SXSW Music Live: Showtime Presents Nick Waterhouse, Grandmaster Flash

Waterhouse sets the stage, Flash torches it

An eclectic mix of pop with folk veneer, 2.0 updates to early R&B and palatable throwbacks to hip-hop’s origins were on display Wednesday night for the Showtime House SXSW showcase at Clive Bar.

Grandmaster Flash (Photo by Todd V. Wolfson)

L.A. alternative “folk” quartet Magic Giant began with “Let It Burn,” a rouser with the requisite rising and falling “ohs” that precedes the big, Mumford kinda-folk flourish that you can see coming from a mile away like a Hulk Hogan boot to the face. No longer hiding the pop, “Shake Me Up” and “Set On Fire” centered on the soulful vocals of lead singer/record producer Austin Bisnow, for whom this outfit is a painfully obvious vehicle.

Updating Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker race records, and proto R&B for the present day, another Angeleno, guitarist/vocalist Nick Waterhouse, employed a first-rate band to tear down the stage, whipping the usually too-cool industry types into a frenzy.

“Holly likes the local color/ Six of one is half a dozen of the other,” moaned the bespectacled singer half in hate and half in love about his hometown. “Katchi” missed Texan Leon Bridges’ accompaniment, but maintained its hip, velvet-smooth swagger.

Pionnering DJ and Netflix’s The Get Down associate producer Grandmaster Flash wrested whatever reservations remained, escorting the rapt crowd upward into the mothership of his Seventies-themed mix of heavily sampled hits. Little was left uncovered, from the tech thump of Kraftwerk’s “Trans-Europe Express” to the disco flavors of Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” and stone cold grooves of James Brown’s “Give It Up or Turn It Loose.”

Subversive humor wriggled in by way of the Happy Days and Cheers themes blending into Billy Squire, which is to say Flash knows who’s going to be at industry showcases.

“You know, I’m pretty good at this,” he said offhandedly.

As if we needed a reminder.

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Grandmaster Flash, SXSW, SXSW Music 2017, Magic Giant, Austin Bisnow, Hulk Hogan, Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker, Leon Bridges, Nick Waterhouse, Kraftwerk, Bee Gees, James Brown

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