Published Apr 03, 2016For the second year in a row, Philadelphia DIY rockers Sheer Mag were the toast of Austin at South By Southwest, stealing all of the buzz. So that made catching them in a tiny, sweaty venue right after the festival feel like one of the last opportunities to do so before the inevitable big time hits. The flames were still scorching on the band too, and the at-capacity venue was in full worship mode, with some wildly excited fans breaking into mosh pits and surfing the crowd.
Fresh off the heels of their third EP's release, Sheer Mag are now official headliners, after last hitting Toronto in the summer supporting Royal Headache. They were poised like headliners too. The five-piece walked out and launched right into their catalogue of EP tracks, which if they cared at all about commercial success, could have been a catalogue of hits.
Whether it was "Can't Stop Fighting," "Nobody's Baby," "What You Want" or "Night Isn't Bright," Sheer Mag belted them out with tight execution that balanced well-oiled musicianship and raw power. Lead guitarist Kyle Seely is a virtuoso with his sleek, Thin Lizzy-esque laser beam solos; he lets them rip with such ease, he could probably also be filing his taxes at the same time.
But the focus remained mostly on lead singer Tina Halladay, who controls a stage with a flawless, don't-give-a-fuck defiance and one of the best guttural voices in the business. The only address she gave the fans was to announce the last song, and the all-business approach to stage banter worked. Each time she pulled her trademark gesture of wiping her mouth with her forearm, it felt like she was a lion admiring her kill. When she sang "I know they don't like the way that I walk," it was hard not to feel like Sheer Mag had just slayed everyone in attendance.