By Ryan Dombal
Updated March 18, 2006 at 09:05 PM EST
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MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE Taking a break from recording the follow-up to 2004’s mega-selling Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, these theatrical New Jersey punks ignited the relatively small Austin club Emo’s with a quick set of searing bombast. Hardly in need of extra publicity or a record deal, the group instead graced SXSW to help promote a breast-cancer charity and play on the same bill as their idols, hardcore cult heroes Lifetime. But the show’s philanthropic aims didn’t stop MCR frontman Gerard Way from dropping numerous between-song F-bombs, or the band from charging full-throttle with an arsenal of monster riffs on tracks including “I’m Not Okay (I Promise),” “You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us in Prison,” and “Helena.” As the slobbering faithful chanted “one more song” after the band’s initial exit, MCR returned to unveil a new, partially complete opus. Featuring a “na-na-na” finale that had the crowd instantly singing along, the song suggested an even more pop-friendly future for the rambunctious quintet. Download a live version of “Helena” at Purevolume, listen to several tracks at the MCR MySpace page, or buy their music at iTunes.

(My Chemical Romance: Barry Brecheisen/WireImage.com)

THE SUBWAYS A good attitude can go a long way for a budding band. Take these fresh-faced Brits, whose power-chord rawk tunes mostly sound like strikingly derivative Oasis castoffs. Yet, even without the best material to draw from, the three-piece’s unflappable energy trumped lazy songwriting live. Playing to a large outdoor crowd, the youngsters won nearly everyone over while scaling tall stacks of amplifiers and starting many clap-along choruses. Consistently trying to top each other’s energized charisma, lead singer/guitarist Billy Lunn and bassist Charlottle Cooper ran back and forth across the wide stage throughout much of the concert. Cooper’s unflagging stamina was especially impressive; head-banging, jumping, and swishing her shoulder-length blond locks side to side, the spunky teen whirled like a mini-tornado. Watch Subways videos and listen to tracks from their debut album, Young for Eternity, for free at their site.

TED LEO & THE PHARMACISTS Over the course of four solo albums and countless gigs, punk-pop powerhouse Ted Leo has proven to be the most consistent man in indie-rock and also one of the genre’s best live performers. And, as usual, he lived up to his impeccable reputation at this year’s SXSW. Equipped with a bevy of whip-smart should-be hits, the much-loved roustabout ripped through favorites like “Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?” and “Dial Up.” Apparently battling a worn-down throat throughout his performance, the high-pitched singer finally relented during his encore and offered an audience member to step up to the mic and complete the song. And, as that lucky devotee delivered the song’s lyrics with endearing amateurish passion, all Leo could do was grin. Did I mention he’s also the nicest guy in indie-rock? Download tons of MP3s for free at Ted’s site, including demo versions of tracks that have yet to be released.

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