World Leader Pretend(Pt. 2)


March 17, 2005

World Leader Pretend stood talking in a circle minutes before 2 p.m., when they were scheduled to play an opening six song set for an industry gathering at the SXSW Music Festival Thursday. The band's backstage area was an expanse of concrete behind a white tent that housed a makeshift stage Emo's club was using the whole week.

The band walked into the tent and onto the stage with no fanfare. Very few people had arrived yet, and those who were there kept their distance from the stage. After drummer Arthur Mintz put on his headphones, he launched into "Bang Theory" with a simple yet smart tom-tom beat. Next came guitarist/keyboardist Matt Martin's slicing guitar notes and a programmed string section. The song shot into a climax when
vocalist/pianist/guitarist Keith Ferguson delivered a celebratory scream after the volume on the string section went up.

World Leader Pretend played intelligent pop that drove like rock. The songs were well crafted and enjoyably schizophrenic. Like "Bang Theory," the rest of the set shuffled between sweet and abrasive. Soft and aggravated. With a head-bopping piano rhythm, xylophone notes, a benevolent cowbell, and a marching snare, "Tit for Tat" lulled, but it also rocked out. The band got their many emotions across with bells, programmed horns, fingersnaps, and a tambourine.

The local band played "Panic Button" from their debut album, Fit for Faded, but the rest were from their upcoming May release, Punches. The band was very energetic and thus sold their songs. They acted like they believed in the music. Martin headbanged, bassist Alex Smith had a smile painted on, and Mintz waggled his tongue. As Ferguson's grainy voice soared, he closed his eyes and hung his left hand in the air.

The band was impressive at Emo's, but they were even better later the same night at Maggie Mae's. Ferguson turned on his piano seat and sung to the crowd, while Mintz attacked the drums with an added fervor.

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