Nebraska’s musical contingency at SXSW took on forms from traditional polka to electronic music-backed performance art. Here’s what our eyes and ears took in:

Harouki Zombi:

Featuring Orenda Fink (Azure Ray, Art In Manila, O+S) and Nina Barnes (Of Montreal), this dance/performance art project aims and fires at all senses, with spinning dance beats providing the soundtrack to a cast of characters that included five geisha girls (who’d were at times danced with, felt up and grinded on by a Green Man). Feathers, fake blood, sex, smoke, and glitter bombs … played prominent roles, as well. I won’t pretend to know what the hell was going on, but it was awesome.

— Andrew Norman

The Mynabirds:

Omaha favorites The Mynabirds brought a good crowd to their day show at the Jackalope, while offering great pop appeal on songs from their upcoming album Generals. Laura Burhenn still taps into a smooth, soul music-rooted indie pop with her songs, but newer material seems more rock-oriented, accentuating beats that propel the newer songs faster than anything found on the band’s first album. It’s a sound that easily put the band in the top-tier of a current crop of bands revitalizing the sounds of ’60s pop for today’s indie crowds. Tennis and She & Him have some pretty crafty company now.

— Chris Aponick

Bolzen Beer Band: 

After walking a couple blocks, the Lincoln polka-rock band chose a spot in front of the bar Last Stand at the Alamo near Colorado Street, where Searight set up her stool, snare and cymbals as Brazier and Socha began bouncing around, yelling at folks to get their attention. A curious crowd instantly formed in a circle around them.

“We’re the Bolzen Beer Band from Lincoln, Neb.,” Socha yelled, though his strained voice was barely audible above the intoxicated festival goers. Searight pounded on her snare a few times indicating her readiness and they launched into a traditional polka song more about the beat than the words (which you couldn’t hear). Socha bounced around, kicking his feet into the air and getting up in people’s faces while Brazier playfully interacted with onlookers that included three 50-something men wearing yellow, blue and green paper birthday hats.

— Andrew Norman

Eli Mardock:

After dinner, I headed to Uncorked for the Paper Garden Records/My Old Kentucky Blog showcase to see Eli Mardock’s new band, featuring his wife Carrie on keys, Joey Manthey (The Guapatones) on guitar, Ian Aeillo (The Golden Age) on bass, and for the first time, Ian Francis (The Machete Archive) on drums… I’d never seen the former Eagle Seagull frontman with his new band, and I only recognized a couple of the songs. But I liked what I heard. I’m excited to hear the songs recorded.

— Andrew Norman

Icky Blossoms:

Every time I’ve seen an Omaha band in Austin, the crowd consisted mostly of Omaha people who made the trip. Such was the case last night for Icky Blossoms. I looked around and felt like I was watching a show in O’Leaver’s or The Waiting Room. There even was some guy I didn’t recognize wearing a Waiting Room T-shirt. Needless to say, the audience of 50 or so was gracious with its applause, and, in fact, IB put on a sterling set, especially for playing at a rib joint.

— Tim McMahan

Fresh off of recording their debut album with TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek, Icky Blossoms showed off their hot, new line-up to kick off Saddle Creek Records’ SXSW showcase. The band hits on the current, red-hot ’80s pop-meet-psychedelic dance thread that runs through bands like pastoral sound-noodlers like Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear, chill-waving Washed Out and nu-new romantics like M83. What elevates Icky is their over-the-top groove, which makes the desire to dance like you completely lost your mind almost compulsory.

— Chris Aponick

Big Harp:

Having never seen Big Harp live, this wasn’t the same band I recognized from that down-tempo, often-acoustic folk album. Backed by drums, husband-and-wife duo Chris Senseney and Stefanie Drootin-Senseney played almost entirely new material, and it rocked hard. In frontman Chris Senseney, “Saddle Creek may have found their guitar hero,” said Omahan Ian Aeillo, who was in town playing bass for Eli Mardock. It’s true, Senseney shreds that six-string. I’m excited to hear the new record so I can get to know these songs.

— Andrew Norman

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