Friday Picks & Sleepers
TGIFriday of SXSW, blurb by blurb
7pm, BD Riley's Lawrence, Kansas' answer to Husker Dü in the Eighties, with a dash of the Wipers' riffy darkness thrown in for seasoning, the Pedaljets accomplished the impossible last year: They issued a comeback album, What's in Between, possibly stronger and more vital than what they'd released in their time. Tight, powerful tunes like "Conversations" are melodically and rhythmically inventive enough to suggest George Martin had produced.
7:20pm, Central Presbyterian Church; Sat., Elysium, 11:30pm Erika M. Anderson's 2011 debut Past Life Martyred Saints was like a self-portrait in a broken mirror: fractured, violent, and oddly revealing. Its bruised urgency challenged in the manner of PJ Harvey or Patti Smith. The Future Void, due in April on Matador, takes inspiration from William Gibson's Neuromancer, a cyberpunk thriller that envisions a paranoid, hyper-connected reality that's fast approaching.
The Boxing Lesson
7:30pm, Swan Dive Austin psych trio the Boxing Lesson finally broke orbit with 2013's sixth LP Big Hits!, an intergalactic indie rock disc with major-label polish and self-assurance. The locals' melodic thrust warps a healthy dose of colored-vinyl standards – journeys through time, space, and a whole bevy of narcotics. It's the rock & roll record your inner 15-year-old always wanted to make. Bless synthesizers and bless their audacity.
7:30pm, St. David's Bethell Hall Now that the new school of solo guitar music has spawned a second wave, bedroom pickers from around the globe suddenly find themselves in the spotlight. Dublin's Cian Nugent certainly incorporates the Takoma school of Fahey acolytes, but doesn't start or end there, preferring instead to occupy a spacier, more psychedelic place on his latest disc Born With a Caul.
Matt the Electrician
8pm, 18th Floor at Hilton Garden Inn Matt Sever wears lots of hats: beloved Austin storyteller, cultivator of an epic beard, and a pretty sharp-looking pork pie hat. Last year, the longtime indie singer-songwriter self-released his eighth LP, It's a Beacon It's a Bell, consistent with his tendency to work in miniature, quirky folk stories of a daily life once dominated by, yes, electrician work.
9pm, Maggie Mae's Gibson Room Nineties rock's original ironists, Urge Overkill delightfully let their Spinal Tap tendencies overtake them and became the decade's masters of the Big Riff. Despite suspicion you'd be squirted by the flower in leader Nash Kato's lapel, UO's arena parodies were well-written and well-crafted, and 2011's Rock & Roll Submarine is a killer comeback.
9:35pm, Swan Dive You'd be forgiven for mistaking Quilt's latest for a Light in the Attic reissue of the Lee Hazlewood Industries catalog. Held in Splendor (Mexican Summer) cues 1967 San Francisco like a Wes Wilson poster, with three-part harmonies, intricate psych-pop guitar, and pastoral lyricism that never succumbs to parody or pastiche. It's an album that comes through in colors – pastels to be specific.
10pm, Shotguns A savvy street poet from the same urban tradition as his contemporary Lou Reed (to whom he'll be paying tribute this week as a performer and panelist), Jeffreys made his bones with a series of Seventies albums that spawned such enduring anthems as "Wild in the Streets" and "Matador." He broke a lengthy recording hiatus with 2011's The King of in Between and the new Truth Serum. A charismatic, authoritative live performer.
The Fresh & Onlys
10:25pm, Swan Dive San Francisco fourpiece the Fresh & Onlys spent the better part of 2009 and 2010 churning out scuzzy, surf-rock psychedelia. After a two-year break, 2012's Long Slow Dance glossed the band to a fault. Last year's Soothsayer EP marries these two extremes, letting the coastal grit out of its cage, but not running rampant.
10:45pm, Central Presbyterian Church Kanye West recently invited James Blake to collaborate; Matthew Barnes, the Merseyside producer behind Forest Swords, would make a better fit. His shadowy vision of dubstep on 2013 breakthrough Engravings aligns nicely with the darker undercurrent of West's Yeezus, with fractured, trip-hop beats and abstract vocal clips so processed and removed they sound like fragments of warped R&B samples. The sound of night terrors.
