Moody Theater/Billboard Showcase at SXSW
March 14, 2012
Last night, four hours before Lionel Ritchie was set to take the stage at the Moody Theater -- the place where they film Austin City Limits -- Oakland's Wallpaper. showed off its throbbing crunk-pop to a nearly empty room. Ricky Reed and Co. must have noticed the excess of space just about everywhere, but they didn't let on. Instead, the five members strutted around like megastars and went deep into their silly, bass-driven pop, offering a peek at what this Bay Area staple will look and sound like now that it's signed to a major label.
That is, in a word, big: Two people on a drum kit, one dude on percussion, an immensely charismatic female singer/keytarist, and of course, Ricky Reed himself, who last night hobbled around wearing pants that looked like a cross between spandex and a kimono. With light-up drums on either side of the stage, and synchronized clapping during seemingly every song, Wallpaper. came off like a futuristic neon freakshow -- albeit one comically fixated on swilling booze and saying dumb things. Those dorm-humor lyrics raise a question, though: As this band gets larger, will casual listeners decipher the jabbing jokes inside the songs? Or will they take them at their face, and think pop has managed to get even stupider than the Black Eyed Peas?
Last night's set closed, of course, with "Best Song Everrr" -- which is now on radio stations across the country -- and "Stupidfacedd," which is Wallpaper.'s current high-water mark. The former sounded even more disjointed live than on record, and requires a bit more actual singing than the ever-moving Reed can muster on stage. But the initial bass hit of "Stupidfacedd" sent an attention-grabbing shock through the room, and kept the crowd grinning through the rest of the set. It ended, like seemingly every Wallpaper. live song does, with all five members standing up, clapping their hands above their heads. Last night they came close to out-numbering the clappers in the audience, but that probably won't be the case for long.