SXSW in Review: Pujol, No Regrets Coyote, Diarrhea Planet

The Parish Underground on Friday night was presenting a showcase from Nashville venue Exit/In, made up bands stationed out of that city. Although that city may bring to mind country stars, the bands on the bill proved they could bring the rock just as well. 

No Regrets Coyote kicked off the showcase. I caught word that Evan Donohue from Diarrhea Planet was filling in for an absent guitarist, but I couldn’t tell. The band played loud and fast for a 30-minute set and seemed to impress the rest of the Diarrhea Planet guys that were hanging out in the crowd and swilling beer. There’s a little early-Green Day cheekiness to the band, singing songs about the singer’s hair while chugging along to straightforward rhythms held down by punchy bass riffs. It isn’t as structured as the veteran punks’ work, and the leads provided by Donohue gave it a character that you wouldn’t find on the radio.

If Fletcher C. Johnson is Adam Meisterhans’ outlet for gritty, garage goodness, JP5 is something of a cleaned-up project with a Kinks-esque type of sound. The band’s closing number, “Wait For It,” had plenty of stomp to it, sounding like an echo of Evan Dando and the Lemonheads. JP5 frontman Joseph Plunkett’s choice of haircut and axe, a Rickenbacker, was a tell that he listens to his fair share of power-pop. (Plunkett lived in Athens for a few years about a decade or so ago, so he’s technically one of our own.)

At some point, I realized that with or without a badge I’d be stuck at the Parish Underground the rest of the night. I had considered leaving the joint to meet up with friends to catch Lucinda Williams, but judging from the insanity that was ensuing on 6th Street, there was no chance I would be able to make it there and get in. Instead, I took an hour or so to re-center myself in the back of the venue and wait for Pujol to hit the stage.

I had seen Pujol play the 40 Watt a few months ago, but I had arrived late and caught only a song or two. Decent stuff, but it certainly didn’t captivate me at the time. Standing right up front at the Parish, I got a better sense of the band’s prowess. Daniel Pujol is a capable frontman, but the band’s lead guitarist is an absolute beast. In a few notes, he moves from one end of the fret board to another, sending out high-pitched, squalling solos and fills at lightning-fast speeds. Although Pujol’s gritty rock might be excellently arranged (and, trust me, it is), it’s the fancy guitar work that is worthy of your attention. In a word, Pujol sounds Vampire Weekend for people that actually care about music. Sorority girls may not be into it, but it’s probably not for them, anyway.

Just before Diarrhea Planet took the stage, the Parish Underground began to feel like a shoebox. It was packed to the gills; to my surprise, a group of middle-aged men and women crowded in (a friend that joined me later told me that it was the parents and relatives of the band). When an older gentleman put his half-full beer near the monitor, I politely told him that it wasn’t a good idea to do that and the crowd was about to get crazy. “It’ll be fine,” he said, so I shrugged my shoulders and minded my own business.

It wasn’t fine. Within seconds of the band kicking into the first song, the beer spilled all over Hodan Dickie’s pedalboard, and a delay was called to wipe it off. Shortly after, the band ripped through their pop-punk masterpiece “Babyhead,” complete with the crowd participating in the chants “YOU! BABYHEAD!” Who gives a damn what these songs are about? They’re as much fun as anything I have ever witnesses in my life. I dare you to see this band live and not feel your entire body fill with absolutely joy.

At the end of the band’s set (again, capped by “Ghost with a Boner”), the crowd went absolutely insane. At one point, a belligerently drunk man tried to climb over a monitor. Before the band could really notice, some impressively aware folks in his vicinity held him back, allowing for the shredding to continue with no interruption.

If I hadn’t just witnessed the most spectacular stage-diving I had seen in decades, the riot-level crowd would have been surprising to see. But after seeing Diarrhea Planet, 6th St. was a cakewalk.