SXSW Friday Picks & Sleepers

Friday night blurbage of SXSW


All showcases subject to change


Earl Poole Ball & The Cosmic Americans

7:15pm, Saxon Pub With a pedigree that extends from the Byrds and Johnny Cash to the LeRoi Brothers and Joe Ely, master pianist Earl Poole Ball & the Cosmic Americans are the latest Austin supergroup. Their weekly Friday happy-hour gigs at the Saxon Pub turn on a shared love of vintage rock & roll and singer Jodi Adair's undeniable stage presence. – Jim Caligiuri

Richard Barone

7:20pm, Continental Club Perhaps best remembered as the frontman of jangling 1980s act the Bongos, Richard Barone's career since has included writing a well-received autobiography; collaborating with Paul Williams, Jill Sobule, and the B-52s' Fred Schneider; and producing large musical events. His latest, Glow, is a chamber-pop delight, fusing Beatles-esque charm with glam-rock attitude. – Jim Caligiuri

Nick Catchdubs/A-Trak

7:30pm/12:15am, Beauty Bar/Palm Door A-Trak proved his skills touring with Kanye West. When Odd Future needed a DJ to get the party started at its first New York City gig, the group called on Nick Catchdubs. Together, the two DJs reign supreme over the Fool's Gold family and have sired releases from Kid Cudi, Kid Sister, and Chromeo since 2007. – Chase Hoffberger


8pm, Habana Bar The road from Tehran to Austin ain't paved with visas – no surprise there – but Arash Rahbary and his land-mine Iranian band finally arrived (by way of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Istanbul, Turkey) at March's Valhalla: SXSW 2009. Last year, the translated, spider-bitten band got all Distorted Brains, with butchery rock and a preharcore 'tude. Peace out, A. – Raoul Hernandez

Ben Weaver

8pm, 18th Floor at Hilton Garden Inn Many songwriters draw comparisons to the likes of Cohen, Waits, and Dylan, but Ben Weaver actually lives up to the hype with songs that are emphatically unrefined yet undeniably tempting. Mirepoix and Smoke, released late in 2010, found the Minnesota native in one of Americana's darkest, most poetic places, one that's both bucolic and terrifying. – Jim Caligiuri

Erin Ivey & the Finest Kind

8pm, Flamingo Cantina Austin's Erin Ivey delivered a heckuva punch with latest Broken Gold, an album willed into existence by fans and therefore more personal and relaxed. Reggae, jazz, folk, and even hip-hop mingle freely, courtesy of her R&B trio the Finest Kind, and Ivey corrals them all with that velvet whip of a voice. – Audra Schroeder

Marco Benevento

8pm, Momo's Getting a piano upstairs into Momo's probably proved impossible, but Brooklyn piano marvel Marco Benevento had hopes. Working last year's typically warm and warped keyboard showcase, Between the Needles and Nightfall, the bandleader's trio buzzes psychedelic. There's talk of recording this summer in Chicago with John McEntire (Tortoise, the Sea & Cake), but no new releases till 2012. – Raoul Hernandez

Lower Dens

8pm, Klub Krucial Jana Hunter's warmed up quite a bit since 2005's spooky folk debut, Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom. Namely, she's gone electric with a full band, Lower Dens, and the Baltimore's quartet's debut, Twin-Hand Movement, rides easy on off-key melodies and rhythms. "Hospice Gates" sounds like the Pretenders slowed down, but Hunter knows how to put her own voodoo into it. – Audra Schroeder

James Hand

8:30pm, Saxon Pub James Hand reminds people of Hank Williams: the quiver in his voice, the lanky appearance, the down-on-his-luck attitude. Nonetheless, the Tokio, Texas, songwriter is peerless among contemporary country artists. He sings because he has to, and Hand means every word. Shadow on the Ground, his latest, was a primo mix of honky-tonk tearjerkers with a dash of Tex-Mex. – Jim Caligiuri

