The Austin Chronicle

Friday Showcase Picks

SXSW Music Fest preview guide

March 16, 2007, Music

Chicken Ranch & Friends

8pm, Habana Calle 6 The original Hill Country Chicken Ranch (also known as the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas) is long gone, but its disuse may explain why the mastermind behind this scrappy Austin label remains amiably stuck in reverse. The robotic retro-sounds of hometown heroes Automusik – check out their Kraftwerk ethos – have a certain po-mo pizzazz. The trio's recent Hound Dog remix EP owes a good deal to the original Elvis, which ties sideways into the sounds favored by stable-mates such as the Woggles. Flying in from Atlanta, the Fifties-obsessed quartet Tiger! Tiger! has a certain Lana Turner-worthy sex appeal, which the band backs up with rockabilly rhythms and gypsylike carnival riffs. On last year's LP Collisions, lead singer Buffi Aguero comes on like a punk Nancy Sinatra, while the cello, saxophone, and organ keeps things cinematically off-kilter. The fourpiece Woggles, also from ATL, recently departed Chicken Ranch for New York-based Wicked Cool Records, but there's no question they remain at home with this collection of ne'er-do-wells. The Woggles' retro sound is one-part surf, two-parts soul, and a whole lotta rock & roll. Left to represent Austin come the veteran Yuppie Pricks, who recorded for Jello Biafra's Alternative Tentacles following their Ranch debut. Austin's Mistress Stephanie & Her Melodic Cat deal in campy cabaret; Nashville's the Clutters torch Little Steven's garage with their forthcoming sophomore effort, Don't Believe a Word. – Dan Oko

Arts & Crafts

10pm, Habana Calle 6 Annex Those who fell for Canadian supergroup Broken Social Scene after Pitchfork deemed its sophomore LP, You Forgot It in People, the best album ever might feel an unbreakable attachment to Toronto label Arts & Crafts. When BSS maestro Kevin Drew and Jeffrey Remedios began their adventure in 2002 with that album, they idealized now-permanent family bonds. Newest A&C signees Young Galaxy are Stephen Ramsay and Catherine McCandless, Montreal's hypnotic, nostalgic twosome that releases its eponymous LP in April. Melancholy, climactic opener "Swing Your Heartache" fits perfectly in the A&C stable, the album already one of the best of the year. Ramsay spends the rest of his time as guitarist in A&C's Stars with fellow Canuck Amy Millan, who brings last year's rootsy solo foray, Honey From the Tombs. Her "Skinny Boy" is an anthem for the shy girl in all of us. Further connections lie with Toronto's Andrew Whiteman, guitarist for BSS, and his Apostle of Hustle. Whiteman's sophomore LP, National Anthem of Nowhere, is a complicated glance at the world he's traveled, marrying guitar with the chaotic rhythms of motion. A very special gang of losers closes out the night. – Darcie Stevens

TKO/BYO Records

8pm, Emo's Jr. There are still plenty of true believers left in punk rock, including one Huntington Beach, Calif., label with deep Texas ties. Founded a decade ago in San Francisco, TKO has put out blistering music from Austin's Dead End Cruisers, Ritchie Whites, Ends, and Complete Control, and headlining its 10th-anniversary showcase are the Lower Class Brats, one of the few surviving bands from the local Blue Flamingo/Bates Motel punk renaissance of the Nineties. Longtime friends and admirers of the Brats, TKO released boisterous LP The New Seditionaries last year; live CD/DVD Loud & Out of Tune follows next week. March 20 also brings As the Tide Turns, the TKO full-length debut from Austin's Krum Bums. Since 2000, the Bums' roaring live assault (more metallic than the Brats' Sham 69-like delivery) has won them an ironclad following among Austin's Mohawk-and-studded-leather set, and a vein-popping turn at December's Fun Fun Fun Fest in Waterloo Park tipped off everyone else. Two veteran groups make up TKO's California contingent: the Stitches have stood for Orange County since 1994, churning out speed-fried chunks like "Sixteen" and "Amphetamine Girl" that carry on what the Germs and Circle Jerks began, while Redondo Beach neighbors the Smut Peddlers have, over 14 years, recorded with X guitarist Billy Zoom, founded their own Ransom Records label, and landed a song on the Jackass: Number Two soundtrack. L.A.'s BYO Records, dating back to the early days of the SoCal punk scene, shares the night with sets from Seattle pogo advocates the Briefs, rootsy ex-Tsunami Bomb ruffians Nothington, Portland Redd Kross acolytes Clorox Girls, and a rare appearance by BYO founders Youth Brigade themselves. – Christopher Gray

Japan Nite

8pm, Elysium You can see Japanese bands all over SXSW, but the always-popular Japan Nite showcase remains one of the epicenters of the Festival. This year's edition kicks off with Oreskaband, an energetic, all-female ska sextet formed by Osaka middle school classmates in 2003. They were signed to Sony Music Japan before graduating high school and recently recorded a cover of "Monkey Man" with Jamaican trombone legend Rico Rodriguez. High-energy punk is the specialty of 50Kaitenz, the Osaka trio winning the hearts and minds of fellow travelers by racing through songs like "Thank You for Ramones" with nary a care for the influence police. Tokyo's Pistol Valve crosses the coy charms of J-pop with a high school jazz ensemble aesthetic. The ninepiece (average age: 19) performs every Wednesday on Fuji TV's The Best House 1-2-3. GO!GO!7188 is an odd name for a band, but the Tokyo trio's slicked-up pop would sound right at home on modern rock radio as vocalist Nakashima Yumi may well be Japan's answer to Gwen Stefani. Having sold 700,000 copies of their latest album, Confidence, Okinawa's HY is already one of Japan's most popular alt-rock bands. Despite being primarily informed by Western sounds, the quintet occasionally slips in allusions to traditional Japanese music. Yokohama power punks the Emeralds aren't afraid to pull off a ballad called "The Girl Who Loved Kurt Cobain," but don't let that fool you into thinking they won't immolate this 10th-anniversary edition of Japan Nite with their rev-up-and-burn stage show. – Greg Beets

Ecstatic Peace Records & Tapes

8pm, Mohawk/Mohawk Patio Last year, Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore was handing out homemade zines and label samplers at South by Southwest. This year, his Ecstatic Peace Records & Tapes takes over both stages at Mohawk. For the occasion, Moore indulges himself with two sets – instrumental early and with friends later. Mysterious Canadian experimental guitarist Gown gets things started on the main stage. Former Houston residents Charalambides, who Moore's booked for All Tomorrow's Parties in the UK, mesh psychedelic improv and musings, not dissimilar to the evening's headliners, MV/EE & the Bummer Road, whose meditative Green Blues is far more freak than folk. Prolific noisemakers Magik Markers, who recorded their "official" debut with Lee Ranaldo at Echo Canyon, go apeshit in between, immediately followed by the eerily dark folk of New York's Tall Firs, the tree that grows in Brooklyn. On the patio stage, former Florida trio Monotract copulates its esoteric guitar, drums, and noise free-for-all with their latest, Xprmntl Lvrs, a sonic spree that's not afraid to get things hot and sweaty. The diesel-fueled rock & roll of Beantown's Black Helicopter is piloted by the lingering presence of Mission of Burma and Dinosaur Jr. The self-titled debut by Pagoda finds actor Michael Pitt reaching for Nirvana accented by stark cello arrangements. Leaders of New Weird America, cacophonous collective Sunburned Hand of the Man, extinguish the night. Radical. – Austin Powell

Yep Roc Indie

8pm, Dirty Dog Bar Yep Roc showcase numero two shows off the label's range. You know, something old, something new, something borrowed, something Canadian. With everything up-tempo and up-volume, Cities might be to Chapel Hill what Radio 4 is to Brooklyn. Last year's self-titled debut was a study in indie ass-shaking. In '06, Robyn Hitchcock collaborated with R.E.M.'s Peter Buck and the Minus 5's Scott McCaughey in the form of the Venus 3. Their Olé! Tarantula was a celebration of Hitchcock's Syd Barrett Alpha and Lennon/McCartney Omega. Similarly worshiping unapologetically at the altar of Revolver are Elephant Six pioneers the Apples in Stereo. After a five-year layover, the Colorado-born outfit's New Magnetic Wonder might be a career-defining epic as they scale back some of their experimental ways. It might be easiest to judge Australian vets You Am I by the company they've kept – Oasis, Soundgarden, and Sonic Youth. Anyone drawn to their Convicts will quickly learn you can take the band out of the garage, but you can't take garage out of Australia. Also on the bill are a pair of Torontonians that couldn't be less similar. Well, they could, but let's put it this way: Rock Plaza Central penned an album, Are We Not Horses, about six-legged robot horses that think they're real horses. Sloan wrote another batch – albeit, at 30 songs, a rather large one – of four-chord, 150-second runners for latest Never Hear the End of It. – Michael Bertin

Get Hip Recordings

8pm, Habana Calle 6 Patio Formed in 1985 by Cynics guitarist Gregg Kostelich and his Pittsburgher bandmates, Get Hip Recordings now distributes a catalog of more than 20,000 vintage rock- and soul-leaning releases. Not too shabby for a label started by teenage punks. Local openers the Bad Rackets aren't actually on Get Hip, but their blues/punk/pop concoction aptly embodies the label's unpolished aesthetic. Phoenix-based the Breakup Society thrive on the raw power pop of the Real Kids and Cheap Trick. Bandleader Ed Masley even pays green-eyed tribute to the latter with "Robin Zander" from the Society's self-deprecating guy-loses-girl opus, James at 35. With vocalist Tim Stile at the wheel, it doesn't take long to recognize aural insolence as the m.o. of the Mullens. Since 1994, the Dallas-based garage quartet has gone all out to pick up where Sixties hometown legends like the Floyd Dakil Combo and Kenny & the Kasuals left off. Austin's own garage hounds the Ugly Beats combine well-crafted originals, tastefully obscure covers, and Ace Tone organ licks from resident go-go queen Jeanine Attaway to create a sock-hop vibe. Paul Collins Beat started off as the Beat before the English Beat gummed things up. Collins earned his power-pop-pioneer pin as drummer for the Nerves, then moved to guitar for the Beat's superb 1979 debut. The New York native's new Get Hip album, Flying High, retains that pop prowess along with a hint of Americana. Finally, we have the Cynics, whose dedication to the raw, swinging beat of yesteryear continues in full force more than 20 years after their humble beginnings. – Greg Beets

Suicide Squeeze

10pm, Maggie Mae's Like baseball's most daring play, the Seattle label's showcase is a gutsy call, and with Hella headlining, it's also likely to end in a brutal collision at the plate. Although the guitar/drums duo left the label after 2005's 2-CD Church Gone Wild/Chirpin Hard, Hella hits cleanup in support of their debut on Ipecac, There's No 666 in Outer Space. Spencer Seim and Zach Hill have reworked Hella into a quintet behind the proggish vocals of Aaron Ross. Suicide veterans Six Parts Seven, now in their 12th year, debut more characteristically melodic instrumentals from their new Casually Smashed to Pieces. The Ohio band's fourth release for the label is more minimally constructed than previous efforts but no less viscerally atmospheric. Chicago quintet Chin Up Chin Up has yet to find their position in the field as 2006's This Harness Can't Ride Anything failed to rein in the somewhat sympathetic hype of their 2004 debut, but Jeremy Bolen's staccatoed vocals show enough frenetic pop promise to produce a hit single if not a home run. Rookie sensation Page France may steal the show; the label's 2006 reissue of Hello, Dear Wind was an enchanting folk-pop revelation. On this May's Page France and the Family Telephone, Michael Nau pitches more wide-eyed, religiously tinged songs with a childlike earnestness and the off-kilter lilt of Jeff Mangum, while the vibrant arrangements and poetically allusive lyrics nod to heavy-hitters like Sufjan Stevens and Colin Meloy. Play ball! – Doug Freeman

Small Stone

8pm, Room 710 Likely named for one of the most influential guitar stomp boxes, Detroit's Small Stone dials up a variety of heavy tonality. Their showcase gets launched by Louisville, Ky.'s ruff-n-raw quartet the Glasspack, who digest MC5, Bad Brains, and Fu Manchu in their quest to melt Sixties jam with Seventies hard, presented on their fourth, Dirty Women. Changing gears is Detroit's Slot, a lady-led trio imbuing experimental metal with New Wave melodicism. Founded in the early Nineties, they recently lost a member to cancer, but their work – compiled by ex-Big Chief guitarist Phil Dürr into The Sweet Black Bear – sounds both nostalgic and futuristic. Rockin' Queens trio the Brought Low have digested their fair share of Stones, ZZ Top, and Humble Pie, washing it down with bluesy moans and country shuffles. 1975 arrives Right on Time. Austin's Dixie Witch continues the trio thread with spices south of the Mason-Dixon. Their tertiary Smoke and Mirrors captures the metallic hard rockers in rarefied form. Veterans of Beantown's old-school heavy rock mise-en-scène, Roadsaw endured numerous albums and lineup changes, but luckily the quintet has found a home with Small Stone, label debut coming forthwith. The large-pawed musings of Los Angeles' Sasquatch bookend the showcase. The trio tours behind last year's II, their second installment of riff-heavy primate songs. – David Lynch

Ponderosa Stomp

7pm, Opal Divine's Freehouse When the historical hit parade known as Ponderosa Stomp puts together a walk down memory lane, it scours the land for the purest soulful inspiration. A teaser to the sixth annual Stomp in New Orleans on May 2, dozens of notables from R&B, rock & roll, and swamp pop's past tear down the house at Opal Divine's. Whereas a series of old-timers rekindling former flames might seem like an exercise in geriatric denial, the silver lining for the younger crowd reveals itself where classic oldies meet hip-hop. New Orleans pianist Willie Tee not only supplied rare groove DJs with astounding funk 45 fodder as a member of the Gaturs, he followed that up during the mid-Seventies as musical director for the Wild Magnolias. Detroit guitarist Dennis Coffey practically made breakdancing possible by way of his '71 hairy beast of a jam, "Scorpio." And if Houston's Archie Bell can't get you moving to the walloping bassline of "Tighten Up," then your ass needs to be sent straight back to '68 for a proper retuning. Singer Harvey Scales can take it back as far as '61, which was when he formed his Milwaukee-based funk outfit, the Seven Sounds. Rounding out the festivities, East Texan jewel Barbara Lynn and the Flaming Arrows Mardi Gras Indians join legendary zydeco guitarist Lil Buck. – Robert Gabriel

New West

9pm, Parish Since relocating to Austin, New West has earned its stars with a stellar collection of Austin City Limits performances on CD and DVD. Still, it's their eye-popping roster that make them players in the truest sense of the word. Buffalo Tom haven't had the opportunity to flex their Boston muscle for the label yet but the Parish is perfect for showcasing the regrouped trio's feisty rock. Head Buffalo, Bill Janovitz, penned a book on the Rolling Stones' notorious Exile on Main Street album. The Drams' rise from the steaming corpse of Slobberbone, with Brent Best hoisting former Bonemates Jess Bar and Tony Harper with new keyboardist Chad Stockslager. Best's skull-rattling stage presence powers the Drams' New West debut Jubilee Dive with matchless street cred. Steve Earle's played the Lone Star rebel card for so long, it's part-and-parcel of his DNA. With a long and often circuitous career to the top of the roots-rockpile behind him, his music today seethes with passion and commitment. Earle's last CD, The Revolution Starts ... Now, mixed biting political commentary and musical muscle in a raucous rock & roll context with a songwriter's heart. Rickie Lee Jones seems well-suited for the New West stable. Her career has veered from being a berated Joni Mitchell understudy who warbled "Chuck E's in Love" on Saturday Night Live in the Seventies to the confident beat chanteuse who released the awe-inspiring The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard. It's not a record for wimps and neither is Jones. – Margaret Moser

Polyvinyl Records

8pm, Red 7 There's this new game over at the Polyvinyl Records. It's called, "Let's pretend our coolest act didn't really do an Outback Steakhouse jingle." It's okay, guys. There's no shame in a band wanting to, you know, eat. The skinny kids with T-shirts twice as old as they are still find plenty hip about the Champaign, Ill., label's roster. Start with the half-throwback, half-DIY of the M's. Last year the Chicago band scored an opening slot for Wilco and had fan Jonathan Demme direct the video for "Future Women." West Coast trio 31Knots was begotten by the love child of Ian MacKaye and Steve Howe, while lead nominee in the category of long-ass band names is Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. The Missouri quartet now aims to transform Internet fame into actual fame as the quaint familiarity of 2005's Broom (think an Americana version of the Shins) earned them credibility across much of blogdom. For teenbeaters, it's hard not to think of Mates of State when hearing Champaign's Headlights. Last summer's Kill Them With Kindness featured 50% more band members and about that much less screaming than the Mates. Also on the docket is Toronto's Picastro (think Chan Marshall with a serious case of the emo downers) and Saturday Looks Good to Me, who slo-core through Detroit's soul side of the street. – Michael Bertin

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