SXSW Picks & Sleepers

Picks & Sleepers

Thursday Sleepers

All showcase times subject to change. Please check


8pm-2am, Blender Bar @ the Ritz
Though built on pop-punk, Berkeley's Lookout! Records showcase focuses on the hybrid's former half this year. Vancouver old-school party punks the Smugglers are on hand to hype their forthcoming LP, Mutiny in Stereo. If the quintet lives up to their show-stealing 1999 SXSW performance, this'll be one to write home about. Chicago's the Reputation features former Sarge vocalist Elizabeth Elmore plying a more contemplative blend of pop and punk. The quartet's well-crafted debut, To Force a Fate, drops in April. Oakland's Communiqué brought an arty, Eighties-influenced slant to melancholy tunes of rainy day heartbreak on last year's A Crescent Honeymoon EP, and an upcoming full-length. Tampa's Washdown frenetically navigates an armada of garage rock nuggets on the just unloaded and explosive Yes to Everything. The Oranges Band, led by guitarist/vocalist Roman Kuebler, packs a Lower East Side art-punk tradition on the Baltimore quintet's latest, All Around, one of last year's finest indie-pop slabs. Ted Leo + the Pharmacists bring Elvis Costello's songwriting acumen to bear on the spirit of D.C. punk with last year's breakthrough, Hearts of Oak, followed by the Tell Balgeary, Balgury Is Dead EP. – Greg Beets

Jade Tree

8pm-2am, Parish
This is the story of two unacquainted mid-Atlantic high school punks who started record labels inspired by the straight-edge Eighties. Thus, the Jade Tree was sown. A few years, a Promise Ring, and some Jets to Brazil later, you've got a viable volume for the indie-label annals. There's the Statistics from Omaha, with the Yo La Tangy cocktail of hard fuzz off their latest, Leave Your Name. Norman's Ester Drang takes the maraschino sweet odes to summer farther with some lilting Papas Fritas meets MBV. One-man aural gardener and 22-year-old white-boy Baltimore rapper Rjyan Kidwell, aka Cex, busts out nuts from Maryland Mansions. The raw, band-stripped-bare sincerity of earnest warbler Jonah Matranga's onelinedrawing busts our chops for not coming right out and saying, "hello, emo?" The classically trained heir to the Beth Gibbons and Björk throne, enigmatic ice empress Maura Davis – the tip of the permafrost that is Richmond, Va.'s Denali – offers their latest, The Instinct. Last, Seattle darlings Pedro the Lion draw the kids in with their magnetic field of indie pop and lay them out flat with lead man David Bazan's ecumenical lyricism. – Kate X Messer


8pm, Room 710
Jason Morales is getting a big head. On top of metal-head jam band Tia Carrera and double-drummed noise rockers Gorch Fock, he joins Don Stewart on guitar for the middle ground in Migas. With TC-er Eric Conn beating the hell out of the drums, who knows where the praise will end? – Darcie Stevens

Jason Collett

8pm, Tambaleo
Fantastic word of mouth has brought this Toronto-based singer-songwriter and Broken Social Scenester's twangy solo debut, Motor Motel Love Songs, across the border on Arts & Crafts Records. Wilco comparisons are inevitable, but Lucinda Williams might be a better touchstone. – Andy Langer

Ronny Elliott

8pm, Cactus Cafe
Call it cosmic coincidence: Tampa troubadour Ronny Elliott sounds just like gravelly actor Sam Elliott. After five decades in pursuit of star-fortune, the raw and rugged singer-songwriter brings the very Austin sound found on his latest Hep (Blue Heart) to town. – Kate X Messer

Adrienne Young & Little Sadie

8pm, Antone's
Banjo-playing Adrienne Young has kicked up dust in the Nashville underground. With her mix of old-timey and bluegrass, some are comparing her new debut, Plow to the End of the Row, to like-minded folk heavyweights Iris DeMent and Nanci Griffith. – Jim Caligiuri

Amy Farris

8pm, Continental Club
Born and raised in Austin, fiddle/viola/mandolinist Amy Farris has played with Alejandro Escovedo, Ray Price, Ben Vaughn, Brian Wilson, and Kelly Willis. A desire for bigger waters led Farris to L.A. and last year saw the release of her debut Anyway, a full plate of American pop produced by the Blasters' Dave Alvin. – David Lynch

Berkley Hart

8pm, Texas Union Ballroom
Berkley Hart is percussionist Jeff Berkley and bluegrass aficionado Calman Hart. The San Diego duo specializes in folksy Americana well suited to quiet song circles at the Kerrville Folk Festival. After 2000's acoustic Wreck 'n Sow, their electrified sophomore release, Something to Fall Back On, featured a full band. – Melanie Haupt

Ambulance Ltd.