Shabazz Palaces

8:50pm, Red 7 Patio Led by former Digable Planets ace Ishmael Butler – now dubbed Palaceer Lazaro – Shabazz Palaces made headlines in September when they signed with Sub Pop, becoming the first hip-hop act on the label in years. They'll celebrate this year with a full-length debut, a highly anticipated album for anyone who heard 2009's two fantastic EPs. – Chase Hoffberger

The Chapin Sisters

9pm, St. David's Historic Sanctuary Daughters of 1970s folkie Tom, thus nieces of the storied Harry, Abigail and Lily Chapin add sisterly harmonies and innocent melodies to their slightly skewed acoustic music. They've garnered attention for stylized covers of Madonna, the Smiths, and Britney Spears, but original tunes on their 2010 disc, Two, were wistful and sublime. – Jim Caligiuri

Reading Rainbow

9pm, Antone's With 2010's Prism Eyes, Philadelphia noise-pop duo Reading Rainbow delivered a super-solid sophomore album that sustained the thrill of discovery. Credit guitarist/organist Rob Garcia and drummer Sarah Everton for knowing when to back off the reverb and let the songs catch some air. The husband-and-wife harmonies on "Wasting Time" and "Always on My Mind" are positively effervescent. – Greg Beets

Jeff the Brotherhood

10pm, Kiss & Fly In the splintering of Be Your Own Pet, Jemina Pearl got a pop makeover, Jonas Stein focused on side project Turbo Fruits, and the Orrall brothers switched allegiance to Jeff the Brotherhood. 2009's Heavy Days, the duo's sixth album on family-operated label Infinity Cat Recordings, paired 1970s proto-metal grooves with the slacker ethos of 1990s guitar rock in a Nashville, Tenn., sweatbox. A recent live LP on Jack White's Third Man Records should hold the tide for this spring's We Are the Champions. (Also: Sat., 11pm, Mohawk Patio) – Austin Powell

The Bright Light Social Hour

10pm, Momo's This might be the buzz band out of Austin this SXSW, a homegrown quartet of granola funksters with a sweet spot for hooks. After stealing ACL hearts in 2009 and walking off with Best Indie Band at the Austin Music Awards, their self-titled 2010 LP landed them all over critical Top 10s. (Also: Sat., 8:30pm, Austin Music Hall) – Margaret Moser

Josh Ritter

10pm, St. David's Historic Sanctuary Ritter's literary songwriting is delivered in a sweetly nostalgic Americana package – sometimes weepy, sometimes rollicking. Last year's So Runs the World Away (Pytheas), his sixth studio LP, finds an Egyptian mummy in love with an archaeologist. His showcase complements the Interactive panel in which he read from his first novel, Bright's Passage. – Melanie Haupt

Screaming Females

10:15pm, Billboard Bungalow @ Buffalo Billiards It's too soon to call Marissa Paternoster the next Eddie Van Halen, but damn if her solos don't erupt. The Screaming Females guitarist and lead screamer came up a riot grrrl, which gives her rubber-band salvos even more snap. The New Jersey trio's fourth LP, Castle Talk, gets out of the basement but keeps melting frets. – Audra Schroeder

The Joy Formidable

11:10pm, Billboard Bungalow @ Buffalo Billiards This Wales trio hammers out 1990s guitar rock with unabashed stadium bombast – shoegaze velocity with a prevailing sense of melody – led by siren shredder Ritzy Bryan. Last year's debut EP, A Balloon Called Moaning, got the Formidables signed to Canvasback/Atlantic Records. Up-and-comer The Big Roar brings a turbulent racket, so epic in scope it warrants a limited-edition box set. – Austin Powell

Ancient Astronauts

12mid, Malaia Upstairs This veteran production duo from Cologne, Germany, doubles as sonic architects, readily mixing disparate sounds and styles into brilliant creations. They've worked with the likes of Ladybug Mecca, Vieux Farka Touré, and Tippa Irie while citing influences ranging from Iggy Pop to Sigur Rós. Their new album, Into Bass and Time (ESL), is a bottom-heavy affair. – Jay Trachtenberg

