Friday started with a bang - a really fucking loud bang, in the form of local rock heroes Radkey
. The nearly legal trio of brothers kicked off the Spin Day Party at Stubb's outdoors on the main stage around noon, and seeing the boys repping KC on such a prestigious stage brought a little blooming flower of pride to my heart. For their part, the brothers Radke took the unassuming crowd by surprise.
Some dude next to me turned to his friend in the middle of Radkey's first song. "Who is this?" he asked.
I decided to help them out. "This is Radkey," I said, restraining myself from overloading these strangers with information ("... .and they're all brothers, and they've been home-schooled and raised on rock and roll, and the oldest one is only 20, and that's their dad, Matt, over there - he manages them - and they have the coolest relationship ever, and they're from St. Joseph, Missouri, and you should know who they are
," are all things I wanted to say, but didn't.)
"Radkey? This is tight, man. I like it." I spelled the name for them, and the dudes moved up closer.
As the 18-year-old bassist and middle bro, Isaiah, attacked his strings, he approached the pit and pulled wacky rock faces, surely giving the dozen or so photographers something for their portfolios. As usual, Isaiah took the lead in crowd banter, something he pulls off with a coarse kind of charm.
"Fuck yeah, SXSW and shit. It's awesome playing in Austin," he said, somewhat breathlessly, after the first song. "It's hot as fuck, though. Not as hot as last year. Last year was a motherfucker. This song is a motherfucker. It's called 'Cat and Mouse.'"
This was the first time I'd seen Radkey on a large stage in front of an audience that wasn't full of locals. It was revelatory. The band was on point, the vocals stacked precisely. Radkey's brand of rock and roll is designed to look messy and sound unrehearsed, a front that the brothers accomplish well, but there's a firmly controlled musicianship underneath - one of the biggest things that set Radkey apart from, well, bands that are
messy and don't rehearse.
followed Radkey on the smaller outdoor stage almost immediately, and I had been wanting to see them all week. But Radkey proved a hard act to follow, and although the Orwells had some dynamic chord progressions, I couldn't really find much else to hold my attention. They sounded like rock-lite following the blistering set from Radkey, and I heard others in the crowd around me remarking similarly.