8pm, Red Eyed Fly
If Lou Reed listened to a lot of Badly Drawn Boy, he might be in Ambulance Ltd. Playing around shoegaze, Britpop, and the Velvet Underground, the Brooklyn combo's self-titled EP last year on TVT is now giving way to LP, their full-length debut. Expect sirens. – Darcie Stevens

Tara Angell

8:30pm, Bigsby's
This NYC singer-songwriter has earned a reputation for smoldering suicide ballads that resemble Lucinda Williams in an Ambien haze. Her Come Down – the Joseph Arthur-produced debut Daniel Lanois described as "the darkest and truest record I've heard since early Black Sabbath" – is due on Rykodisc. – Andy Langer

Rykarda Parasol

9pm, Momos
In the lazy, hazy tradition of fellow salvation shucksters Nick Cave and Siouxie Sioux, singer Rykarda Parasol leads this fourpiece from Frisco, delivering a smoky, gin-tinged salve to soothe the souls of the wicked, like Opal, OP8, and opium combined. – Kate X Messer

The Bigger Lovers

9pm, Continental Club
With bands like Fountains of Wayne and the Pernice Brothers bringing power pop above ground again, Philadelphia's Bigger Lovers are poised to carry that torch. Their melodic sense and dead-on harmonies bring to mind Big Star or the dB's, and their new CD, This Affair Never Happened... And Here Are Eleven Songs About It on the Yep Roc label, is as effervescent as anything those bands ever released. – Jim Caligiuri


9pm, Red Eyed Fly
If you liked the Cure and the Sugarcubes in the Eighties – and really, who didn't? – you'll love Stellastarr. The NYC electroclashers sizzle with Shawn Christensen's vox and the harmonies of Amanda Tannen. A tour with the Raveonettes proved these kids fill the dance floor. Don't be afraid to don eyeliner. – Darcie Stevens

Robbers on High Street

9pm, Rockstars
Regardless of how much singer Ben Troken sounds like Spoon's Britt Daniel, NYC's Robbers steal some brilliant pop beats. If Daniel joined hands with Hot Hot Heat and they all shampooed a little more, Robbers would be the outcome. March sees the release of their Fine Lines EP on New Line. – Darcie Stevens

Susan Gibson

9pm, Mother Egan's
Former vocalist for the Groobees, Susan Gibson is best known for penning the Dixie Chicks' country classic "Wide Open Spaces." Gibson's clever lyrics and alternate guitar tunings distinguished 2002's Chin Up and the Austinite's upcoming follow-up. – David Lynch

Madeleine Peyroux

9pm, Caribbean Lights
Eight long years after her Atlantic debut, Dreamland, which featured (get this) Marc Ribot, Vernon Reid, James Carter, Marcus Printup, Regina Carter, Cyrus Chestnut, Leon Parker, and Peyroux on (Billie) Holiday, the NYC singer is working on a follow-up. – Raoul Hernandez

Oh Susanna

9pm, Tambaleo
With a strong and confident voice, Oh Susanna, aka Suzie Ungerleider, has become one of Canada's top singer-songwriters. Her latest self-titled CD found her in a rock/pop mode, but one where her love for roots and folk still shines through. The record is up for a Canadian Grammy in the "Best Roots & Traditional Album of the Year: Solo" category. – Jim Caligiuri

Red Young Quartet

9pm, Elephant Room
B-3 organist Red Young is one of Austin's best-kept musical secrets. He comes directly out of the Jimmy Smith/Charles Earland school of blues-drenched organ jazz and can usually be found playing with the hippest jazz cats in town. His latest, The Organizer, smokes. – Jay Trachtenberg