11:05pm, Hotel Vegas
Japan's Buffalo Daughter was responsible for one of the Nineties' best post-rock albums with New Rock. A decade-plus on, they didn't chart much musical growth on The Weapons of Math Destruction, but guitar wizard Sugar Yoshinaga still knows how to find a line that cuts a linear path through a song and just works it to death. In a good way, assuming you sometimes find variety overrated.
11:45pm, Half Step Power player Kishi Bashi initially made his name as a supporting musician for Sondre Lerche and Of Montreal, but the game changed once the multi-instrumentalist broke out with his 2012 solo debut, 151a (Joyful Noise). Suddenly, the elegantly surreal violinist, who performs solo with a loop machine to spin orchestral, silly, poignant, violent yarns, was everywhere. His second full-length drops this spring.
Wheelchair Sports Camp
11:45pm, 512 Bar Standing 3-foot-6-inches and weighing all of 53 pounds, Kalyn Heffernan appears an unlikely outlet for socially conscious weed raps over experimental funk beats. Alas, the 26-year-old known best for her osteogenesis remains a rap veteran, 17 years into a career that's just starting to see music gather in traditional EP form. Last year's Blank Space could've sprouted from a druggy Blackalicious session.
12mid, Soho Lounge This San Francisco trio, recording for Slumberland Records across the bay in Oakland, used to be three snot-nosed punks. They've quit shoegazing to stare you square in the eye on their Eighties-inspired second album Jinx. In keeping the racket down, they've focused on their increasingly hookier songwriting prowess.
12mid, Esther's Follies One could argue that Copenhagen's Katrine Ottosen is Scandinavia's answer to Tune-Yards. The experimental ethos, vintage keyboards, alt-pop loops, and emotive lyrics all parallel. Yet where the latter is pure chaotic joy, Ottosen arrives more ordered, capitulating to pop conventions, but no less joyful. The first in a trio of EPs, Hidden Waters cues up next.
12mid, Karma Lounge English pop singer Victoria Hesketh remains one of the hottest dancing queens in the UK. The sleek nü-disco of her sophomore disc Nocturnes – follow-up to 2009 debut hit Hands – is made for dancing, and that's just what you'll do. Watch out pop tarts. One of these days Little Boots is gonna walk all over you.
12mid, Lamberts Fresh off a 20th anniversary reissue of the Breeders' Last Splash and subsequent tour, Kelley Deal remains in musicmaking mode. Her project with Mike Montgomery revels in simplicity, touting a spare, voice-guitar-keys formula that works well with her demure growl. The Dayton duo is joined by drummer Kristian Svitak for SXSW.
The Wanton Bishops
12mid, Lit Lounge Legend has it that stomping, Beirut swamp-blues revivalists the Wanton Bishops sprung forth when vocalist/harmonica wailer Nader Mansour leaped in to defend guitarist Eddy Ghossein in a bar fight. The pair kicked ass, then dropped out of promising careers as bankers to hammer through the blues in underground clubs. Hey, it worked for a trainee accountant named Robert Plant.
12mid, Shotguns Murfreesboro, Tennessee's Those Darlins bridge the Ryman Auditorium and Beerland. Featuring the scuzzy stylings of Adrian Barrera and smoky vocals shared by the onetime trio, last year's Blur the Line demonstrated a uniquely Mid-South noir brand of songwriting. A flavor all their own – delightfully regional, fresh, rockin' – Those Darlins define "with a bullet."
12:05am, Hotel Vegas Formerly of Cleveland's experimental drone trio Emeralds, guitarist Mark McGuire casts his net wide under his own steam, embracing New Age atmosphere, Krautrock drive, and his own brand of psychedelic shimmer. January's Along the Way scans as his most fully realized statement yet, a propulsive, mantra-minded travelogue into the outer reaches of inner space.
