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Keeping in time
Girl in a Coma performs loud, fast, and hard in Austin
By Erik Adams
Published: February 15th, 2008 | 2:55pm

February 13, In Austin — You could have been robbed of your hearing Wednesday night and still follow every musical move made by Girl in a Coma, Adrian and the Sickness, and The Sweethearts — you’d just have to watch the band members’ facial expressions.

From Nina Diaz’s curled upper lip and raised left eyebrow, you could catch the barreling swagger of Girl in a Coma’s “Say.” Zeroing in on her eyes, you could trace the progression of the band’s propulsive single “Clumsy Sky,” from slowly-strummed intro (cast downward) to snarling verses (wide open and wild) to ascendent bridge (appropriately pointed skyward).

In the ludicrous guitargasm faces of Adrian Conner, you could suss out the fact that Conner spent time playing Angus Young in an AC/DC tribute band, while checking in with the more restrained countenances of the Sickness (bassist Heather Webb and drummer Nina Singh) confirmed they’re merely passengers on the band’s genre-hopping ride to Crazy Town.

Linette Sweetheart’s sideways glances would translate the flirtatious end of her eponymous group’s pop punk, but also embody a timidness you wouldn’t expect from a band that’s shared the stage with Marky Ramone. She and her fellow Sweethearts gained some ground near the end of their stage time, but early on, you’d probably feel a little awkward.

Something else that could have been appreciated sans sound: an infectious confluence of Texas pride and homecoming reverie. Having recently returned from a European jaunt with Morrissey (fact: deriving your band name from a Smiths song increases your chances of opening for the Pope of Mope by 400 percent), simple comforts like Lone Star Beer had the San Antonians in Girl in a Coma in a tizzy, and the Emo’s crowd was more than happy to reciprocate their enthusiasm.

Of course, most people attend rocknroll concerts because they possess functioning organs of Corti, and what reached the inner ear Wednesday night was a grab-bag of styles loud, fast, and hard. Building on the symbiotic buzz in the room, Girl in a Coma burned through a quick set and a three-cover encore, ending with a double-time hardcore take on Radiohead’s “Creep.” With her drumming older sister Phanie giving the songs an incessant cymbal wash, Diaz pulled double duty as vocalist and time-keeper, her right arm strumming like a piston pumping out blasts of distorted power chords. The band is punk in attitude, if not necessarily in sound, borrowing some crunch from pre-Nevermind college rock and coming to its ballad style by way of heavy Smiths influence.

Girl in a Coma manages to wear these kinds of things on its sleeve, while still processing them into a cohesive sound. Adrian and the Sickness, however, take a more compartmentalized approach, relegating certain songs to certain styles: There’s a reggae/ska song, some heavy-as-a-semi-truck metal, a few moments of thrashing virtuosity (why, yes, she can play “Flight of the Bumblebee” at a brisk clip, thanks for asking!). It’s befitting of Conner’s hyperkinetic stage presence that her sound be so unfocused. Unfortunately, this comes at the cost of any sort of identity outside of dreadlocks-flipping head-banging and obnoxious facial contortions.

Oh, if only Conner hadn’t taken all the silly faces in Austin, she could have shared some with the sourpuss instrumentalists in the Sweethearts. Then again, a scowl is general issue when you’re playing the Sweethearts' kind of '76-'77 CBGB pop punk, along with power stances, buzz-saw guitars, and a bassist who does that throw-your-head-back-on-the-down-beat tic. So, if you ever lose your hearing at a Sweethearts show, at least you’ll never lose your rhythm!