Golden Arm Trio

9pm, Hideout
Climbing a tree today? Doing your taxes? You name it, Graham Reynolds can score it. The local pianist/ drummer and his DIY jazz act has worked with locals ranging from the Austin Lyric Opera to the Alamo Drafthouse in its series of original scores for silent movies. GAT's pair of local releases are golden indeed. – Raoul Hernandez

The Crack Pipes

9pm, Jackalope
The Rev. Ray Pride and his Crack Pipes are electrified and sanctified by the same raw catharsis that fueled both John Lee Hooker and Johnny Thunders. The Austin quartet's third LP, Snakes in My Veins (Emperor Jones), oozes life-affirming musical excitement that refuses to get bogged down in genre conventions or gee-whiz chops. – Greg Beets

I Love Math

9pm, Lava Lounge Patio
I Love Math features Deathray Davies guitarist/vocalist John Dufilho, bassist Jason Garner, and Old 97's drummer Philip Peeples, as well as newcomer Aarron Kelly on mandolin and guitar for a mostly acoustic take on some good noise rock. Their eponymous debut came out on Summer Break Records last year. – Jim Caligiuri

Lederhosen Lucil

9:45pm, Zero Degrees
Don't dismiss Montrealer Krista Muir's alter ego, a Meryn-Cadell-meets-Heidi in short leather pants and alpine suspenders. The classically trained Muir packs a multilingual wallop on her Tales From the Pantry (Sonic Unyon), brimming with tasty odes to genetically modified foods, lovers lost, and ganglion. – Kate X Messer

Thea Gilmore

10pm, Cactus Cafe
Salon called this über-prolific 23-year-old British singer-songwriter "the genuine heiress to the Bob Dylan-Leonard Cohen-Tom Waits legacy of dark, brilliant indie folk-rock." Somewhere between Beth Orton and Conor Oberst is probably more like it, as shown by '03's Avalanche. – Andy Langer

David Mead

10pm, Tambaleo
David Mead is a singer-songwriter based in Nashville, and one listen to his Nettwerk debut, Indiana, will make you want to curl up inside that sweet, yearning voice and rest until you're safe from your concerns. If Damien Rice makes you cry, Mead will have you in the fetal position inside of 13 minutes. – Melanie Haupt

Lola Ray

10pm, Copper Tank Main
The second band signed to D.C. Flag, the label founded by Good Charlotte's Maddens, this New York outfit's I Don't Know You is the quirky, yet incredibly radio-ready, brainchild of recording guru John Balicanta. Don't let the high tech geekiness scare you: Scores of glowing reviews suggest a wholly organic and vital live band. – Andy Langer


10pm, Exodus
"A dolled-up meeting of the Stepford Wives and a Lawrence Welk gospel special," is how Detroit's Dan & Tracee Miller describe themselves. They've also earned stellar reviews for recent tours with the White Stripes, whose Jack White cameos on the Blanche's brand new If We Can't Trust the Doctors. – Andy Langer

Doug Wamble Quartet

10pm, Elephant Room
An unlikely candidate to be signed to Bradford Marsalis' new label, this Memphis guitarist/singer describes his music as "Robert Johnson meets Ornette Coleman in a Memphis church." Wamble has appeared on albums with Marsalis and Cassandra Wilson, and his debut, Country Libations, has been creating quite a stir. – Jay Trachtenberg

Tucker Livingston

11pm, Hole in the Wall
Stepping out of a gene pool that includes father Bob Livingston of the Lost Gonzo Band, things are going swimmingly for Tucker Livingston. His recent self-titled debut delivers a fresh voice, smart lyrics, and lots of promise. – Margaret Moser

Carolyn Mark

11pm, Lava Lounge Patio
No one would be more irked than Neko Case to discover that Victoria, Canada's Carolyn Mark is now being routinely identified as the other Corn Sister. Over the course of two solo albums and 2002's gutsy Nashville re-soundtracking, Mark has distinguished herself as another diva. Especially given the Corn Sisters' divine vault shucking, The Other Women. – Raoul Hernandez

