by David Downs
Thursday night in downtown Austin and the town heaved with bodies jostling for position at the next free, buzz show. Outside club Red 7, the $8 cover deterred the music-saturated crowd and thinned the audience for Oakland modern rock act the Heavenly States. Which is a shame, because The States debuted some bombastic and haunted new material from an upcoming EP to a small crowd of critics and fans of the eight-year-old act. Veterans of multiple grueling, three-day road trips to Austin, the States flew to SXSW this year and were the better for it. Charismatic lead singer Ted Nesseth seems to have found an Isaac Brock-like warble during Modest Mouse-esque segments of States material, and he remained magnetic on songs off of 2008's Delayer. Genevieve Gagon was rocking her fiddle to great effect, evoking Titus Andronicus, their sonic cousins from New Jersey. Drummer Jeremy Gagon seems to have gotten progressively better over the last few years in proportion to his hair’s wildness, and his mop is quite long and crazy now. Bassist Masanori Christianson is ever the rhythmic Gibraltar: get a piece of the rock. The States closed with a cover of the Violent Femmes’ “Prove My Love,” and relaxed until more gigs Friday.