SXSW Picks and Sleepers

Picks & Sleepers

SXSW Picks and Sleepers

Wednesday Picks

All showcase times subject to change.
Please check official SXSW schedule.

KINDERCORE SHOWCASE: Athens, Ga.-based indie Kindercore Records recently supplanted their Romper Room-style logo with a version rendering the "O" in Kindercore as a skull … Ain't nothing twee about the Agenda!, a fivepiece mod-core outfit out of Athens looking to start a revolution in your pants. Their recent high-voltage slab, Start the Panic, slathers springy garage skronk with a layer of soul. They're probably even better live. Ditto for Athens' Jet by Day, an explosive, road-tested, hard rock quartet channeling the ghosts of At the Drive-In and Soundgarden. Their second full-length, Cascadia, is a solid amalgam of raw power and pathos. Paper Lions ply extra-tense post-punk built on obtuse, Gang of Four-style rhythmic patterns that sound desperately prescient in wartime. The Athens-based quartet's debut, The Symptom and the Sick, is an angry scrum of crack snares and black melodies. Maserati is yet another Athens fourpiece with post-punk roots, only they play instrumentals that would settle Tangerine Dream's score if someone were to remake Risky Business. Finally, we have Denver's Dressy Bessy, spreading Saturday am sunshine pop. Led by spry vocalist/guitarist Tammy Ealom, the quartet's many sugar-coated charms manifest themselves fully on Little Music, Dressy Bessy's just-released compilation of nonalbum tracks. (Emo's Jr., 8pm-1am) -- Greg Beets

THE PARTY OF HELICOPTERS: Information overload is glaringly evident in the squalling rawk of the Party of Helicopters; there's as much pre-demise Promise Ring as post-peak Ride on April's upcoming Please Believe It (Velocette). Hailing from Kent, Ohio, these four frickers flat-out chop you down. (Emo's Jr., 8:45pm) -- Christopher Hess

ESTER DRANG: Taking the Flaming Lips' cue, Tulsa's Ester Drang put out 2001's Goldenwest, a gateway into a mesmerizing world of sound. It's part Kid A, part Mercury Rev's Deserter's Songs, but the melodies and harmonies soar free as a bird without an ounce of pretension. Their new Infinite Keys is out April 1 on Jade Tree. (Privilege Patio, 9pm) -- Michael Chamy

SOVIET: Do Eighties synth-pop names like Alphaville, Kon Kan, and Camouflage leave you drooling all over your Ocean Pacific T and acid-washed jeans? If so, Soviet is a can't-miss time-warp praying at the altar of Depeche Mode and OMD. Last year's We Are Eyes We Are Builders is a first-rate revisitation of a genre that lives on in the hearts and thighs of Austin's Sunday-night Elysium crowd. (Emo's Main, 9pm) -- Michael Chamy

SHANE BARTELL: Formerly the frontman for Anglophilic Austinites Cling, Shane Bartell is now a promising singer-songwriter more in line with Morrissey than John Mayer. After the fuzzy memories and sunny tempos of 2001's Reference EP, Bartell promises moodier meditations on heartbreak and romance for his June full-length, Too Soon to Tell. (Mother Egan's, 9pm) -- Christopher Gray

THE PAPER CHASE: The Paper Chase's lead belter John Congleton is a grade-A spazz-out, cramming into each song all the panic and desperation of a dying schizophrenic. The Dallas phenomenon's Hide the Kitchen Knives is a concept album about murder, deceit, and broken promises, punctuated by acid-rock screeches, creepy samples, and tense piano plucks. (Red Eyed Fly, 10pm) -- Michael Chamy

WESTERN KEYS: Western Keys is an achingly appealing local indie rock band laden with lap steel that twists every tune into something even more aching, more appealing, even downright gorgeous, sort of like if Bright Eyes were from Austin. Last year's Self-Starter Foundation release Damage was a wake-up call to local musicos. (Mercury, 10pm) -- Christopher Hess

OKKERVIL RIVER: There's a corner of the alt.country world that's dark and contemplative, where the shadows loom large and it's always dusk. Austin's Okkervil River lurks in that corner, playing a stirring brand of folkish stuff that would border on mopey if it weren't for the mandolin-revved alt-rock that also informs their sound. Their sophomore release, Don't Fall in Love With Everyone You See, on Jagjaguwar, met with critical acclaim. (Maggie Mae's, 10pm) -- Jerry Renshaw

GARY CLARK JR.: Forget about phrases like "up and coming." Gary Clark Jr., a newly minted 19-year-old, is the heir to Austin's blues crown, one that's grown dusty the last few years. With a self-titled album under the no-frills guitarist's belt and a solid backup band of blues veterans, this Austin native has arrived. (Antone's, 10pm) -- Margaret Moser

PONG: With one foot in 1980 and the other in 2020, Austin's Pong compels nonchalant head-bobbers to shake their collective groove things into a retro-futuristic Love Parade bliss that could go all night. Pong's debut, Killer Lifestyle (Woodeye), was one of 2001's best local releases, but their shows are the real money shot. (Stubb's, 10pm) -- Greg Beets

ZYKOS: The newest signing to Austin's Post-Parlo label, Zykos' chief asset is the pained delivery of vocalist Michael Booher, a Murmur reminiscent of a certain other Athens, Ga., frontman named Michael. Keyboardist Catherine Davis adds either piano or interesting synth layers, depending on whether the band is in the mood to show off their powerful popcraft or their more layered emo-rock side. Their debut full-length is due April 29. (Mercury, 11pm) -- Michael Chamy

Harry Sid Fisher, Lounge, 11pm
Harry Sid Fisher, Lounge, 11pm

JUNGLE BROTHERS: As charter members of the late-Eighties Native Tongues posse that also spawned De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, the Jungle Brothers' place in hip-hop history is secure. The JB's latest, last year's self-released All That We Do (Jungle), splayed the group out in a pastiche of house, soul, and old-school tangents. (Emo's Main, 11pm) -- Greg Beets

PRESCOTT CURLYWOLF: The P-Wolf has been at it for some time now, slamming out infectious rock that calls to mind Kurt Cobain at times, John Fogerty at others. There's something to be said for stickin' to it, because they're as tight as an alarm clock. 200l saw the release of Arkadelphia, their fourth CD. (Mother Egan's, 11pm) -- Jerry Renshaw

HARVEY SID FISHER: The iconoclastic king of zodiac music returns to SXSW backed once again by Austin's Hidden Persuaders. The former actor made his mark in the music world via an access video of him singing his astrology songs in a tuxedo while a woman attempted to pirouette around him. The video was dubbed into infinity, and Fisher is now a cult star. (Lounge, 11pm) -- Greg Beets

THE FAGS: As their moniker suggests, this Detroit trio is long on snotty tongue-in-cheek attitude. Luckily, they're eponymous debut EP on Dallas' Idol Records is also long on superbly crafted pop songs -- three-minute ditties so catchy you'd swear this was a Cheap Trick side project. (Venue, 11pm) -- Andy Langer

OXBOW: This San Francisco-based troupe combines elements of the Birthday Party's scorched-earth avant-blues with sprawling free jazz to fuel their sonic wrecking machine. Since forming in the mid-Eighties, they've toured the world and collaborated with Lydia Lunch, Richard Kern, and Marianne Faithfull. Last year's An Evil Heat (Neurot) would be the perfect soundtrack for Jackson Pollack jerking off onto a moldy canvas in a subway tunnel. (Privilege, 11pm) -- Greg Beets

MIKE NICOLAI: Midwest native-turned-Austin original, Mike Nicolai is one of the most capable songwriters around. His dry, open-eyed lyrics are delivered in a gritty nasal twang that evokes the spirit of Westerberg at the top of his form or Jay Farrar at the bottom of his. 2001's Woody Allen Stunt Footage was as fine a batch of rock songs as any songwriter type assembled in recent memory. (Pecan St. Ale House, 11pm) -- Christopher Hess

