More Fun in the New World: Billy Altman's SXSW 2012 Diary, Day Four

I've been attending the South By Southwest music festival for many years, but I can't ever recall ever hearing the particular sound I encountered late Friday night at Stubb's: squealing. And I mean the kind of squealing that means only one thing – female hormones on the march. 

The object of this spontaneous burst of youthful excitement was one Nate Ruess, the cuddly lead singer of fun., who will leave this festival as one of its biggest breakout stars. They are aptly named, as the energetic New York-based quintet plays nothing but pop-pop-pop music that's as sprightly and upbeat as it light as a feather. Like predecessors Sugar Ray and Sublime, fun. hints at reggae without ever actually playing it, and with an up-with-people high school musical vibe is about as perky as, well, as perky as the kids from Glee, who just happened to help introduce fun.'s "We are Young" a few months ago. Since then, the tune has turned up on an episode of Chuck as well as a Super Bowl car ad; of such clever maneuvers are modern hit singles, and hit groups, born.   

Speaking of maneuvers, take some Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, add a few tart teaspoons of the Smiths and you've got the basic attitudinal snd well as musical formula for the Drums, another up-and-coming NYC band who followed fun. on Friday night and were quite the spectacle in their own right thanks to their frontman, Jonathan Pierce. The contrast between Ruess and Pierce was striking: While Ruess worked to and off the crowd with buoyant enthusiasm, Pierce worked mostly to himself and over the audience, prancing to and fro to his own inner Morrissey and gesturing to the crowd with bizarre boy scout-like hand signals. Nonetheless, he certainly got everyone's attention. No squealing, though. 

More from the SXSW 2012 Diary:

Day One: Keeping Austin Weird With Joe "King" Carrasco

Day Two: Alabama Shakes, Black Flamingo, Gemma Ray

Day Three: The Boss Speaks: Bruce's Keynote Address

Wrap: Nerves, Alejandro Escovedo, Standells, more