John Grant with Midlake

12mid, Central Presbyterian Church Former czar of Colorado's the Czars, John Grant wasted no time on his solo debut, Queen of Denmark, hailed as one of the best releases of 2010. Backed by Denton's lo-fi quintet Midlake, Grant's crossbreeding of cordial country rock and 1970s soft pop is heightened by his thick-as-syrup baritone and tantalizing melodies. – Jim Caligiuri

Oh No Oh My

12mid, Maggie Mae's Gibson Room After leaping onto the indie scene five years ago with its twee-inflected eponymous debut, Oh No Oh My finally returned with a follow-up this winter. Not that the Austin quartet had been stagnant, releasing two EPs amid constant touring. Latest People Problems (Koenig) punches with much more direct pop prowess. – Doug Freeman

The Mother Truckers

12mid, Continental Club While 2010's Van Tour couldn't keep up with 2008's epic Let's All Go to Bed, the Mother Truckers haul off as one of Austin's most rockin' country acts once they hit the stage. The quartet garnered attention when Little Steven's Underground Garage chose "Summer of Love" as one of the "Coolest Songs in the World." – Jim Caligiuri


1am, Valhalla Post-rock? More like post-baroque. Massachusetts' coastal instrumentalists wrangle three-guitar glory from the sound of the Atlantic smashing on the rocks. 2009's Tertia planted some melody around the soaring ecstasy of 2007's The Four Trees, but the percussive pyre of longtime set-closer "Sycamore" will justify why they're playing a venue named for the home of Norse gods. (Also: Sun., 12mid, Emo's Main) – Richard Whittaker

The Fleshtones

1am, Continental Club The last Fleshtones album sounded just like their first 29 years ago. That's sincere praise for the New York-based quartet who, like the Ramones, stayed completely true to that what brung them: danceable, garage-inspired modern rock. Frontman Peter Zaremba boasts early MTV credentials as host of I.R.S. Records Presents the Cutting Edge, whose 1985 segment on Austin presaged SXSW. – Margaret Moser

Matt Shadetek

1am, Flamingo Cantina An American who tangled himself in Berlin's grime scene at the turn of the century, Matt Shadetek returned to New York in 2007, causing a stir when he and Jahdan Blakkamoore released "Brooklyn Anthem." Now running Dutty Artz with DJ Rupture, Shadetek's on the cutting edge of electronic music's fascination with Latin and cumbia rhythms. Last June's Flowers unveils his findings. – Chase Hoffberger

Ben Sollee

1am, St. David's Historic Sanctuary Via the edge of bluegrass with the Sparrow Quartet, which included Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn, cellist Ben Sollee arrived uncommonly soulful. His wide-ranging talents have also led him to collaborate with Jim James, Sarah Jarosz, and Billy Bragg. The Kentucky native's Learning To Bend was hailed for its unblinking political and pro-environmental views. – Jim Caligiuri

Steve Wynn & The Miracle Three

1am, Momo's He's never quite left the Dream Syndicate behind, but over the course of a 20-year solo career, Steve Wynn's consistently made fuzzed-out guitar rock worth hearing. Along with his longtime powerhouse band, the Miracle Three, Wynn's 2010 Northern Aggression was no different, veering from full sonic assault to airy jangle, accompanied by lyrics poetic and rebellious. – Jim Caligiuri

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

1am, Stubb's They were practically the soundtrack to the 1980s, and more than three decades later, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark sounds as wonderfully lush on its latest, History of Modern, as then. That's good enough reason to dig out those 12-inch dance mixes, but more so to see the Liverpool duo of Paul Humphreys and Andy McCluskey work that synth-laden magic again. – Margaret Moser



