SXSW Friday Showcases
Friday showcases: Stay local (Western Vinyl) or surf Japan Nite, plus reggae Bass Culture.
As the anniversary of Japan's devastating earthquake and ensuing tsunami passes, the Pacific island nation's riveting, rocking musical community makes its mark at the annual Japan Nite showcase, beginning with fashion-forward Yokohama-based Rubies, a high-energy pop quartet featuring ex-members of the theatrical Emeralds (a SXSW presence from 2004 to 2008). Also arriving on the bill is the eagerly anticipated 24-year-old banjo phenom Saito Johnny, whose String Cheese Incident/Wasabi Highway sound won his Tokyo bluegrass band an opening slot on Taylor Swift's Far East tour. As usual, you can never count out Japan's latter-day riot grrrls, who follow in Shonen Knife's subversive steps. Lovely ladies include Tokyo's cheeky goth trio Akabane Vulgars on Strong Bypass, and ZZZ's, a driving, droning post-punk trio from the North Coast community Hyogo (it played in a previous incarnation last year as Hystoic Vein). The remaining bands include Kao=S and Osaka's Nokies! and Vampillia, respectively a grab bag of chaotic acoustic sounds and sword dancing, post-punk pop, and Nipponese nu-metal.
– Dan Oko
Third Man Records
7:30pm, the Stage on Sixth & the Stage on Sixth Patio
Third Man Records literally rolled into South by Southwest last year. Owner Jack White turned his innovative Nashville, Tenn., label into a rolling record store, hosting a generator-powered show in the Frank parking lot and selling limited LPs across town from a window in his tricked-out step van. Never one for idle hands, expect White to perform in some capacity, given his upcoming proper solo debut, Blunderbuss, and the fact that he's either produced or played on most of Third Man's releases, notably for model/chanteuse Karen Elson, goth girls the Black Belles (who play Sat., 10pm, at Mohawk Patio), and Australia's Lanie Lane, who looks and sounds like a vintage rockabilly pin-up gal. Actor John C. Reilly walks harder in real life than Dewey Cox, with two 7-inch singles to prove it, while Nashville's Pujol offers a promising dose of garage-pop. Brooklyn's suave White Rabbits just released their career best, Milk Famous, but most eyes will be on Electric Guest, a Los Angeles duo whose debut for Downtown Records, Mondo, out April 24, was produced by Danger Mouse and sounds like a more promising version of Broken Bells. As for special guests, let's hope it's not the label's most controversial collaborators: I.C.P. – Austin Powell
Jail Guitar Doors
7:30, Swan Dive
Jail Guitar Doors' mission is both simple (donating musical instruments to prisoners) and complex (hoping those instruments will help in those prisoners' rehabilitation). The South by Southwest edition begins with Magic Wands, an androgynous, slinky Nashville, Tenn., duo whose sexy psychedelia finds the sweet spot between the Raveonettes and Tom Tom Club. Power trio Beware of Darkness hail from Los Angeles and have been likened to a cross between Led Zeppelin and David Bowie's Hunky Dory with a literary bent. North Carolina's Flagship revolves around the dramatic keen of Drake Margolnick, who leads his band to howl, seethe, or soothe. Local garage-rock ensemble and veteran JGD supporters English Teeth is joined here by Ryan Bingham bassist-turned-singer Elijah Ford and underrated Americana rebel Otis Gibbs. Wayne Kramer, JGD co-founder and rock & roll legend, never fails to kick out the jams, motherfucker, and never more so than in support of a righteous cause. Taking a break from the Rage Against the Machine reunion, Tom Morello, aka the Nightwatchman, brings his postmodern protest songs to the headline slot. – Michael Toland
8pm, Victorian Room at the Driskill
Tying into Saturday's 2pm panel at the Austin Convention Center, Bass Culture offers acknowledgment of generations of rebellious Britons having saluted the red, gold, and green. As Third Wave reggae has blown up internationally, its offshoots – dubstep, grime, jungle, et al. – have also emerged a dominant force in mainstream English culture. Supported by Arts Council England, up-and-comers and legends start with rootsy Rasites, playing originals to make Steel Pulse proud. On the strength of his soulful, genre-bending 2008 reggae reboot Man Like I (Atlantic) silky-voiced Natty, son of a South African mother and Anglo-Italian father, has toured with Adele and Ziggy Marley. The showcase will not be all rebel stances and smoking spliffs, though the latter couldn't hurt when it comes to Little Roy. In 1965, Roy first sang at Studio One in Kingston. Forty-seven years later, his still-strong pipes lend voice to Nirvana cover album Battle for Seattle (Ark Recordings). Mixtape MC Lady Leshurr, sometimes called the female Busta Rhymes, spits like the Streets and arrives to break up the pickle party. DJ Kenny Ken is also of the moment. – Dan Oko
8pm, Beauty Bar
Building off a Left Coast legacy from Freestyle Fellowship to Pharcyde, the Quannum crew breathed life into Bay Area hip-hop previous to the new millennium with relentless creativity. Backpacker anthems "A to G" and "Alphabetic Aerobics" proved Blackalicious MC Gift of Gab one of the all-time great verbal acrobats, while Lyrics Born and Lateef the Truthspeaker pushed the sonic boundaries of hip-hop as Latyrx. Although not on the same label, Chali 2na, whose bouncing baritone anchored Jurassic 5 harmonies, embodied a similar ethos. The crew reunites on this night with help from West Coast vets Eligh & Amp Live, formerly of Living Legends and Zion I, respectively, who recently teamed up for Therapy at 3. (Shockingly accurately) self-described "half-retarded super electro-charged sex rap" of Colorado's Cobraconda opens, while Minnesota (the DJ, not the state) offers an interlude of throbbing dubstep and glitch-hop.
– Thomas Fawcett
Among the most underrated labels in indie rock, Austin's Western Vinyl helped establish the Dirty Projectors, Here We Go Magic, and J. Tillman, the latter showcasing for Sub Pop this year as Father John Misty. Better known as a soundtrack composer having worked for David Gordon Green among others, David Wingo takes a similarly narrative approach with Old Podrida, his compelling and increasingly electric indie folk project. Expect a new album later this year. Weatherford's Botany is a one-man sound sculptor creating organic instrumental collages, haunting and ethereal. Lower Dens guitarist Carter Tanton released his long-awaited solo bow last year, a prismatic collection of Californian psych-pop that deserves a closer listen. Headliner Lushlife offers a rewarding change of pace. The rapper and bedroom composer born Raj Haldar melds fractured, Roc-A-Fella-esque beats with Philadelphia soul and lo-fi production into a provocative strain of avant-hip-hop on his late 2011 cassette/digital mixtape No More Golden Days. His proper label debut, Plateau Vision, bolsters his crossover appeal with contributions from Heems of Das Racist, Titus Andronicus' Andrew Cedermark, and Memphis rapper Cities Aviv. – Austin Powell