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SXSW ’08: Champions & Next Big Tings

Lyndsey Parker
Maximum Performance

Every SXSW has had its great Brit hopes. In 2007, it was Amy Winehouse, the Fratellis, and Mika. 2006 brought us Editors, the Arctic Monkeys, and KT Tunstall. In 2005, it was Bloc Party, the Futureheads, and Kasabian. 2004 was all about Franz Ferdinand. As you can see, not all of these acts enjoyed the same level of post-South By Southwest success in America--at least in the commercial sense.

Well, two of the British buzz biggies for SXSW 2008 are Lightspeed Champion and the Ting Tings, both of whom played Wednesday night--though luckily at different, relatively adjacent venues and in non-conflicting timeslots, thus making the evening's gig schedule easily organizable for the festival's many attending Anglophiles.

Lightspeed Champion--aka Devonte Hynes, the former Test Icicles dance/punk/metal rocker who radically reinvented himself as a Russian-hatted folkie and recorded his debut album in Nebraska with Saddle Creek Records' resident producer, Mike Mogis--performed first, over at Antone's as part of the Domino Records showcase. (Domino is the label that introduced America to such imports as the aforementioned Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys.) With his big hollowbody guitar, big Buddy Holly specs, and big fiddle-enhanced backup band, Mr. Champion gave a truly winning performance, full of sweet, ragged charm.

As his set ended, Sir Lightspeed informed the audience that after his show he was either going to attend the Playboy party, or retire to his hotel room with his just-purchased Lost DVDs. Now, I would've guessed that the Test Icicles-era Dev would've gone with the Playboy option, but somehow it was easier to imagine his new kinder, gentler incarnation tucked up in bed by 11pm. So I'm going to guess he chose option #2. He should have, anyway, given that this was only the first of about 12 promotional gigs on his SXSW schedule--so the guy needs to pace himself.

Later over at Buffalo Billiards came the midnight set by the sexy, electrofunky Manchester coed twosome the Ting Tings, playing a showcase sponsored by KCRW (the tastemaking L.A. college radio station that famously introduced a little band called Coldplay to America). Well, I don't know if the Ting Tings will be as big as Coldplay, but judging from their Buffalo Billiards performance, I predict their frontwoman Katie White just may be the biggest blonde-bombshell rockgirl pinup in America since Debbie Harry. One of those enviable, enigmatic, guys-wanna-date-her-girls-wanna-be-her types, the woman positively oozed rock 'n' roll charisma--whether she was banging on a cowbell, jackhammering away on her low-slung guitar, captivating the crowd with her sultry heavy-lidded stare, or jumping about the stage like a spastic jazzercise instructor in her metallic blue Spandex leggings.  The girl's just got it.

So, will Lightspeed Champion win over America? Will the Ting Tings be the next big thing? Contemplate these questions as you enjoy these awesome photos of Katie White in action last night:

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