On day one of SXSW, Heartless Bastards gave us one of our best memories. If you’ve ever been to SXSW, you know to expect your fair share of problems – venues with awful acoustics, sound problems, and laptop failures for the hipster bands. You expect issues in parking lots set up as makeshift stages, but not at famous Austin venues like Antone’s. But just as Heartless Bastards took the stage at Antone’s and played the first chords of “Parted Ways,” the power in the entire venue shut down and Erika Wennerstrom’s powerful voice became distant, trailing off without the benefit of a microphone. The power came back on a few minutes later and the band tried again. Same result. Then again. Same result.
Lesser bands may have been thrown off by such an unexpected catastrophe in a world-class venue. I’ve seen bands under similar circumstances throw in the towel, incapable of playing the set other than exactly as planned with a sound engineer tweaking controls to make the band’s sound just right. But Heartless Bastards are capable. After the third failed attempt at “Parted Ways,” they all just unplugged, grabbed their acoustics and walked to the front of the stage. The crowd, previously sparse, scattered and chattering across Antone’s, huddled as close to the stage as possible and the room fell silent.
The set, feeling more like a backyard BBQ with friends, was pure magic. The band exchanged jokes and casual conversation with the crowd between songs and Erika’s howling vocals still managed to fill the room. Heartless Bastards’ new album, Arrow, is their strongest effort to date and seeing the songs performed in this stripped down setting only validated its greatness.
This is our second session with Heartless Bastards (check out the first one here) and we were thrilled to welcome them back to Shirk Music + Sound as they passed through Chicago. The video format is a little different this time around, utilizing only a single camera for the duration of the set. The band was recently seen on Letterman and they’re touring like mad (I plan to catch them in Lawrence, KS on 5/29). Check the dates, listen to the session as an appetizer, and treat yourself to a night out at the rock show if they’re passing through town.