CHRIS KNIGHT: From rural Slaughters, Ky., Chris Knight is the epitome of the Americana songwriter. A master storyteller, his songs are filled with dark humor and unrelenting honesty. Expect a new album in April. (BD Riley's, 11pm) -- Jim Caligiuri

TONY JOE WHITE: As the foremost progenitor of rootsy bouillabaisse known as swamp pop, Tony Joe White is one of Louisiana's finest exports. His "Polk Salad Annie" and "Rainy Night in Georgia" were composed in the space of a week while living in Corpus Christi in the late Sixties. The award-winning documentary Searching for Tony Joe helped re-ignite interest in his career in 2000, and in the midst of a world tour with Joe Cocker last year, White released Snakey on his own Swamp label. (Antone's, 11pm) -- Greg Beets

STELLASTARR*: NYC's Stellastarr* make massive guitar rock that combines the epic sweep of UK heavyweights like My Vitriol with New Wavy flourishes and harmonies that soar and topple with the emotional complexity of the twin towers. (Hard Rock, 11:45pm) -- Marc Savlov

B-52'S: Who'd a-thunk that the party band of the Eighties would still be whooping it up in the new millennium? The Athens, Ga.-based quintet burst on the scene at the dawn of the New Wave era with bouffant hairdos, minimalist instrumentation, and style to burn. Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, Cindy and Ricky Wilson, and Keith Strickland wrote kitschy, catchy songs, fusing garage rock with primal punk pleasure. "Rock Lobster," "Planet Claire," and "Private Idaho" became dance-floor favorites and won them fans on both sides of the gender-orientation fence.

The band's whole raison d'être -- fun -- was suckerpunched by tragedy in 1985 when guitarist Ricky Wilson died of AIDS. Ironically, the band's biggest hit came after his death, with the MTV success of "Love Shack" in 1989. Cindy Wilson departed after the Cosmic Thing tour in the early Nineties, but rejoined the band in 1998 for Time Capsule: Songs for a Future Generation. The album was a bellwether that the band was intent on forging ahead.

"How the hell did we stay together for this many years?" repeats Kate Pierson from her home with Keith Strickland in upstate New York. "We function like a crazy family! We make decisions collectively, do everything together. And I think our music is timeless. Watching the Grammys the other night, I kept thinking, 'Where are all the people from last year?' We're just kitschy, cheesy people. We don't take ourselves too seriously, and that's one reason we're still around.

Tony Joe White, Antone's, 11pm
Tony Joe White, Antone's, 11pm

"We're lucky. We've had 25 years of 15 minutes of fame." (Stubb's, midnight) -- Margaret Moser

TWO HOOTS & A HOLLER: Once a force to be reckoned with on the Austin music scene, the fortunes of this rowdy, roots-rock trio have always been shouldered by guitarist Ricky Broussard. When he's in good form, the band smokes. (Opal Divine's, midnight) -- Jay Trachtenberg

CHOMSKY: Chomsky's m.o. combines New Wave angularity with Weezer's nerd-pop instincts; vox/guitarist Sean Halleck is one of the great spazz-out artists of his generation. 2001's Onward Quirky Soldiers (Idol) was simultaneously slick and cheeky. Late in 2002, the Dallas-based quintet signed to Phoenix-based Aezra Records and headed to Miami to record with Steely Dan(!) producer Gary Katz. (Venue, midnight) -- Greg Beets

… AND YOU WILL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF DEAD: A recent gig with Austin string quartet Tosca brought out the fully fleshed emotion and depth of the songs on last year's superlative Interscope debut, Source Tags & Codes. No worries, though, they're still the same venomous CenTex wrecking crew that threw their bass drum into Waller Creek at their 2001 Red Eyed Fly SXSW gig. (Emo's Main, midnight) -- Michael Chamy

