Author(s): Renee Graham, Globe Staff Date: April 14, 2005 Page: D5 Section: Arts


Anyone who's ever wondered or questioned why Austin, Texas, has been long renowned as the home of this nation's most dynamic music scene needed to be at Axis Tuesday.

Not only were Lone Star State heroes . . . And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead headlining the show, but they brought along three other Austin-based bands, whose music could not have been more diverse. From the milky folk of The Black to the weird, wonderful The Octopus Project, this was an enthralling, eclectic night. "We may be pretentious art [expletives], but we like to rock," Trail of Dead singer, drummer, and guitarist Jason Reece told the audience before his band launched into the aptly named "Caterwaul." Does Trail of Dead have artsy experimental leanings? Yes. But make no mistake this band plays the kind of brain-rattling noise rock that's as cathartic as it is bruising.

Playing several selections, including "Will You Smile Again?" and "The Best," from their latest album, "Worlds Apart," Reece traded off lead vocals with cofounder Conrad Keely, who also plays drums and guitar. From Keely's yowl to Reece's howl, there was no letup in the abrasive passion of their songs. They even offered vintage selections such as "It Was There That I Saw You," from 2002's "Source Tags & Codes."

Reece and Keely joined The Black during that band's half-hour set. The Black was followed by The Sword, the evening's first highlight, a sludgy, prog-rock quartet with lots of big guitars and monstrous drums.

And here's a vote for The Octopus Project as the greatest band ever. Its four multi-instrumentalists opened their spellbinding set by donning three-hole polarized outlet masks, which resembled anxious smiley faces. Unconventional but without forced quirk, dark yet dreamy, the band members performed electronic dance-textured instrumentals from their album, "One Ten Hundred Thousand Million," complete with xylophone and best of all gorgeous Theremin solos.