patience to come out just right. And his measured compositional blooms always deliver the payoff.

Opener Dana Buoy is the side project of Akron/Family percussionist Dana Janssen, but don't be too misled by that pedigree. On his own, his indie pop has some nice moments and sounds. But he and an additional player didn't really do enough live playing to flip over or anything. Apart from live singing and some live guitar and bass, the rest of the mostly electronic music was either tracked or simply adjusted with some knob-twisting. Despite a decent debut album coming out May 8, their live performance had some outright gooey tendencies that could sometimes overwhelm and corn up the affair.

Actually, speaking of soft bellies,there was considerable hype leading up to the show by French metal expansionists Alcest (March 22, Will's Pub) – both public and my own internal kind – based on the moving material heard online. Unfortunately, they're a fraction of the mass, gaze and transcendentalism their music suggests. Live, their proportions are slight and soft in a way that emphasizes their least flattering impulses to the verge of cheese – Velveeta, not Roquefort. Are they the Winger of black metal? Perhaps, at least in concert. Lesson: Maybe you should be realistic about what you'll get from a bunch of French hair farmers.

Totally stealing (and saving) the show was San Francisco opener Deafheaven, whose sound scales the wuthering heights of gale-force post-metal and screamo. They definitely drop a big slab of pure intensity but have the agility, touch and range of post-rockers. Violently forlorn in a way that's sublime, their sonically heavy but unquestionably beautiful music is like a soundtrack for the most epic and severe extremes of the Earth. Live, they come with a force-of-nature velocity that feels like a tornado touching down on the roof above you. And for a guy who looks kinda like a stylishly brooding member of Interpol,singer George Clarke sure can shred a throat properly.

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