TIA CARRERA: Amid the insane pounding of Erik Conn's traps and the Cream-on-acid riffs of Jason Morales is a scorched earth rent asunder by massive volcanic drifts and meteorite impacts, over which the giant gods of the Götterdämmerung preside in all their awesome might. Austin's improvisational psyche-metal institution will take you there, like it or not. (Ocean's 11, midnight) -- Michael Chamy

ST 37: It's been a banner year for the Austin space gods, with an appearance at last year's Terrastock in Boston punctuating the release of Down on Us, a high point in ST 37's 15-year reign. Bassist/frontman Scott Telles brings the groove and the sci-fi silliness while his compadres shovel truckloads of primordial ooze. (Privilege, midnight) -- Michael Chamy

VIRGIL SHAW: Former frontman for SF's alt.country father figures Dieselhed, Virgil Shaw is no stranger to big crowds and bigger expectations. His new Still Falling on Future Farmer features the songs of a consummate craftsman; feel-good Dixieland rhythms bump butts against R&B grooves and his trademark rough-edged country rock & roll. (Hideout, midnight) -- Christopher Hess

KNIFE IN THE WATER: Knife in the Water is that guy in shades and a pea coat dealing Xanax at the intersection of country and indie rock, trafficking in slow and sedate tunes delivered in a just-there croon. Last year's EP, Crosspross Bells, furthered their steadily growing rep as one of the more intelligent and engaging rock bands in Austin. (Mercury, midnight) -- Christopher Hess

DICK PRICE FACTOR: Longtime Austin songwriter Dick Price has a singularly sardonic world-view that makes you laugh even as it disturbs. Having written songs since 1978, Price finally released his first CD, Dick Price's Theatre of Cruelty (Sublimatio 1978), in 2001. Several of his songs, including "God Told Me to Rob the 7-11," have been listener favorites on the Dr. Demento Show. (Lounge, midnight) -- Greg Beets

JON CLEARY: Jon Cleary & the Absolute Monster Gentleman are to New Orleans what Grey Ghost was to Austin: piano-driven boogie-woogie blues maestros. Backing Bonnie Raitt at a riotous Backyard gig last summer, Cleary became an honorary local. We only wish we had a Snooks Eaglin for him to back. (Antone's, midnight) -- Raoul Hernandez

EASTSIDE SUICIDES: The Eastside Suicides are the closest thing Austin has to a genuine Lower East Side glam-rock band during the Max's Kansas City days and are a Saturday-night sure thing no matter where on Red River they're playing. A full-length debut is in the works. (Beerland, midnight) -- Christopher Gray

RECOVER: After garnering considerable national interest touring with acts like Jimmy Eat World and Less Than Jake, this emo-flavored, post-hardcore Austin act recently inked a deal with Universal. In the meantime, their 2002 EP, Ceci N'est Pas Recover (Fiddler), provides a taste of the group's melodic, quick-change dynamic. (Emo's Annex, midnight) -- Greg Beets

Fox & Hound, 1am
Fox & Hound, 1am

THE SPIDERS: Presently the hardest-rocking band in Central Texas, the Spiders are three-fourths San Marcos, one-fourth Austin, and 100% attitude. Pushy, dangerous, and hungry, their sleek, sinister, near-metal slaps you around in all the right places. Fevers are running high in anticipation of their sophomore effort, Glitzkrieg, due before summer. (Room 710, midnight) -- Christopher Gray

VISQUEEN: More than worthy of the most earnest Donnas' fan's head-wagging, Seattle's Visqueen sees no need for soon-to-be-outgrown snot-nosed posturing. Fastbacks vocal angel Kim Warnick joins with Hafacat's Rachel Flotard and Ben Hooker for a hook-laden fun fest that lifts as much as it separates. (Iron Cactus, midnight) -- Kate X Messer

OVERLORD: As Austin's seven-time hip-hop Artist of the Year, Overlord has been a staple in the local hip-hop scene since day one. Recently teamed with hometown heroes Vallejo, he's Back at Ya with a new organic sound that combines his large presence on the mic with rock riffs that mangle these ATX streets. (Spiros, 1am) -- Christopher Coletti

EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY: They make instrumental soundscapes, yes, but the melodies are always there, and the songs are truly songs, so compelling in their simple grandeur. With Chris Hrasky's very vocal percussive phrases, you'll swear Mogwai could learn a trick or three from these Austin boys. (Mercury, 1am) -- Michael Chamy

DYNAMITE BOY: Local punk-pop wunderkinds Dynamite Boy have been blowing up hometown stages for eight years now and have built up enough of a reputation to land them on tour with MxPx as well as on the Warped Tour. Their third CD, Somewhere in America, was produced by Cameron Webb (Danzig, Godsmack), and the trio is now working on their fourth. (Back Room, 1am) -- Melanie Haupt

JUCIFER: Known for their high-volume live show and prodigious Marshall stacks, last year's I Name You Destroyer found this Athens, Ga., couple expanding their palette. A tense, dynamic slow burn has arisen from the embers, complementing the blistering nuggets that mark Amber Valentine and Ed Livengood as an inverted White Stripes for the Black Sabbath set. (Emo's Jr., 1am) -- Michael Chamy

RICHIE HAVENS: Most people know Richie Havens from his amazing three-hour performance at Woodstock. Last year, Havens released the acclaimed Wishing Well (Evangeline), his first album of new material in eight years. Havens' percussive, open-tuned guitar technique and visceral performance aesthetic continues to leave audiences worldwide spellbound. (Cedar Street, 1am) -- Greg Beets

GUY FORSYTH: Leading his namesake band in tours of America and Europe, as well as contributing to his former band the Asylum Street Spankers, Austin's Guy Forsyth is the modern folk-blues-rock musician. Using his voice, harmonica, and guitar, Forsyth's music can be soft and introspective or as rambunctious as a roadhouse donnybrook. (Antone's, 1am) -- David Lynch

FIVEHEAD: Hüsker Dü meets Guided by Voices. Austin's reigning indie rock kings sound like neither, yet incorporate the former's heart-on-sleeve demeanor and the latter's drunken young-adult angst. The long-awaited follow-up to 1999's It's Not All Good and It's Not Right On is due later this year on local indie stronghold Tight Spot Records, and documents the emergence of co-frontman Beaty Wilson as a sunnier foil to the firebrand songcraft of ex-Silver Scooter bassist John Hunt. (Maggie Mae's, 1am) -- Michael Chamy

GRAND CHAMPEEN: Not afraid to wear their influences on their grimy sleeves, Austin's Grand Champeen take the snotty brilliance of the Replacements and meld it to the perfect pop of Cheap Trick for a sound that packs a mighty wallop. A major coup for the band was the recent placement of one of their songs on the soundtrack to the new Kevin Spacey/Kate Winslet flick, The Life of David Gale. (Mother Egan's, 1am) -- Jim Caligiuri

FLAMETRICK SUBS: Alas, no Black Cat anymore. Longtime denizens the Flametrick Subs used to show 'em how psychobilly was done, week in and week out. Check out their new disc, Something in Japanese, then put a big glop o' goo in your hair and start combin'. (Fox & Hound, 1am) -- Jerry Renshaw

CRUISERWEIGHT: Austin's Cruiserweight has been on the short list of local Next Big Things since their debut, This Will Undoubtedly Come Out Wrong, arrived in late 2001. Happily, Stella Maxwell's buoyant vocals and her bandmates' tightly focused punk-pop usually come out just right, keeping the fourpiece busy on the road and in the clubs ever since. (Emo's Annex, 1am) -- Christopher Gray

RUSTED SHUT: "Surround the White House! Surround the White House!" You won't find a more incendiary, visceral, or confrontational band short of GG Allin. No cheap parlor tricks here, though; Rusted Shut lets their music do the talking. These noise-worshipping vets have been a festering scab on Houston's ass for 15 years now, and it's time the rest of the world hears this brutal, bloody, fuzz-crusted riot act. (Privilege, 1am) -- Michael Chamy

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