12:30am, Saxon Pub Willie Nelson/Kinky Friedman smoking buddy Dayton spent the last year concentrating on Zombex, his feature film debut. Blame his other musical conspirator Rob Zombie for that gory diversion. Nevertheless, the lure of rockabilly and hardcore honky-tonk remains strong for the Broken Spoke resident as he defends his title as the hardest-working man in Austin music.
1am, Javelina Teenage punk rocker in Eighties hardcore heroes Heart Attack, Nineties glam-punk hellion in D Generation, NYC's Jesse Malin evolved. Roughly around the time of 9/11, he morphed into a troubadour who could comfortably tour with Alejandro Escovedo and collaborate with Bruce Springsteen. Malin returning to SXSW hopefully signals that he's following up his two 2010 releases of typically Cinemascopic songwriting.
East Cameron Folkcore
1am, Bunaglow Many strange acts have graced St. David's Bethell Hall during SXSW, but folk-rock collective East Cameron Folkcore may have been one of the most memorable, ending its set last year with visuals that were, in short, sacrilegious. Austin's raucous folk-rock collective returns to the Festival this year, but this time at historic Rainey Street's Bungalow, along with early 2013 sophomore disc For Sale.
7pm, Headhunters Patio Shouty, young punks from Toronto, PUP released a previous LP as Topanga, in reference to their favorite TV show, Boy Meets World. Once Disney rebooted the show, they changed names, but tracks like "Reservoir" from their forthcoming, self-titled album keep their tendency toward off-kilter rhythms and those aforementioned shouty vox. The heat PUP generates should push Toronto into its vernal equinox faster.
8pm, Stephen F's Bar Despite being barely 21, Dunja Ercegovic is already a major force in her native Croatia, 2013 debut EP No Room for Us acquiring album of the year honors from her country's music critics. Her husky voice, memorable songs, and percussive guitar strumming – reminiscent of a fully awake Cat Power – seem likely to make fast friends of listeners beyond her home's borders.
8pm, Maggie Mae's; Sat., Parish Underground, 8pm After two false starts in recording a debut, the Shilohs finally released long-player So Wild (Light Organ Records) in 2013, nearly five years after the quartet formed in Vancouver. The album proved worth the wait, saturated with bright pop hooks and Big Star-melodies, with just enough ramshackle Sixties psych-pop. The band's working fast on a follow-up for this year.
8pm, Lamberts As frontman for Austin favorites Milton Mapes and Monahans, Greg Vanderpool has been a prominent force in the local music scene for over a decade. This year will mark his first solo outing. Those recordings work the space between the former band's alt.country vein and the latter's hazy, expansive sound of reverbed acoustic folk, which evokes Neil Young and even led to Robert Plant covering Vanderpool.
8:25pm, Swan Dive Patio Few bands live and breathe rock & roll as deeply as Beaumont power trio Purple. With a fuzz-soaked sonic blueprint, a charismatic beach bunny who kills on drums, and an energy level bred in towns where there's nothing else to do but bash the hell out of instruments, the gleesome threesome burn down anything even resembling a bad mood.
9pm, Headhunters Patio If Rhino ever continues its Poptopia! series chronicling power-pop's evolution, this San Francisco fourpiece is a shoo-in for the 2010s edition. Last year's "Friday" spins urgency, recklessness, and sentimentality into a dirty sweet confection worthy of the middle seat between Flamin' Groovies and the Undertones. If Cocktails maintain that promise with their forthcoming debut LP, you'll never have to think about Rebecca Black again.
9:30pm, Remedy; Sat., Bungalow, 8:30pm A young British soul singer of Jamaican descent, Liam Bailey has a warm voice that captivated the late Amy Winehouse, who released his first two EPs on her Lioness imprint. Comparisons to countryman Michael Kiwanuka are inevitable and not unwarranted, and with no full-length under his belt, Bailey's in a similar position to when Kiwanuka first played SXSW in 2012. His forthcoming debut features production from Fugees and Winehouse collaborator Salaam Remi.
