Premiering at SXSW Film, Martin Shore's Take Me to the River celebrates Memphis' multiracial music traditions by documenting a new album featuring an all-star assortment of area artists spanning multiple generations of R&B, rock, and hip-hop. This free public throwdown thus assembles many of the film's performers for a Southern soul summit. Included are soul survivors William Bell, Otis Clay, Syl Johnson, and Booker T. Jones; rappers Snoop Dogg, Al Kapone, Frayser Boy, P-Nut, and Big Baby; blues vets Charlie Musselwhite and Bobby Rush; and roots rockers the North Mississippi Allstars (whose Cody Dickinson is one of the film's producers), plus ex-Talking Head Jerry Harrison. Hi Rhythm, the fabled studio players who grooved the likes of Al Green and Ann Peebles, serve as the house band and Stax Records co-owner Al Bell hosts. Although shotgun marriages between hip-hop and old-school R&B often end in tears, the talent assembled here bodes for the sublime.
Sean Bohrman and Lee Rickard's Orange County cassette label Burger Records and Ben Tipton's Austin vinyl imprint Burger City Rock N Roll began around the same time 1,300 miles from one another, both with an affinity for punk and garage. Now, each year at SXSW, they stack together a musical quarter-pounder with cheese: Burgermania! Saturday's three-stage party kicks off at the Volstead with explosive rock & roll trio American Sharks, led by the big-voiced bassist Mike Hardin, and another up-and-coming ATX band, denim boogie rockers Bad Lovers, who've released two great LPs on Burger City. Burger Records affiliate Gabriel Fulvimar and his Gap Dream then bring trippy power-pop oscillations to the Hotel Vegas club stage before Austin/Denton-based Bad Sports crank up Dictators-style punk. Just one wall over at Volstead, Austin's answer to Blondie, Dikes of Holland unleash frantic male/female garage punk before young Illinois quintet the Orwells, who recently got shamed by Paul Shaffer on Letterman, bring the slo-mo antics of lead singer Mario Cuomo to Hotel Vegas' back patio. After midnight, Sixties girl group-inspired NYC outfit Habibi, fronted by the transfixing Rahill Jamalifard of Michigan provenance and Iranian stock, charms up the Volstead before another female-fronted Burger Records act, Seattle surf janglers La Luz, close the show. To quote Sam Jackson, "Mmm, this is a tasty burger!"
If Monofonus Press isn't one of your favorite indie labels, you're not paying close enough attention. The DIY publishing company specializes in offbeat gems of the East Austin variety. Case in point, Love Inks, a dark electro-pop trio whose late 2013 LP, Generation Club, has major break-out potential in its minimalist beats and melodies that linger like half-forgotten memories. Austin's Ghetto Ghouls just dropped its self-titled debut, a noisy romp of near-incomprehensible, garage-rock squall that detonates live. S U R V I V E takes things back down a notch, delivering deep-pocketed analog synth with warm jets of ambience and Krautrock groove – like the Drive soundtrack on the Autobahn. Not a label roster act, Protomartryr's riotous post punk still fits the bill. The Detroit crew's new album, Under Color of Official Right, drops next month, coinciding with a tour alongside local bruisers Spray Paint. The noise-punk trio (two guitarists/singers and a drummer) distills the ghosts of Austin's depraved, post-punk past into blunt, jarring missives about false cowboys and day sniffers that pummel you into submission. Better known for his work with avant-punk deconstructionists Country Teasers, Ben Wallers headlines as the Rebel behind a new 12-inch EP, The Five Year Plan.
Are friends electric? The performers at this android's dream showcase are. On "Realize You," Empress Of's new single, she wants to be more than friends. "I want to be your boyfriend and I want to be your girlfriend," she coos over a robot pulse. ATX electro-pop gals Feathers were hand-picked by Depeche Mode to tour with them after the locals opened the UK pioneers' SX showcase last year, and Toronto's Trust – now just Robert Alfons after losing a member back to Austra – solders witch house's thick, dark texture to his bold metal machine music on new LP Joyland. If you miss your buddy the guitar, then EMA's got you covered. Latest single "So Blonde" on upcoming The Future's Void, brings back strings for a grungy treat, while ominous first single "Satellites" sounds like PJ Harvey gone electro-goth. Finally, Numanoids rejoice, original paranoid android Gary Numan returns to Austin's home of electronic renaissance as headliner. Now based in L.A., Numan teamed up with Nine Inch Nails guitarist Robin Finck to record the brash mix of machine and soul Splinter (Songs From a Broken Mind). Accept no replicas.
Founded by the grandson of country music legend Eddy Arnold and employing the A&R services of punk rock legend Cheetah Chrome, Plowboy Records is a strong, 2-year-old Nashville indie with impressive, eclectic, and edgy taste and a talent roster embracing everyone from ex-Dead Boys guitarist Chrome to Bobby Bare. Tonight, Plowboy will present the likes of Buzz Cason, who founded Nashville's first rock & roll band in the Fifties and went on to write and produce major hits like Robert Knight's soul classic "Everlasting Love." Modern honky-tonkin' comes from the likes of Nashville's Paul Burch and ex-BR549 man Chuck Mead & His Grassy Knoll Boys. Paducah, Ky., gets repped by ex-Legendary Shack Shakers leader JD Wilkes & the Dirt Daubers' freight train punkabilly blues. Austin gets highlighted via the potent garage-blues/punk duo the Ghost Wolves and their thunderous, fuzz action and Keith Moon drumming. Plus, Alejandro Escovedo's newest project the Fauntleroys finds him paired with, among others, Richard Hell & the Voidoids guitarist Ivan Julian and Steve Wynn drummer Linda Pitmon. Cheetah Chrome takes the stage at 1am backed by members of local Dead Boys tribute act Flamethrower Love, to showcase Chrome's new Solo disc.
Anchored by brothers Eoin and Rory Loveless in Drenge, which delivers angry, Dogme 95-influenced blues-rock ("Backwaters"), this showcase offers plenty of other UK-centric acts curated by NME. Psych-rock quartet Splashh, fronted by Kiwi Sasha Carlson, offers deceptively sunny riffs on New Order, but the buzz goes to San Fermin, a baroque-pop outfit conceived by Brooklyn composer Ellis Ludwig-Leone, whose classical training at Yale and anxiety about life funneled into an epic, operatic, eponymous September disc featuring an eightpiece live ensemble, daring male/female vocals, horns, winds — you name it. Totally risky, totally worth it. Working debut record Sun Structures, Midlands-spawned Temples wears Sixties psych-rock influences on its natty sleeves, while London's Fat White Family channels anarchic impulses and thus dabbles in caustic bad taste on its self-released debut, Champagne Holocaust. The sextet had to crowdfund in order to finance this stateside trip.
Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton: This Is Stones Throw Records, about the independent L.A. label of left-field funk, soul, and hip-hop artists, screens at SXSW. Naturally, Stones Throw impresario Peanut Butter Wolf has assembled one of the most insane DJ lineups short of raising J Dilla from the dead. Wolf takes a turn at the decks, as will label artist Dam-Funk, undisputed ambassador of boogie. Founding Beat Junkies wizard J.Rocc then proves why he's one of the most skilled turntablists alive. Also on the wheels of steel is Prince Paul, who changed the course of hip-hop history as producer of De La Soul's early catalog, not to mention cult favorites Gravediggaz and Handsome Boy Modeling School. Madlib remains an oddball genius, one of the most sought-after producers in hip-hop and the man behind Madvillain (with MF Doom) and blunted jazz loop digga Quasimoto. The bona fides are unquestionable.
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