Anne McCue

11pm, Pecan Street Ale House
Anne McCue gets high praise from Lucinda Williams, who tapped the L.A. singer-songwriter as an opening act last year. McCue's latest, Roll, is filed under, but that does her gritty rock a disservice. McCue often ends her live set with a smoking "Voodoo Child"; here she blisters on "Machine Gun." – Margaret Moser

The Autumn Defense

11pm, Vibe
Multi-instrumentalists John Stirratt and Pat Sansone are the Autumn Defense. The former plays bass in Wilco, the latter backs Josh Rouse and Joseph Arthur. Their 2003 Arena Rock disc, Circles, is filled with a sunny Seventies California vibe. – Jim Caligiuri

Jessy Moss

11pm, Cedar Street Courtyard
Although her anticipated debut sits in post-DreamWorks limbo, this Australian MC is more than just the latest Feminem; her first-person accounts of gun battles and holdups are both streetwise and surprisingly vulnerable. At 6 feet tall, she's also an impossible-to-ignore live presence. – Andy Langer

The Hentchmen

11pm, Jackalope
Detroit's been fertile ground for raw, garagey bands for years. The Hentchmen have a leg up, kicking around for a decade now. They resurfaced a couple of years ago with Three Times Infinity, a primitive chest-thumper from Norton Records. Nothing like Sixties-style raving (without affectations) to loosen things up. – Jerry Renshaw

Lubricated Goat

11pm, Room 710
Formed in Australia in 1986, guitarist/vocalist Stu Spasm's Lubricated Goat has since relocated to New York. Fusing jagged sludge rock to depraved lyrical content is Spasm's specialty. The Goat's new Reptilian disc, The Great Old Ones features new versions of classics like "Jason the Unpopular" and "Spoil the Atmosphere." – Greg Beets

Steve Turner

11pm, 18th Floor @ Crowne Plaza
Guitarist of Seattle's infamous Mudhoney lays it on the line with his bare-bones solo debut Searching for Melody. Scene brothers Dan Peters and Stone Gossard guest on this document featuring Turner's voice behind succinct, primal tunes featuring the same gritty blooze licks we're used to, only acoustic. – Michael Chamy


11:15pm, Zero Degrees
As an MC producing most of her own tracks, Sydney's Macromantics presents a personalized interpretation of hip-hop that revolves around intellectual confrontation. Whether breaking taboos with a thick Aussie accent or imploring that women receive a fair shake, Romy Hoffman's deviations are as calculated as they are a result of circumstance. – Robert Gabriel

The High Strung

Midnight, Club DeVille
This frenetic Detroit quartet conveys timeless male sexual frustration with a strong trash-can pop concoction that hints at the Kinks, Buzzcocks, and Pavement. Their full-length debut, '03's These Are Good Times (Tee Pee) notches up more kudos for Ghetto Recorders and its Motor City über-producer, Jim Diamond. – Greg Beets

Freedom Sold

Midnight, Zero Degrees
Composed of Kwame and Spaceghost, former members of Seeds of Soul, Houston's Freedom Sold presents a wild take on boom bap rap. Their Ten Years Four Walls incorporates lots of indie-rock into its textured assembly. – Robert Gabriel


Midnight, Hole in the Wall
Austin's resident rap patriarch Overlord's The Re-Up forgoes slick studio production in favor of live instrumentation. The veteran MC with band in tow is prone to genre-jump into funk, soul, and rock. – Robert Gabriel

Little Thief

Midnight, Saké on Sixth
Clatter or clamor? Either way, Wellington, New Zealand's Little Thief is intent on shaking both your speakers and rear-end. Ghosts, his self-released debut, is equal parts Aphex Twin electronica and grinding, atonal rhythms that rain down chaos on the unsuspecting. His legendary live shows are part ambient masterpieces and part improvised journeys. – Marc Savlov

Buttless Chaps

Midnight, Lava Lounge Patio
This Vancouver, B.C., band covers their ass plenty. One cheek is firmly planted on the knees of country: classic and alt, and the other lounges in the lap of synth electronica. And as evidenced by their schizophrenic Love This Time (Mint), this bizarre amalgam somehow works in a way that a party hosted by George Jones and Terri Nunn couldn't possibly. – Kate X Messer

Two Hoots and a Holler

Midnight, Broken Spoke
Two Hoots and a Holler ruled Austin with their hardcore roots rock 20 years ago, and whaddaya know? They still rock! Messrs. Ricky Broussard, Vic Gerard, and Chris Staples currently burn up the European circuit with songs from their last CD No Man's Land and influences ranging from the Cramps to Roky Erickson. – Margaret Moser

Steve Poltz

Midnight, Texas Union Theatre
On last year's Chinese Vacation this former Rugburns leader, notorious for breaking up the typical singer-songwriter snooze with brilliantly funny alcohol-fueled stage raps, demonstrated how the same man could've penned both "My Carphone's on the Pill" and Jewel's "You Were Meant for Me." – Andy Langer

An Albatross

Midnight, Caucus Patio
This art-fuct Philly quintet maneuvers their sleek roadster onto Devo-Kraftwerk's Autobahn, going 0 to 240 in 73 seconds, not exactly a record, but the average length of bursts they call songs on their sophomore platter, We Are the Lazer Viking (Ace Fu). Edward B. Geida III shrieks over the Farfisa freeway like a howlin' wolf, hurling this synthesized Sunday drive headlong into a delightful sonic car wreck. – Kate X Messer

America Is Waiting

1am, Copper Tank North
With hardcore and punk shifting units these days, it's no wonder this chaotic Austin fourpiece has gotten some big labels sniffing around. Their Fugazi-influenced debut EP on Die Die Diemond Records only tells half the story. The combustible live show tells the rest. – Michael Chamy

Six Organs of Admittance

1am, Blender Balcony @ the Ritz
From his droning, druggy folk beginnings that found him splitting a 12-inch with Austin's Charalambides, Terrastock veteran Ben Chasny came clean on last year's Compathia (Holy Mountain). Stripped-down Eastern progressions put Chasny's voice out front; if reduced to coffeehouses, hookahs are a must. – Michael Chamy

Don Caballero

1am, Emo's Jr.
Emerging from Pittsburgh in the early Nineties, Don Caballero practically invented math rock with their slam-bang instrumental prog-punk. Breaking up after 2000's reserved American Don (Touch and Go), the band's acrobatic drummer, Damon Che, has reconstituted Don Cab with the members of Steel City math metallurgists Creta Bourzia standing in for his original bandmates. – Greg Beets


1am, Elephant Room
Too raucous for a lounge act and too jazzy to be called a funk outfit, Austin's Gnappy simply turns the levels up and grooves without concern for designations. As at home covering Black Sabbath as Stevie Wonder, Gnappy's 2003 CD Is This a Machine? proves that that their originals are just as inspired. – Robert Gabriel

Josh Martinez & Sleep

1am, Zero Degrees
Otherwise known as the Chicharones, the MC duo of Vancouver's Josh Martinez and Seattle's Sleep of Oldominion alternates between satirical humor and intense lyrical combustion. As seasoned veterans of the underground circuit, expect the best from these hippies in disguise. – Robert Gabriel


1am, Hard Rock Cafe
There simply aren't enough synonyms for "crippling" or "pulverizing" to do Human justice. Suffice it to say the local quartet, 2001 Austin Music Award winners for Best Metal Band, has a follow-up to 2000's Human set to detonate later this year. – Christopher Gray

Alice Donut

1am, Room 710
Why should the Pixies get all the attention? Jello Biafra's Eighties project Alice Donut has decided to give it another go. The experimental acid rockers gave Gibby Haynes a run for his money with 1989's Bucketfulls of Sickness and Horror in an Otherwise Meaningless Life, and now they're touring behind enigmatic reunion album Three Sisters. – Darcie Stevens

Riff Random

1am, Drink
What it means that they're "straight from yer sonicky trash heart" is open to discussion, but these young Aussies get their point across with their Random Love EP, a high-energy, lo-frills run through Stooges-inspired rock. – Andy Langer

The Forty-Fives

1am, Continental Club
The Forty-Fives are just the right combination of Chuck Berry, British invasion pop hooks, and the Who's live combustion. The garage rock antics of the Atlantans' Fight Dirty made them a critical and underground favorite. A follow-up is in the can, scheduled for summer on Yep Roc. – Jim Caligiuri

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