9:45pm, Suite 101; Sat., 1100 Warehouse, 10:05pm V.I.P.'s been holding down the local rap scene for more than a decade, though the success of duo KPaul and Pimpin Pen has been hindered by what their press release describes as "many incarcerations." The pair of cousins, who stay "addicted to paper, allergic to bullshit," perform with a live band, prepping the release of Country Cousins, which will feature guest verses from Freddie Gibbs and Trae tha Truth.
10pm, Flamingo Cantina; Sat., Russian House, 11pm Not to be confused with the macho Kumbia Kings from nearby Corpus Christi, Kumbia Queers assembles an all-lesbian sixpiece specializing in raucous cumbia tunes with a dash of punk rock anarchy. It's a narrow niche, but the group, which features five members from Argentina and one from Mexico, fills it with aplomb. 2012 LP Pecados Tropicales lives up to the billing of "1000% Tropi Punk."
Destroyer of Light
10pm, Lit Lounge Austin's DOL represents that imaginative wave of metal bands who blur boundaries as easily as politicians blur ethics, seeing no difference between death metal, doom, sludge, and good ol' anthemic heavy rock. With one EP in general circulation and a second, Bizarre Tales Vol. 2, due later this year, the riff-happy locals chew up the masses and spit them back out better for the experience.
10:10pm, Tap Room at the Market Time spent on the road supporting Imagine Dragons and Awolnation has kept Zeale, the Crockett High graduate born Valin Zamarron, out of his native Austin, but his absence means the city's finally bred a rapper who's making his full bounty through music. Chalk it up to a dynamic stage presence and high-energy show. A full-length follow-up to 2012 EP Wake Hell or Make Peace is reportedly on the way.
Nive Nielsen & the Deer Children
11pm, Esther's Follies Greenland sweetheart Nive Nielsen hasn't released a full-length since Dec. 2010's Nive Sings!, but that album's crafted like an old blanket – worn in, comfortable, and inviting every time you reach for it. With her Deer Children, a dynamic mix of ukuleles, autoharps, guitars, bongos, and kazoos, she's as busy in North America as she is around Europe.
Happy Jawbone Family Band
11:15pm, Swan Dive Here's one family band you won't find in Branson, Mo. Even so, this Vermont collective's intoxicating slack-pop warble bears an undeniable strain of togetherness. Maybe it's their colorfully slapdash arrangements. Maybe it's the just-folks disposition of living room sing-alongs like "D-R-E-A-M-I-N'" from their new self-titled album on Mexican Summer. Or maybe it's their awesome cover of Mr. T's "Treat Your Mother Right."
12am, Javelina Detroit teens when there was still an MC5 to permanently rewire them, the Dogs wound up in Los Angeles in time to teach Masque-era punks how it was done at the Grande Ballroom. 2012's Hypersensitive shows no tempering in intensity from three OG punks eligible for AARP, and seeing singer/guitarist Loren Molinaire manhandle his Gibson with all the venom of a teenage anarchist remains inspirational.
1am, Friends Meet this young, black-clad punk quartet assaulting audiences with razor-sharp melodic hardcore as led by shit-talking, fireplug shouter Andrew Thomson, who flies around the stage possessed by the music and looking like a man who earned his missing front tooth. The London, Ontario-based bruisers, who turned heads with multiple high-energy SXSW gigs last year, release their debut long-player on XL Recordings imprint Hot Charity this spring.
1am, Plush Chicago mix-master of ceremonies Christoper Shively, who also makes house music as Chris E. Pants, is one of the hottest up-and-coming dance artists and DJs, so he just founded his own Night Owl Cafe label. His pumped-up jams shake the hottest dance floors of the world and now he brings his big beats to your feet.
Youngblood Brass Band
1am, Esther's Follies Formed in Wisconsin in the late Nineties when most of the band was in high school, the 11-piece Youngblood Brass Band is remarkably still doing their thing six albums and 15 years later. Borrowing heavily from the rich tradition of New Orleans, YBB broke through with Unlearn in 2000 thanks to clever covers (Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder) and a killer collaboration with Talib Kweli. New album Pax Volumi remains heavy on the hip-hop and horns.