SXSW news and sightings
After a long night of showcase-hopping in which I witnessed Chilean punk bands, Doctor Who-themed rappers, and soul cowboy badass Barfield singing at C-Boy's Heart & Soul on South Congress while esteemed locals Gary Clark Jr. and Mike Judge watched, it wasn't easy getting up after three hours sleep to catch Lucius play an 8am set for KUTX Live at the Four Seasons Wednesday.
But it was worth it.
The eclectic pop quartet, led by the dazzling, double-barrel harmonies of twinlike vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, packed the hotel's giant ballroom, leaving fans hanging in the doorways for a glimpse. Operating with a stripped-down stage show, the Brooklyn fivepiece leaned on the most vocally-oriented tracks from 2013's Wildewoman, and brought down the house with every song, especially closer "Turn It Around," which prompted a standing ovation.
Five sun-baked hours later, Los Angeles' goth Go-Go's, Dum Dum Girls, strummed through a nonchalant 35-minute set at Spotify House on East Sixth before seriously upping the ante with a closing cover of Blondie's "Dreaming."
"I'd like to introduce you to one of our idols and inspirations," glowed vocalist Dee Dee Penny as Debbie Harry jogged onstage, her bleached hair and floral skirt colorizing the L.A. quintet's monochromatic image and her seasoned showmanship amplifying collective charisma tenfold.
After the song, Penny hugged Harry and couldn't hide a smile that read, "Dream come true."
Kirin J. Callinan
Ask me who's the most intriguing underground artist at SXSW Music 2014 and I'll introduce you to Kirin J. Callinan. The Aussie surrealist, boasting Bowie-like chameleon skills, shifts between roles of splatter-painting noise guitarist, deep crooner, and confrontational, seminaked wild man from song to song.
The unity of those disparate talents makes his live show a charged package. The Sydney-based provocateur, whose debut full-length, Embracism, launched on XL Recordings last year, remains best known for his bizarre music videos, in which he's often nude or playing absurd characters.
"I write songs like stories and I want to invite you into the world as if it were a film. I want you to become emotionally invested in the song," Callinan explained, adding that within his character-driven approach, "There's some consistent and pervading ideas: questions of masculinity, physicality, spirituality, and other forms of love, specifically from the perspective of a confused and cagey Australian male."
Callinan showcases tonight, 9:15pm, on Cheer Up Charlie's inside stage, a performance he promises will include "chaos and confusion, aiming to entertain and arouse."
Mary Onettes Make It to the U.S.
Catching a performance by Sweden's the Mary Onettes has become an increasingly rare opportunity for American audiences. The dream-pop quartet was forced to cancel its North American tour this month due to visa issues. It would've been their first stateside tour in five years. Another in 2010 was called off on account of volcanic eruptions in Iceland.
Both cancellations were disheartening, says singer Philip Ekström, but thanks to an assist from SXSW, they were able to make a short trip for a couple of showcases today. These will be their first performances since releasing the sonically spacious Portico last week, a quick return from last year's Hit the Waves, which fans waited more than three years for.
"I'm always on a creative streak, but the problem is that I end up being too picky about the songs, analyzing too much," admits Ekström. "With Portico, we just did it really fast. We ignored that the songs weren't perfect and saw that as a strength for the album instead."
Fans won't wait long for the group's next release; Ekström's decided Portico, Part 2 will arrive in the fall.
The Mary Onettes play twice today, noon on the Convention Center's International Day Stage, and 1am at Lucille, just past the SouthBites food court at 77 Rainey.
• Melvin's guitar Goliath Buzz Osborne hits the Record Label Rummage Sale today, noon-5pm at Obsolete Industries (1200 E. 12th), playing a solo acoustic set – an unthinkable move for the renowned distortion monger. In conjunction with the current tour, his first as a singer-songwriter, King Buzzo will release a limited 10-inch vinyl pressing entitled This Machine Kills Artists on his Amphetamine Reptile label. The performance precedes Osborne's From Riffs to Bits panel appearance with Stooges guitarist James Williamson on Friday, where the two discuss the future of music and technology.
• Psychedelic torchbearers the Reverberation Appreciation Society give SXSW a taste of their marquee event, Austin Psych Fest, with today's Levitation Austin party at Hotel Vegas, 1-7pm. The free concert features a significant block of artists playing their spring freak-out, May 2-4 at Carson Creek Ranch in Austin, including Georgia flower punks Black Lips, new British glam rockers Temples, Asian-Canadian experimental heavies Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, Brazilian psych-pop craftsmen Boogarins, former Emeralds guitarist Mark McGuire, and more.
• The mtvU Woodie Awards, the Grammys for the keg stand and spray-tan crowd, tape tonight in the parking lot at Red River and Cesar Chavez. The event boasts fans voting in categories like "Best Collaboration" and "Best Cover" to see which band is awarded the coveted piece of firewood. Performers at the awards show and preparty, which kicks off at 3pm, include Childish Gambino, the 1975, London Grammar, Sam Smith, Vic Mensa, Bleachers, American Authors, Wild Cub, and Aussie rapper Iggy Azalea collaborating on "Fancy" with UK pop singer Charli XCX. The Woodies air Sunday, 8pm on mtvU.
• Gig-poster artists from around the world come together for the Flatstock poster show, which begins today at 2pm and will be open Friday and Saturday, 11am-6pm, at the Convention Center's Exhibit Hall 4. The free, public event also features live music each day, including local underage phenomenon Residual Kid on Friday, 4pm, and equally homegrown classical-pop orchestra Mother Falcon on Saturday at 5:30.
• Today, the Grammy-winning duo of accordionist Joel Guzman and vocalist Sarah Fox head up a tribute concert to Texas squeezebox legend Esteban "Steve" Jordon at the Mexican American Cultural Center, Downtown at 600 River St. The eye patch-adorned Jordan, known as the Jimi Hendrix of accordion, was an innovator, applying fuzz and echo to the traditional instrument and using it not only for conjunto, but for rock and jazz as well. Latin music contemporaries Rick Fuentes, JR Gómez, and Julian Olivarez perform. Music begins at 6:30pm.
• Named in honor of The Austin Chronicle's tripod office pooch Hank, the "Hair of the Three-Legged Dog" party, today at the Liberty (1618½ E. Sixth), offers free Bloody Marys, tacos, and a select bill of rising Austin talent, including Flaming Lips faves Black Books (12:20), femme-hoppers Magna Carda (1:20), psychedelic Southern rockers the Bright Light Social Hour (2:20), and speedy sludge-rock trio American Sharks (3:20).