Live Review: Portugal. The Man at SXSW

“We can make it through the war if we make it through the night,” the words of Portugal. The Man could definitely sum up the experience of South by Southwest. The conference is a flurry of events and tonight landed me at the Do 512 Lounge for an up close and personal performance from this garish group. They wailed on some new tunes from their upcoming album due out in May and finished off strong with their hit, “People Say” as the crowd crooned along. Their psychedelic experimental pop rock sound was omnipresent with each new ditty. Their music enveloped the tiny room–the raucous riffs and virtuous keys almost moved me to tears.

The intimate atmosphere allowed time to chat with frontman John Gourley about their experience recording Portugal. The Man’s first record on Atlantic’s label. At Austin City Limits this October he told me that Atlantic approached them to sign, so he never doubted that the band would maintain full creative authority during recording sessions. There were, however, a few clashes with the album’s producer when the band began their creative process once in the studio as is Portugal. The Man’s customary fashion. As a result Gourley was granted a much more hands on approach to producing their new album due out in May. He was equally enthusiastic about the tour to follow in August.

Bassist Zach Carothers was excited at the prospect of hitting the summer festival circuit. “Bonnaroo was a blast, it was our first major festival and I’m excited to go back this year.” He was also giddy about the second annual Hang Out Music Festival coming up in May “Hang Out looks like a blast,” he gushed. Carothers also expressed his gratitude at having a road crew along with their Atlantic record deal, “now I have someone to schlep my stuff,” noting that the most arduous load-in in recent memory happened at Lincoln Hall in Chicago when he carried his full set-up around a city block and up three flights of stairs. “You know you’re somebody when you have somebody to carry your equipment.”

Colorful and exuberant and full of life on and off stage, Portugal. The Man is a show you won’t want to miss. They’re performances are soulful and core shaking no matter the size of the audience or the venue.

(Photo by Sarah Millender)

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