Heartless Bastards is a band made for SOhO’s stage. They’re made for sweating under a handful of dusty can lights, playing on a riser barely two feet off the ground, and being so close to the crowd that you can make out the smeared entry stamps on the back of their hands from four rows back. Otherwise talented bands sometimes struggle at SOhO, forced to vie for space and sound control with a busy bar and bustling kitchen, but the Austin quartet seemed right at home.
They began with little fanfare — leading off the show with “Marathon,” the slow-building first track on 2012’s Arrow. Somewhere in the middle, the bar cleared out, the crowd pressed closer, and the show really took off. Frontwoman Erika Wennerstrom’s voice is an anomaly in modern indie music — a jagged croon outside of the norm for a female singer that blends perfectly with the band’s polished, fuzzy distortion. Songs tend to run long — Wennerstrom’s catchy hooks and refrains often give way to guitar and bass interludes that rock hard enough they don’t seem to drag. “Winter in the Blood” saw openers Jonny Fritz (who played a solid folk-country set shortly before) return to the stage before guitarist Mark Nathan, bassist Jesse Ebaugh and drummer Dave Colvin let loose on “Down in the Canyon.” The Bastards dipped behind the curtain briefly after around 17 songs before coming back onstage with two more, ending with a crushing performance of “Sway,” The Mountain’s closing track.