SXSW Music News: Wednesday/Thursday
Dignitaries, cancellations, surprise pop-ups, and Thursday picks
By Kevin Curtin,
1:15PM, Thu. Mar. 17, 2016
Elsewhere in the greater U.S.A., the term “March Madness” stirs up hoop dreams. The NCAA’s 64-team tournament pits underdogs and top seeds for the title. Six wins and you’re in, one slip-up and you’re history. Here in Austin, the word “March” coupled with anything sounding chaotic evokes another contest where a large field of aspirants go for glory: SXSW.
The basketball tourney kicks off today, while SXSW has been in full swing since last Friday. Day two of the Music conference brought a keynote conversation with First Lady Michelle Obama, Missy Elliott, Queen Latifah, Diane Warren, and Sophia Bush about girl’s education and the importance of positive female role models in music. The appearance coincided with the release of an extremely cheesy charity single called “This is For My Girls,” featuring Elliott, Kelly Clarkson, Janelle Monae, and others, benefiting the Let Girls Learn initiative.
That’s now available on iTunes. Purchase, but don’t listen.
Needing his own downloads from Wednesday night’s Austin Music Awards, once-and-forever Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant graciously paid tribute to departed Twine Time deejay Paul Ray last night to close out the local equivalent to the Grammys. He serenaded the sell-out with playful oldies by the Jive Five and Clyde McPhatter, then got down to Alvin & the Crawlers’ “Twine Time” backed by a band led by local all-stars Charlie Sexton and Jimmie Vaughan.
Last night also found Hüsker Dü maneater Bob Mould playing a surprise set at local hot dog emporium Frank. He whipped out Sugar treats and solo material to a small crowd.
Rapper Travis Scott cancelled his two SXSW appearances yesterday: one at the MTV Woodie Awards and the other headlining the SXSW Takeover concert at the due-for-demolition Austin Music Hall. Organizers of the latter found a last-minute replacement in Wale. Fans complained on Twitter that the D.C. rapper/singer doled out just three songs, spending more time hitting blunts with fans and crowdsurfing than performing.
Another cancellation: Tonight’s Auditorium Shores headliner Ray Lamontagne. Subbing in for the folk favorite are atmospheric heavies Deftones, promoting April LP Gore. The Nineties metal survivors slot into a lineup tailored for Lamontagne, making homegrown country singer Carson McHone and Okie folkie rocker Parker Millsap curious selections to share a bill with Chino Moreno and company.
And don’t be surprised if Cage the Elephant pops up for a secret show today. They launched a tour in El Paso last night and play Oklahoma tomorrow with a day off in between. If that happens, everyone will hear about it. Here are five acts playing today that you’ll hear more about mañana from those than caught them today:
Krautrock legends whose oft-improvised rock and electronic soundscapes are equally psychedelic and Dadaistic. The veteran experimenters, in action since 1970, make a rare trip to America for SXSW, which throws them into the backyard of Hotel Vegas Thursday night. Arrive early for their 11:30pm showcase because playing immediately before them is another international attraction: Africa’s Bombino, the most exciting Tuareg desert groove guitarist.
Spain’s garage-rock girl group has already been piquing American ears with their new full-length debut, Leave Me Alone. Now the quartet’s here to conquer U.S. soil by barnstorming SXSW. Imagine a mashup of the Black Lips and Vaselines, then make it doubly infectious. While we have reservations on the group’s instrumental skills, Carlotta Cosials’ vocals are lovable enough to bring us to the Cedar Street Courtyard at 10pm.
This English songwriter sings like Sam Smith over DIY electronic tracks that’ll dilate the pupils of the dance-music crowd. With a combination like that, we fully expect Garratt to be playing a giant stage at ACL Fest in no time. He‘s got maximum Brit buzz, but here in Austin he’s just some guy playing Rainey Street (Bar 96) at 11pm on a Thursday.
Son of beloved Bob Dylan sideman Bucky Baxter, Rayland Baxter initially seemed like an indie James Taylor. Yet last time he rolled through Austin – on the BMI stage at ACL Fest – the Nashvillian was fronting a hip fivepiece and floating Mac Demarco vibes. In either domain, he’s a talented songwriter that projects good heart and a sense of wandering adventure. See Baxter at the Blackheart tonight, 10pm.
New Glaswegian guitar-and-drums duo lit a fire last year with their Steve Albini-produced debut 7-inch, in which frontman Ewan Grant found a likable balance of pop songwriting and raw rock. Before full-length Our Fertile Forever comes out in June, the young Scots christen their first trip to SXSW with a 10pm showcase tonight at the Main II.