Founder of Bronx supergroup Ultramagnetic MCs, Kool Keith’s existential raps orbit their own wacko reality. Save for Billboard charters Black Elvis/Lost in Space (1999) and Matthew (2000), the Prodigy’s “Smack My Bitch Up” impetus avoids the corporate music labyrinth, carving out surreal deliveries and sci-fi thrills as Dr. Octagon or left-field collaborations with MF Doom and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Local Peruvian psychedelics Money Chicha open.– Alejandra Ramirez
Drive-By Truckers’ most recent LPs, 2014’s English Oceans and last year’s standout American Band, caught the prolific Athens, Ga., quintet in mid-evolution with a powerful new sense of purpose. The familiar outsider anthems and complex Southern narratives that have defined the band since its 1996 inception have cohered behind the combined songwriting of founding members Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood.
“I think the lineup is the most streamlined, consistent, and dynamic that it’s ever been,” attests Cooley. “And we’re having as much, if not more, fun than we’ve ever had – even 20 years in. We’ve felt especially inspired creatively on the last two albums, like we’re really saying something, and really motivated to make it known where we stand on these things.”
The Truckers pivot on the political, but American Band emerged as a particularly sharp critique of a broader American culture in turmoil. “Surrender Under Protest,” “Ever South,” and “Once They Banned Imagine” complicate the American identity while expressly confronting the threads of racism and violence both past and present.
“One of the first things you notice when you start traveling around is that wherever you come from is not as unique as you think it is,” offers Cooley. “The racist politics, the demagoguery that we’re seeing, it plays nationwide, and it always did. Some of these nastier elements long associated with the South are nationwide and always have been.
“I wasn’t surprised to find that many people had missed our being political, but really, it was never that subtle,” he continues. “We didn’t know it was going to be that kind of album until we got in the studio, but what am I going to do, not do it?”– Doug Freeman
More hot rods than you can shake a pink slip at, the Lonestar Round-Up boasts a stellar music lineup. Carolina grease slingers Southern Culture on the Skids headline Continental Club Thursday through Saturday. Georgia garage punks the Woggles play there Friday, while neo-flamenco hellraisers Jenny & the Mexicats perform Saturday. The Travis County Expo Center stage features crack country locals the Derailers on Friday, and Saturday stages revived Northwest garage legends the Sonics, who also rev up the Continental on Sunday.– Greg Beets