SXSW Picks & Sleepers
All showcase times subject to change
JASON MORAN12mid, Cedar Street Courtyard
Pianist Jason Moran stands at the forefront of a new generation of jazz musicians. His sixth album for Blue Note, Same Mother, has just been released.
Austin Chronicle: How did growing up in Houston influence your music?
Jason Moran: Once you leave Texas you realize how different it is. You're so used to seeing space and trees and family, then you go to a city that's entirely concrete and overcrowded. I began to realize that my music was reflecting portions of my family. I began to make a conscious effort to reconnect back with what I felt was cool about Texas and cool about my family.
AC: Your new album draws on the relationship between blues and jazz.
JM: The relationship is there and not there. It's there in what I consider an attitude. The blues is not just a chord change connecting another chord change. The more I listened to work songs and field hollers, their relation to gospel and spirituals, I found a trend of certain associations of words to music, of words to a certain emotion and sound. When I was choosing music to compose for the album, I wasn't thinking in terms of chord structure but rather how to combine the attitude and emotional content of this music to a different form and then see what that would brew.
AC: How does hip-hop interact with what you do?
JM: In the basic sense, there are introductions that I play at the beginning or middle of the set, which are medleys or montages of sound that are pertinent to a lot of hip-hop records. Also, we loop certain sections. So even in playing James P. Johnson's "You've Got to Be Modernistic," there's a section we loop in much the way the Neptunes or Dr. Dre would take samples. I think of jazz as being a sampleable art form. Jay Trachtenberg
DEVIN THE DUDE12:30am, Back Room
Chronically focused on weed and women, Houston's Devin the Dude marauds cloudy club parking lots in search of maximum stimulation.
Like a perfect bud or a voluptuous hottie on hold, 12 years of Devin rapping and singing his way to sonic nirvana has yet to be fully realized by a public that apparently needs more time to savor a voice so syrupy sweet.
"Charlie Wilson, Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Bootsy Collins, Sugarfoot from the Ohio Players, and the O'Jays," are the man's inspirations. "When I was first coming up, I'd get people comparing me to Too $hort, Slick Rick, and then Nate Dogg."
On the heels of his third solo album, 2004's To tha X-treme, Devin welcomes the reunification of his original outfit, the Odd Squad. Maintaining healthy relationships, including an allegiance to the Rap-a-Lot label, the lifelong Coughee Brotha sees hip-hop a little differently than many of his ever-clashing peers.
"A lot of rappers want to make this music thing out to be a hateful competition. But I'd rather compare it to an old-school situation where there was no beef, just many different artists letting their differences be just that.
"I'm just happy to be doing what I'm doing. I'm looking forward to getting onstage in Austin with Jugg Mugg and Rob Quest just to try to have a little fun and help people relieve their stresses. Just the other night we were doing 'Fa Sho' out at a club for the first time in a long while. I got so caught up in it, that I went and forgot my last two lines."
Short term memory loss or not, Devin is an obsession waiting to happen. Robert Gabriel
ROBYN HITCHCOCK8pm, Emo's Main Last year, you couldn't reach up and scratch your nose at Hitchcock's showcase. This year, he's Spooked (Yep Roc), a joint project with Gillian Welch and her partner David Rawlings. It's spare and haunting, his best in years. Melanie Haupt
EUGENE MIRMAN8pm-2am, Emo's Jr. Like his associates David Cross and Patton Oswalt, this NYC comedian is brave enough to perform regularly in rock clubs. Last year he hit SXSW between tour dates with Modest Mouse. The Absurd Nightclub Comedy of Eugene Mirman was one of 2004's most twisted, brilliant comedy records. Andy Langer
El OTRO LADO DE LA MUSICA LATINA8pm-2am, Caribbean Lights BMI's annual Latin piata cracks opens with the Mosquitos-esque pop of L.A.'s Arlene Ponce-pleasing Juguete, out in support of their smooth, sporty, self-titled debut, and closes on the R&B barrio beats of hip-hop duo Mexiclan. In between, Matamoros' punkish fourpiece Divisin Minúscula are rock candy next to the Vanessa Bauelos-sweetened hip-hop kiss of more Los Angelinos La Sinfonia, MCed in unison by her brother Luis Bauelos and Alfonso Garcia. The heart of this papier mâché prize, El Gran Silencio, has dropped out due to the cancellation of their tour, so urban Latino hip-hopper Malverde slings his thing instead. Still a showcase to scramble for, kids. Raoul Hernandez
TEMPORARY RESIDENCE LTD. SHOWCASE8pm-2am, Eternal Jeremy DeVine's Temporary Residence has showcased a bevy of high-quality, mostly instrumental post-rock acts for nigh-on a decade. Poster children Explosions in the Sky are absent from SXSW 05, but Japanese blood brothers (and sister) Mono (1am) represent. Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and the Sun Shined was a grim take on Explosions' vision, yet more ear-rending at its supernova apex. Eluvium (12mid) a one-man project by Portland, Ore.'s Matthew Cooper radiates an airy serenity with his masterful third album, Talk Amongst the Trees. Manipulated sounds ebb and drift in inexplicably beautiful combinations, similar to recent Stars of the Lid or early Eno himself. Louisville, Ky.'s Parlour (11pm) is more upbeat with their warm, electro-embellished Hives Fives EP. Lazarus (10pm) is Trevor Montgomery, a singer with a feel for quiet and space. Frenetic young Alvin, Texas, mayhem-rockers By the End of Tonight (9pm) round out the showcase. Non-TempRes San Diego vets Tristeza (8pm) kick the night off, unleashing years' worth of effective instro-rock tapestries. Michael Chamy
TROY CAMPBELL9pm, B.D. Riley's Since his days in the Loose Diamonds, Austin roots rocker Troy Campbell has pursued a solo career with the passion and honesty that are trademarks of his songwriting, delivered with a smooth, powerful voice. Campbell's working on a follow-up to his widely praised 2003 album, American Breakdown. Jim Caligiuri
ELIZABETH MCQUEEN9pm, Latitude 30 Only Austin's Ian McLagan remembers the UK's pub-rock movement of the Seventies. Local country filly Elizabeth McQueen's spunky sophomore LP, Happy Doing What We're Doing, preserves the bar pop of early Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, and Brinsley Schwarz as only her sassy swing and good cheer could. Raoul Hernandez
TIM EASTON9pm, Cedar Street Courtyard When Bob Dylan eventually retires, we can rest assured that Tim Easton is waiting in the wings. Not that the Ohio-born singer-songwriter is merely an Uncle Bob mini-me. His third record, Break Your Mother's Heart (New West), was a triumph; the soon-to-come follow-up should be nothing less. Melanie Haupt
WALTER TRAGERT9pm, Lounge @ Crown Plaza Walter Tragert's Lousy With Desire was, very quietly, one of the best local albums of 2004. Likewise, his regular Sunday night gig at the Saxon allowed his dry humor to develop around his punchy, soulful songs. Tragert is a survivor of the music business and his hard-earned wisdom imbues his music with unexpected backbone and muscle. Margaret Moser
BABOON9pm, Room 710 When Baboon singer Andrew Huffstetler announces his willingness to "carry the weight of the world," a surging mass of guitar sweeps his noble intentions up into anthemic whirlwinds. Bouncing labels over the past decade, the Denton act is currently cutting a follow-up to their remarkably fetching 2002 disc, Something Good Is Going to Happen to You. Robert Gabriel
DRUMS & TUBA10pm, Blender Bar @ the Ritz Founded in Austin nine years ago, D&T guitar, tuba, drums have carved themselves a sustaining niche with their instrumental sound paintings. Now residing in New Orleans, the trio's last two albums have come via Righteous Babe; the group is currently wrapping up their seventh release. David Lynch
THE DAMNATIONS10pm, Fox & Hound After inspiring a regional fan base with stellar harmonies and gritty roots rock, the Damnations sisters Deborah Kelly and Amy Boone with Ron Bernard grabbed the major label brass ring, Sire, only to see it spawn headaches. Indie in spirit, country in acoustics, the Damnations released Where It Lands in 2002 on their own Joy-Ride Records. David Lynch
FANTASY'S CORE10pm, Room 710 Hailing from Nagasaki, Fantasy's Core lays waste to the senses with their potent cocktail of punk, metal, and blues. Once you're sufficiently deafened, the quintet proceeds to double you over with their vaudevillian slapstick. This fall saw the release of the Core's second album, Nagasaki Blues (Porto). Greg Beets
ECHO BASE SOUNDSYSTEM10pm, Flamingo Cantina Tidal exchanges signify the breathing of the Earth as Austin's Echo Base Soundsystem charts lunar calendars of heavy dub. The band's 2003 self-titled debut bounces sonar probes about an ocean of syncopated sound. Robert Gabriel
PALAXY TRACKS10pm, Velvet Spade Patio As they prepare their third album, Twelve Rooms, Chicago's Palaxy Tracks take a seat next to literate art-rock auteurs like the Tindersticks and the Bad Seeds. Only Brandon Durham's introspection dampen the parade of delay, tremolo, and feedback that is the annual SXSW homecoming of these Austin expats. Michael Chamy
THIS MICROWAVE WORLD10pm, Chuggin' Monkey Recently signed to Tight Spot Records, Austin's This Microwave World finally release their debut full-length this spring after self-releasing about a zillion EPs. The quintet, nearly 3 years old, has already won legions of local fans with their punky mod-rock that's chock-full of attitude. Melanie Haupt
WILLARD GRANT CONSPIRACY10pm, Vibe Willard Grant Conspiracy, fronted by Robert Fisher of Lancaster, Calif., features a rotating cast of 31 from around the world. With songs of remarkable sweep and vision, Fisher and friends create vibrating soundtracks to the wide-open spaces of the American Southwest. Last year's Regard the End found worldwide critical acclaim. Jim Caligiuri
SUSAN COWSILL10pm, Cedar Street Courtyard Whether she's singing the national anthem with the Cowsills at Fenway Park or performing solo in the parking lot of the Dog & Duck Pub, Susan Cowsill has a rare knack for uniquely expressive leads and melt-away harmonies. Cowsill's solo debut, Just Believe It, showcases pop that recalls Lucinda Williams. Greg Beets
MIKE DOUGHTY10pm, Buffalo Billiards In the five years since his Soul Coughing split, Doughty has skillfully juggled the quirky and substantive on a pair of self-released records, recently reissued as a set on ATO. Now he's here previewing a lusher, but no less entertaining, full-length debut produced by Dan Wilson. Andy Langer
SMOOSH10pm, Maggie Mae's Ten-year-old Chloe plays drums; 12-year-old Asya plays keys. Together these two sisters from Seattle make cute pop songs and tour with bigwigs like Mates of State and Pearl Jam all before high school. Their debut, She Like Electric, brims with youthful expression and a near-adult grasp of songwriting. Audra Schroeder
VIC CHESNUTT11pm, Pecan Street Ale House In the world of singer-songwriters, Vic Chesnutt is an original. For more than 15 years, the Athens, Ga., resident has blended folk, country, and rock & roll into his own idiosyncratic song style that's Southern Gothic at its core. Chesnutt is set to release his 12th album, Ghetto Bells (New West), later this month. Jim Caligiuri
ENON11pm, Parish Deftly surfing a wave of cut-and-paste digital detritus, Philadelphia's Enon makes hermetic dance music for TV-addled shut-ins. Borne of Nineties sonic scavengers Brainiac and Skeleton Key, Enon's new rarities collection, Lost Marbles and Exploded Evidence (Touch and Go), embodies the spirit of laptop experimentalism. Greg Beets
THE MODEY LEMON11pm, Club de Ville Pittsburgh's Modey Lemon is like getting worked over with the Nuggets box set by a whacked-out post-punk survivor of the Eighties. The Lemon's last LP for cutting edge label Birdman, 2003's Thunder + Lightning, is an unrelenting fusillade of indie angst and retro-night alienation. Raoul Hernandez
EVIL NINE11pm, Elysium Remember first hearing Prince Paul or DJ Shadow? You're in for the same jaw-dropping sensation from Evil Nine, aka UK beat masters Tom Beaufoy and Pat Pardy. Making a rep as remixers, their debut, You Can Be Special Too, is special indeed: an eclectic, innovative mash-up of reggae toasts, guitars, and guest MCs. Andy Langer
THE DONNAS11pm, Stubb's While the Donnas' jailbait persona was cheeky fun, it couldn't go on forever. The Palo Alto, Calif., quartet jumped Lookout! for Atlantic on 2002's Spend the Night and shifted their core aesthetic from punk to hard rock. Though less celebrated than its predecessor, 2004's Gold Medal hits the spot with a sonic patina reminiscent of AC/DC. Greg Beets
TIFT MERRITT11pm, La Zona Rosa Tift Merritt's sophomore release, 2004's Tambourine (Lost Highway), was Grammy nominated for Best Country Album, but the North Carolinian makes music far from today's mainstream country. Her warm, hearty vocals mingle with a Stax-era soul vibe, superimposed with a sturdy brand of country rock. Jim Caligiuri
FLOYD DOMINO11pm, Latitude 30 A founding member of Asleep at the Wheel, this highly talented, versatile pianist has an impressive résumé that includes work with Waylon Jennings, George Strait, and countless Nashville recording sessions. He's released a series of children's records on his own Golliber imprint. Jay Trachtenberg
RAY LAMONTAGNE11pm, Buffalo Billiards This Maine singer-songwriter's debut, 2004's Trouble, might not have hit it out of the box, but this isn't music for overnight sensationalism. With Starbucks behind it, Trouble is picking up commercially, but seeing is believing; folks actively testify to the revival-like quality of his ACL Music Fest set. Andy Langer
ABRA MOORE11pm, Bigsby's After hitting big with the Grammy-nominated Strangest Places (Arista), Abra Moore regrouped and unleashed her angelic voice and delicate songwriting on 2003's intimate Everything Changed. David Lynch
THE SIX PARTS SEVEN11pm, Emo's Jr. Bridging John Fahey and Brian Eno, this instrumental, guitar-based ensemble formed 10 years ago in Kent, Ohio. The sevenpiece has four releases, the last three including last year's Everywhere and Right Here on Suicide Squeeze. At times, SPS evokes fellow soundsmiths Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Tortoise. David Lynch
BENEVENTO-RUSSO DUO11pm, Blender Bar @ the Ritz Next month's Best Reason to Buy the Sun on Brooklyn's ultra dope Ropeadope Records may be the NYC organ/drum duo's debut, but the 15 years behind it is the best reason to shoot out the lights. A keyboard and beat is all the instro jazz, funk, and rock one groover needs, and in these four hands, your head will spin like vinyl. Raoul Hernandez
THE OCTOPUS PROJECT11pm, Velvet Spade Patio Austin's Octopus Project has matured in the two years since Identification Parade, but they still know how to have a good time. The new One Ten Hundred Thousand Million (Peek-a-Boo) is a surreal leap into post-electronic chaos. Darcie Stevens
MIDLAKE11pm, Friends Enchanting and intelligent, Denton's Midlake started making waves in 2001 with their Milkmaid Grand Army EP. The Cocteau Twins' Bella Union imprint swiped up the band and released the beautifully textured Bamnan and Slivercork last year. Hints of Grandaddy melding with layers of synth. Darcie Stevens
MOONLIGHT TOWERS11pm, Blender Bar Balcony @ the Ritz Like a devoted collector's stacks of vinyl compressed into a live rock band, Austin's Moonlight Towers turn 40 years of history into something new and exciting. A new CD, their second, is hot out of the oven. Christopher Gray
THE THERMALS11pm, Emo's Main Naming their second album Fuckin A didn't help the Thermals' chances of radio play, but the title captures the Portland, Ore., trio's raw nerve unbraiding of the Undertones/Buzzcocks school of Brit punk. The Therms' sophomore effort is an angrier, politically charged, and sonically enhanced version of their $60 demo-cum-Sub Pop debut, More Parts Per Million. Greg Beets
SWISHAHOUSE11:45pm, Back Room As their phenomenal 2004 hit "Still Tippin" continues gaining ground outside Texas, Houston's Swishahouse clique are spreading the buzz. Hardly bogged down by the defection of Chamillionaire, MCs Paul Wall, Mike Jones, and Slim Thug dominate the airwaves, mix CD game, and ring-tone downloading without him. Robert Gabriel
HEADPHONES12mid, Emo's Jr. The brainchild of Pedro the Lion's David Bazan, Headphones comprises Bazan, Pedro bandmate Tim Walsh, and Frank Lenz. Shunning guitar for the synthesizer, their eponymous debut on Suicide Squeeze boasts Bazan's intelligent, measured lyrics and enough moods to color a rainbow. Melanie Haupt
THE ALBUM LEAF12mid, Emo's Main When Sigur Rs invited Jimmy LaValle to Iceland to record his 2004 Sub Pop debut, In a Safe Place, he gained entrance to an exclusive club reserved for instrumental geniuses. San Diego's Album Leaf is LaValle's outlet for luscious soundscapes drenched in fantasy. Darcie Stevens
TWINEMEN12mid, Blender Bar @ the Ritz An ambitious new trio formed from the ashes of Morphine, the Twinemen are drummer Billy Conway, saxophonist Dana Colley, and singer Laurie Sargent. A tangle of horns, voices, and rhythms, the Boston trio is in the process of filming their current tour for a summer DVD. Jim Caligiuri