Nellie McKay

SXSW Live Shots

SXSW Live Shots
Photo By Mary Sledd

Nellie McKay

Lounge, Wednesday, March 17 The pop landscape would certainly look a lot different if all young blond singers working today were as witty, articulate, and wry as Nellie McKay. Then again, acts like McKay wouldn't be the breath of fresh air this business so desperately needs if that were the case. McKay played it safe as she started off, opening her filled-to-bursting showcase with whimsical, charming songs off her debut, Get Away From Me. The subject matter of these "safer" songs covered everything from the redemptive powers of adopting a stray dog ("That's what it's all a-bow-wow-wow-wout!"), the death of a beloved cat, and "a story about how I moved out of the hood and into shopping at Target." While the whimsy sometimes bordered on novelty, McKay's confidence lacked the irony of acts like Ween or Tenacious D; this saucy lass was earnest in her worldly but not jaded, sweetly caustic observations about the mundaneness of life. Toss those Norah Jones comparisons in the bin, though, because the only thing these two have in common is the piano. This was most clear when McKay's subject matter took a darker tone, the demure young lady dropping F-bombs faster than Eminem and tossing around references to 9/11 and the war in Iraq. This segment was quite possibly the weakest of McKay's set, but she redeemed herself with her final three numbers, "Clonie" ("I'm the only person I've ever loved"), "David," and tour de force "I Wanna Get Married." This closer showcased McKay's jazz chops as she skewered the torch song, singing, "I want to pack little lunches for my Brady Bunches, then read Danielle Steele." It's refreshing to see a teensy, sweet-looking young lady with brains and a filthy mouth, the perfect specimen of postmodern femininity.

Keep up with all our SXSW coverage at Sign up for our South By-specific newsletter at for news, reviews, and previews delivered to your inbox every day of the Fest. And for the latest tweets, follow @ChronSXSW.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

Wednesday Interview
Wednesday Interview
Delta Spirit

Jim Caligiuri, March 20, 2015

Wednesday Picks & Sleepers
Wednesday Picks & Sleepers
First night SXSW Music recommendations and hints

March 20, 2015

More Music Reviews
Texas Platters
Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord
Harder On the Outside (Record Review)

Michael Toland, March 22, 2019

Top 10 Box Sets of 2018
The Art Ensemble of Chicago and Associated Ensembles
The Art Ensemble of Chicago and Associated Ensembles (Record Review)

Michael Toland, Dec. 7, 2018

More by Melanie Haupt
Gluten-Free Wild Wood Bakehouse Shutters Guadalupe Location
Gluten-Free Wild Wood Bakehouse Shutters Guadalupe Location
Their second location, Wilder Wood, remains open on Seventh Street

Feb. 27, 2019

Top 10 Carby Treats
Top 10 Carby Treats
The ten best ways to indulge in a carbohydrate bomb by a bevy of talented local bakers and pastry chefs

Dec. 28, 2018

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle