SXSW Picks & Sleepers



All showcases subject to change


5:30pm, Town Lake Stage @ Auditorium Shores In these days of political conservatism, few MCs are willing to take a dissident stand and stick with it. Displaying no such reluctance, Boston's Mr. Lif paired with fellow Beantown rapper Akrobatik as the Perceptionists for 05's Black Dialogue (Definitive Jux) with fierce admonishments lobbed at the U.S. government and commercial hip-hop alike. – Robert Gabriel


6:30pm, Town Lake Stage @ Auditorium Shores Exploring fresh musical terrain, Oakland-based rap duo Blackalicious gathers sound ideas along the road less traveled. Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel unearth curious takes on traditional hip-hop as their latest, The Craft (Anti-), veers deep into The Love Below backwoods of soul-pop fusion. Recent collaborations with George Clinton and Gil Scott-Heron further mutate the Blackalicious cornucopia. – Robert Gabriel


7pm, Town Lake Stage @ Auditorium Shores After playing label hopscotch early on, these hometown heroes scored a game-winning TD in 2005 with the Some Girls-infected Gimme Fiction (Merge). Horror-machine Stephen King counts himself a fan, and Austinites are still rooting for Spoon – even if frontman Britt Daniel recently relocated to rainy Portland, Ore. Daniel's falsetto, danceable guitar skronk, and Jim Eno's Charlie Watts-like metronome remain Spoon's weapons of choice. – Dan Oko


7pm, Austin Music Hall Today's pop bands have taken a centrifuge to a list of influences and come up with something entirely original, yet few have accomplished it as thoroughly as Liverpool's Zutons. A careening mix of Seventies styles and British blues 'n' boogie, with a nod toward prog-rock, the quintet is set to issue its next CD, Tired of Hangin' Around (Deltasonic), this summer. – Jim Caligiuri


7:30pm, Whisky Bar Talk about your renaissance woman! The ever-charming Pamela Des Barres has gone from notorious to A-list in one lifetime, thanks to her groundbreaking groupie memoir I'm With The Band. Reissued last year with addenda from her SXSW adventures, Des Barres' book, like the lady, is unforgettable. – Margaret Moser


8pm, Cedar Street Courtyard Local steel guitar vet and slide queen Cindy Cashdollar has put in time with Ryan Adam's Roses, Ray Benson's Texas swing outfit Asleep at the Wheel, and the house band on Prairie Home Companion. Hometown hero Redd Volkaert has been backing Merle Haggard since 2000; he's a national treasure in his own right. Expect friends, but this pair of aces is a sure bet. – Dan Oko


8pm, Whisky Bar Affectionately known as Scrappy Jud, Newcomb is a tremendously talented unsung hero of the Austin roots music scene. A singer-songwriter/producer, he's best known for his superb guitar playing in many local bands, including the Resentments and Ian McLagan's Bump Band. His most recent album, Byzantine (Freedom), was an unheralded highlight of last year's Austin releases. – Jay Trachtenberg


8pm, Parish By the time you read this, Vanderslice will be wrapping up a European tour with Death Cab for Cutie. The Bay area indie rocker is still supporting last year's gorgeous, sometimes uncomfortably confessional Pixel Revolt (Barsuk); expect a remix this year, as well as a new full-length this summer. – Melanie Haupt


8pm, Emo's Annex

The 1969 Jane Fonda flick of the same name, a film about a grueling dance marathon, is the perfect tangent for this band. The Vancouver octet's debut LP, Boo Hoo Hoo Boo (Kill Rock Stars), rocks a full horn section in addition to dancey beats, scratched vocals, and unchecked skronky-tonk madness. The result is tiring, exhilarating, heart rates up all around. – Audra Schroeder


8pm, Momos 2006 marks 20 years of making records for Darden Smith, whose admirably self-assured new Field of Crows proves his peak isn't far afield. His third perfect fit for Dualtone, Crows flutters in the 44-year-old Austinite's house of love like the glories of Seventies AM radio visited on KGSR's peerless adult contemporary. Texan songwriters improve with age, and these days, this one's hitting nothing but net. – Raoul Hernandez


8:15pm, Austin Music Hall Along with his fourpiece backing band, Sheffield England's Hawley imports Coles Corner (Mute), swanky, sleepy, loungey grassroots; imagine Burt Bacharach with a bit of hay in his teeth. Hawley also gives an acoustic performance Saturday evening at Eternal. – Melanie Haupt


8:30pm, Emo's IV

James Taylor arm wrestling Neil Young; the Band living on a commune with the Mamas and the Papas. Think of California breeze and Michael McDonald lounging on a yacht named "Lady Maria"; or smoking dope with Will Oldham in the mountains of North Carolina. Really, it's all right there on the Austin octet's recent eponymous debut. Just inhale. – Audra Schroeder


9pm, Emo's Jr. The Six Parts Seven are all about continental guitar drifts. Founded by brothers Allen and Jay Karpinski, the Kent, Ohio, band, consisting of as many as eight string-benders at any one gig, trades in soft-spoken anesthetic instrumentals. 2004's Everywhere and Right Here (Suicide Squeeze) went all-out Eno. – Michael Bertin


9pm, Hilton 406 Next time you feel like complaining, think of A.J. Croce. He lost his dad (singer-songwriter Jim) and lost his eyesight to a tumor (since regained). In the Nineties, he blew out his voice and had to relearn how to sing entirely. And if you're looking for a second strike of lightning, look elsewhere; A.J. seems more inspired by Dr. John than by his old man. – Michael Bertin


9pm, La Zona Rosa Easton's fourth, Ammunition (New West), is filled with the requisite introspection of singer-songwriters. With some of the softer parts co-produced by Jayhawk Gary Louris, the album works best on tracks that sound underproduced and unadorned, when the bouts of self-doubt turn into outright fits of anger. – Michael Bertin


10pm, Velvet Spade Patio

A 2005 SXSW highlight, thanks to a master class on melancholy energy, this Denver quartet employs dueling trumpets, a light-festooned sousaphone, string bass, toy piano, expert whistling, accordion, and a theremin. It's painfully obvious why their Eastern European, South American, and American Southwestern mash-up – displayed so wonderfully on 2004's How It Ends – rightfully garners such buzz. – David Lynch


10pm, Emo's Jr. Pedro the Lion's David Bazan brings his deeply intimate, all-synthesizer side project, featuring Pedro bandmate Tim Walsh and Frank Lenz, yet again. Last year's self-titled Suicide Squeeze release was populated by hot chicks and shit-talkers, along with Bazan's thoughtful, literate lyrics. – Melanie Haupt


10pm, Central Presbyterian Church Tony Conrad helped pioneer minimalism in the Sixties through aggregations such as the Dream Syndicate and the Theatre of Eternal Music, featuring LaMonte Young and John Cale, and with Lou Reed in Velvet Underground predecessors the Primitives. One of the great performer/composers of the electronic avant-garde, Conrad's 1997 album Early Minimalism reinstated him on that cutting edge, as did last year's Outside the Dream Syndicate Alive. – Margaret Moser


10pm, Stubb's Pop quiz: Which glockenspiel-loving brother-sister act jumped from Rough Trade to Fat Possum on Valentine's Day? Not the faux-twin White Stripes, but the ever-more-entertaining, not to mention genuinely related, Fiery Furnaces. A blast of fresh air in a world hooked on the Next Big Thing, critics and fans anticipate former Austin resident Eleanor and brother Matt Friedberger's freshly brewed Bitter Tea. – Dan Oko


10pm, Emo's Annex Now a threepiece, these San Francisco ladies rock it fast and skronky, while singer/trombonist Jenny Hoysten spouts off stream-of-consciousness style. Their most recent CD, At Crystal Palace, paces the floor laid by more angular acts of yore, but the best part of seeing them live is waiting for the floor to give way, and for the free-jazz noise session to begin. – Audra Schroeder


10pm, Whisky Bar From humble beginnings as an occasional jam among friends, this group of local stalwarts has evolved into an Austin musical treasure whose long-standing Sunday night Saxon Pub gigs have become legendary. Together, Stephen Bruton, Jon Dee Graham, Jud Newcomb, Bruce Hughes, and John Chipman, along with their self-titled 2004 release on Freedom Records, are a huge local favorite. – Jay Trachtenberg


10pm, Antone's Hard to believe that the preternaturally youthful Foster has been a Nashville fixture for more than two decades. Though he proves willing to return to his Del Rio roots on his 2004 acoustic Back-Porch Sessions, he remains popular amid the boot-scooting, CMT set. Meanwhile, his songs have been covered by everybody from Hootie & the Blowfish to Kenny Chesney. – Dan Oko


10pm, Caribbean Lights

The Russians are coming. This St. Petersburg octet has been around since the Soviet era, and their distinct brand of protest music is a fusion of old-world melodies, jazzy Dadaist pop, and punk rock. Led by Leonid Fedorov, it's a mystery why Auktyon have yet to be celebrated as the global cultural phenomenon they truly are. Maybe the forthcoming Pioneer (Circular Moves) will change that. – Dan Oko


10:15pm, Emo's Main Since 2000's Swagger made forlorn Pogues fans everywhere pick their sozzled heads up off the bar and dance a jig, L.A.'s Flogging Molly has been the standard-bearer of Shamrock punk. Fronted by erudite Dublin expat Dave King, with fiddler Bridget Regan as his fetching foil, the septet last checked in with the Social Distortion sheen of 2004's Within a Mile of Home (SideOneDummy). – Christopher Gray


11pm, Bourbon Rocks Last year Bloodshot released Scott H. Biram's fourth album, The Dirty Old One Man Band, a collection of pure Texas blues growl and rock attitude in metal's dark shadow. Already a scary stage show, the Austinite's one-man hellhound live act strengthened with a recent near-death experience. Listen for trads like "Muleskinner Blues" along with Biram-penned cinderblock country and hardscrabble blues. – David Lynch


11pm, Cedar Street Courtyard Ruthie Foster has traveled far from her bitty hometown of Gause, Texas. Her rousing concerts prompt fans to pick up her CDs in droves, including 2004's Stages (Blue Corn). Foster's emotive depths reflect her Deep South roots, with no one besting her sung and strummed spirituals, Texas blues, gospel, and folk. – David Lynch


11pm, Momos Although they left for Nashville, the Greencards are still considered an Austin favorite. The bluegrass-leaning trio, consisting of two Australians and a Brit, won the Best New Band award at the 2004 Austin Music Awards and opened 30 shows for Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson this past summer. Their second disc, 2005's Weather and Water (Dualtone), won critical acclaim worldwide. – Jim Caligiuri


11pm, La Zona Rosa Formerly known as Nic Armstrong & the Thieves, these Nottingham-bred lads moved to Austin last summer, even stocking the shelves at their record label, New West, for a spell. Far from overstaying their welcome, they gave the scene a stiff shot of Kinksian energy only partially evident on 2005's The Greatest White Liar, and recently recorded a follow-up at local studio the Bubble. – Christopher Gray


11pm, Red Eyed Fly Only Rust Belt bands like Five Horse Johnson emit blue-rock sparks so effortlessly. Hailing from the Glass Swamp, aka Toledo, Ohio, the harp- and slide-guitar-driven quartet just kicked British bollocks in Newcastle. Detroit's Small Stone will release their sixth, The Mystery Spot, next month. – David Lynch


11pm, Stubb's Amanda Palmer is pissed off. When she explodes with drummer Brian Viglione, the Boston duo's rare form of rock & roll cabaret bitch slaps the audience with equal parts "wow" and "what?" Easily the most unique band showcasing at SXSW this year, the Dresden Dolls mix Tori Amos with Minor Threat and the Cure: politically gothic punk rock. – Darcie Stevens


11:30pm, Friends Former Afghan Whig raconteur Greg Dulli has a tenuous history at Austin shows, but the Twilight Singers' amplified twist-up of quiet storm R&B and Nick Cave theatricality is reason enough to stay close to the fire. Dulli ably tackled everything from Gershwin to Mary J. Blige on 2004's covers set, She Loves You. The L.A.-based collective's fourth album, Powder Burns (One Little Indian), is due in May. – Greg Beets


11:30pm, Room 710 That sound you'll be hearing isn't the aliens finally coming to get you. That's all Helios Creed. The mysterious singer/guitarist's output has been steady over the years, but steadily weird, from the spacey neon growl of 1992's Lactating Purple to his latest, On the Dark Side of the Sun. He's a California boy, but he fits right in here in the fried confines of Texas. – Audra Schroeder


11:30pm, Back Room A restored Cadillac with longhorns affixed to the hood pulls up to the curb. Tinted windows roll down to reveal a cowboy hat and gold grill accentuating a smiling face. As a country rap tune rattles from the trunk, Houston's Chingo Bling questions whether you want some of his grade-A product. Before there's a chance to look for cops, a piping hot tamale gets placed in your hand. – Robert Gabriel


12mid, Bourbon Rocks The maverick son of country legend Bobby Bare – also appearing at SXSW 06 – has carved out his own career as a supremely snot-nosed songwriter with a seemingly never-ending life on the road. A taste of his oddball life and songs can be found on the new self-released live disc, Nick Nacks & Paddy Whacks. Bare's working on a new album for Bloodshot Records. – Jim Caligiuri


12mid, Creekside @ Capitol Place In the 1980s, Willie Nile released two critically acclaimed LPs on Arista, toured with the Who, and was lauded as the new Springsteen, yet the New Yorker's output has been sporadic since two mostly-overlooked studio releases and a live disc in the Nineties. Nile had just issued Streets of New York, featuring Jakob Dylan and Rami Jaffee of the Wallflowers. – Jim Caligiuri


12mid, Pecan St. Ale House Bartell is a singer-songwriter whose roots are more in the last days of premodern rock radio (My Bloody Valentine, Seam, etc.) than they are in, well, roots music. Think James on that side of the pond, or Jeff Buckley on this one. – Michael Bertin


12mid, Habana Calle 6 Patio Named after Austin singer/guitarist Greg Vanderpool's grandfather, Milton Mapes rock like Crazy Horse while being unafraid to let a song's quiet moments shine. The quintet released their third disc, The Blacklight Trap (Undertow), in 2005, expanding on their brand of atmospheric Americana with a mature yet dark vision. – Jim Caligiuri


12mid, Whisky Bar Austin guitar-slinger Jon Dee Graham owes his rich growl to Tom Waits, but his long career has been built on hard work, bringing accolades as a sideman for the likes of Michele Shocked and John Doe, as well as part of the seminal New Sincerity outfit the True Believers. 2004's The Great Battle (New West) kicked butt; this month's follow-up, Full (Freedom), should take names. – Dan Oko


12mid, Stubb's It's even money this British band could find fresh success on the forthcoming How We Operate (ATO). The floating amalgam of glam-infused Coldplay knockoffs and would-be American R&B has already established Gomez, which relies on three songwriters, as a forebear of this year's collaborative sweethearts, including Animal Collective. You blew your chance with Gwyneth, mates. – Dan Oko


12mid, Antone's

Although he's been making albums since 1989, Austin's James McMurtry, son of famed novelist and Brokeback Mountain co-scribe Larry McMurtry, has reached another peak as a songwriter. 2005's Childish Things (Compadre) is a masterpiece of social commentary mixed with Murtry's brand of biting, raw, and rootsy guitar rock highlighted by the fierce protest song "We Can't Make It Here." – Jim Caligiuri


12mid, Buffalo Billiards Boasting two guitarists and two keyboardists, Austin's Sound Team is all about the layers. Having built their own studio (Big Orange) and amassed a formidable collection of vintage instruments, the septet's modern variation on wall of sound yields highly charged results, and their stage presence is no less commanding. Their first LP for Capitol is due this spring. – Greg Beets


12:30am, Emo's IV In the sea where Montreal freaks Unicorns once swam, Islands have risen. Nothing at all like their predecessors, Islands mix indie pop with a tropical flair, which results in some sort of tight-jean, rum-loving hybrid. The aptly named Return to the Sea is out later this year. – Darcie Stevens


12:30am, Fox & Hound

The chorus "pussy, marijuana" caught crowds off guard at Sundance in Utah this winter, but the New York-based Brazilian Girls are neither Brazilian, nor strictly girls; you'll be disappointed if you're looking for Mardi Gras madness. On last year's self-titled Verve debut, the global echoes behind the steely, seductive vocals of Italian-born Sabina Sciubba, who relocates the tropics to some swank East Village lounge. – Dan Oko


12:40am, Parish II Basically Oklahoman David Terry, Aqueduct is what you might get if a Brian Wilson-fronted Death Cab ever drove its tongue into its cheek and tried to go Postal Service. Now based in the north left corner, the band's 2005 release, I Sold Gold (Barsuk), garnered last year's Most Obscure Band to Sell a Song to Sell Cars award (Jaguar). – Michael Bertin


12:45am, Emo's Main

An Eastern European counterpart to Irish labelmates Flogging Molly, NYC's Gogol Bordello melds ethnic and rock influences with pulsating vitality. Conducted by the fiercely charismatic Eugene Hutz, the octet's dizzying live shows often feel like a Ukranian wedding crashed by a leather-jacketed performance art troupe. 2005's Gypsy Punks Underdog World Strike (SideOneDummy) is their fourth, and best, album. – Christopher Gray


1am, Continental Club The seventh release for Young Fresh Fellow Scott McCaughey – the cleverly self-titled Minus 5 (Yep Roc) – and his collage-of-cool helping hands may be the most Beatles-esque to date. This time out the guest list includes Peter Buck, Jeff Tweedy, Glenn Kotche, the Decemberists' Colin Meloy, John Wesley Harding, Kelly Hogan, and Ken Stringfellow of the Posies. – Michael Bertin


1am, Redrum A man as talented as his career is long, Damien Jurado is one of few songwriters who still does it for the heart. Last year's sixth album, On My Way to Absence (Secretly Canadian), added a longing grin to his catalog of depressing beauty. With the resounding sadness of Ghost of David (2000) in his pocket, Jurado knows about truth. – Darcie Stevens


1am, Soho Lounge Detroit's Thunderbirds Are Now! bring their amped-up municipal pedigree to bear on frenetically fluid, end-of-the-world post-punk. As a result, their sound is twisted and powerful enough to curdle the cortex. The quartet's 2005 debut LP, Justamustache (Frenchkiss), is a strategic sound-clash of jagged guitars, break-neck rhythms, and dystopic New Wave synthesizer bleats. – Greg Beets


1am, Molotov Lounge The shaking rumps, the disco balls, and the eschatological get-down groove that characterize a Pong show make them one of Austin's most inviting live acts. Combining guitar heroics, futuristic synthesizers, and a lock-steady bottom end, the jumpsuit-adorned quintet does everything to get a party started except tap the keg. 2005 saw the release of the Pong's long-awaited second album, Bubble City (Realistic). – Greg Beets


1am, Parish If ever a novelty misspelled a band it might have been Nada Surf's mid-Nineties MTV hit "Popular." Since then the band has flowed far away from Rivers Cuomo geek chic and into pop music of depth and sadness. The Weight Is a Gift, the band's latest for Barsuk Records, might not match 2003's Let Go hook for hook, but it still throws punches with Valuev-like reach. – Michael Bertin


1am, Cedar Street Courtyard Austin's cosmic cowboys have long seen fit to yield the dance floor when Grupo Fantasma takes the stage. Recently, the innovative 11-piece split with its longtime lead singer; now, percussionist Jose Galeano has stepped to the mic. The band is still riding high on 2004's Movimiento Popular (Aire Sol) and putting up their Latin grooves like nobody's business. Que fuerte!Dan Oko


1am, Zero Degrees

Canadian rap superstars Swollen Members carved their fate by rocking cannabis cups and snowboarding competitions. Based out of Vancouver, Prevail and Mad Child run their Battle Axe imprint like a legally sanctioned kind-bud operation. In league with the sticky styles of Moka Only and Rob the Viking, Swollen Members anticipate the release of their fifth album, Black Magic. – Robert Gabriel


1am, Bourbon Rocks It might not be a misnomer to call the pride of Festus, Mo., a bar band because, well, a dozen years in, the Bottle Rockets still tend to play in bars. The band finds itself back on Bloodshot for the upcoming May release of Zoysia, its eighth studio rekkid. – Michael Bertin


1am, Stubb's Leaving the ubiquitous taint of "O Brother" in the dust, Nickel Creek plunges ahead with a sound more reminiscent of Coldplay or Nirvana Unplugged than Ralph Stanley. Though this So-Cal trio disdains drums for the most part, their latest, Why Should the Fire Die? (Sugar Hill), has a dark, rhythmic undertow. Clever covers remain a live staple, but the originals grow stronger every outing. – Dan Oko


1am, La Zona Rosa The Band, circa 2006. Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley, and Jason Isbell are each perfectly capable of being a brilliant bandleader on their own, but together they skewer every imaginable Southern-rock stereotype with the grace of poets and the power of a tornado. A Blessing and a Curse, due next month on New West, tackles the Truckers' scariest subject yet: happiness. – Christopher Gray


1am, Caribbean Lights No surprise that L.A.'s Dengue Fever has previously splashed big at SXSW. Who can touch cocktail jazz rock mixed with the enchanting sound of Cambodian songstress Chhom Nimol? Even more the case with the sixpiece's new disc, Escape From Dragon House (BRG Records), which features even more delicious Farfisa organ, pulsing rhythm, softly clipped reverb guitar, and Nimol's ethereal pipes. – David Lynch


1am, Red Eyed Fly Southern rock boogie that spits enflamed metal shavings, Austin's Honky is a naughty power trio of the first order. Cowboy-hatted, tattooed within an inch of their lives, and led by former Butthole Surfer J.D. Pinkus, Honky just released their best album, Balls Out Inn (Small Stone), featuring topical favs "Plugs, Mugs and Jugs" and "Love to Smoke Your Weed." – David Lynch


1am, Emo's Jr. Last year's Menos el Oso (Suicide Squeeze) finds this propulsive Seattle foursome treading a fine line between guilty pleasuredom and blowing up as the NBT. Seriously, their OC moment could come any day. Jet City credentials (Kill Sadie, Sharks Keep Moving) have us hoping that, following a recent Japan tour, these boys will hit their stride without selling out. Seriously. – Dan Oko


1am, Whisky Bar That ex-Faces Ian McLagan and the late Ronnie Lane both chose Austin as their homes only goes to confirm the River City's appeal: there's nothing the town loves more than kick-ass barroom rock & roll. McLagan is releasing Spiritual Boy: An Appreciation of Ronnie Lane in April. – Margaret Moser


1am, Elysium Sure, everybody had a little laugh at the Poppyfields incident, but it showed that the old guys can still get one over. And why not? Twenty-plus years into it, the Welsh band still churns out an angry edgy post-punk anthem that rivals their output from the Strength era. Although frontman Mike Peters was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, the band presses on as their latest, Under Attack, was released last month on EMI. – Michael Bertin


1am, Club de Ville

Baltimore trio Celebration traverses disco, noise, cabaret, and all the scuzz-soaked places in between on their recent, self-titled 4AD debut, making for a gold-dusted mash-up of dance freakiness. Singer Katrina Ford bellows with operatic force over four-four beats and dizzying guitar, pushing until the song erupts in confetti and sweat. And you thought all Baltimore gave you were crabs. – Audra Schroeder


1:10am, Back Room Combining a knack for gut-splitting comedy to go along with his deadpan skill as a reality rapper, Devin the Dude is the equivalent of a joint that simultaneously makes you laugh and think deeply in an uncontrollable fashion. Weed comparisons are fitting for a Houstonian Coughee Brother who makes it his duty to visit Amsterdam and Vancouver on the regular. – Robert Gabriel


1:15am, Room 710 While the term "extreme music" has taken on a Mountain Dew-flavored blandness, Whitehouse was making ears bleed back in 1980 with their debut, Birthdeath Experience. The British duo of William Bennett and Phillip Best pioneered the chaotic electronic sound of destruction these wolf-eyed kids are currently so hip to. Their latest release, Asceticists, promises more noise, now with half the pretension! – Audra Schroeder

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