8pm, Malverde Danish electro-soul duo Quadron brings just enough technology to the table to elevate its lush R&B pop from enjoyable derivation to something unique. Robin Hannibal's deft, Charles Stepney-influenced arrangements deserve much of the credit, but it's Coco's emotionally astute vocals that seal the deal. "Slippin'" is one hipster ad exec away from becoming a stateside smash on iTunes. – Greg Beets

Maxim Ludwig & The Santa Fe Seven

8pm, the Ale House These Californians' under-the-radar appearance at 2010's Austin City Limits Music Festival turned more than a few heads. Ludwig has a way with words, a gentle touch that strings them together effortlessly. Blessed with a knack for melodies and stories, these country-lovers are compelling, listenable, and oh-so-watchable. – Margaret Moser

The Main Street Gospel

8pm, Headhunters This Columbus, Ohio, fourpiece wears black: the Black Keys' blooze (a connection cemented by Dan Auerbach having produced one of its singles) and the hard psychic edge of Austin's Black Angels. Love Will Have Her Revenge, its 2010 Tee Pee Records debut, spins out guitar tidal pools like the eight-minute "Fool's Gold." – Raoul Hernandez

King Kapisi

8pm, TenOak Hip-hop royalty in his native New Zealand, this Samoan-blooded Kiwi made history in 1999 when he became the first rapper to win NZ's Silver Scroll Award for Songwriter of the Year. Since then, he's released three LPs of reggae-infused hip-hop and is currently working on a fourth, Hip-Hop Lives Here. – Chase Hoffberger

The Good Natured

8pm, the Windish Agency House @ ND Coating the grim confidence of Siouxsie & the Banshees with the candy crunch of Marina & the Diamonds (sans vocal histrionics), 19-year-old Sarah McIntosh is Mirah and Helen rolled into one ladytronic trope. Her thin-line shuffle between disaffection and congeniality mirrors the deceptively pleasant nature of her band's punch-packin' pop distractions. – Kate X Messer

Blacklisted Individuals

9pm, the Marq Coming up on 10 years of pushing "Working Class Muzik" through ATX streets, Blacklisted Individuals (MCs Snyp and Da'Shade Moonbeam) flip slam poetry with uncompromising commentaries on domestic abuse, slave labor, human trafficking, and sexual exploitation. Along with Public Offenders and the Cipher, they're the vanguard of the city's conscious rap scene. – Chase Hoffberger

Heidi Spencer & the Rare Birds

9pm, Central Presbyterian Church Milwaukee filmmaker Spencer can't hide her Dolly Parton hummingbird-wing trill, even when it's buried deep within dark cries like the plaintive "Hibernation," on her Under Streetlight Glow (Bella Union). Her tremolo, in fact, is the surface-breaker in this tear-jerking collection. – Kate X Messer

Jonathan Edwards

9pm, Creekside at Hilton Garden Inn New England-based singer-songwriter Jonathan Edwards is best known for 1971's "Sunshine," a Vietnam protest song deceptively cloaked in soft-rock subterfuge. His self-titled debut also features "Shanty," which remains one of the greatest wake-and-bake anthems of all time. Since then, Edwards has dabbled in country, bluegrass, and children's music, playing alongside everyone from Emmylou Harris to Steve Forbert. – Greg Beets

Gentleman Jesse & His Men

9pm, Easy Tiger Patio Jesse Smith's no gentleman, but the sometimes-bassist for the Carbonas hits a sweet spot with his Atlanta power-pop outfit. The band's 2008 Douchemaster debut, Introducing Gentleman Jesse & His Men, pulled equally from early Beatles and Nick Lowe – bright, clean, and difficult to forget. A new single, "She's a Trap" b/w "I Won't Say Goodbye," teases the band's long-awaited follow-up. – Austin Powell


9pm, Karma Lounge Though its members reside in Austin, wiry avant-blues collective Churchwood found its groove near the Dadaland exit off Highway 61. Key member of the Meat Purveyors Bill Anderson weaves a web of sinister skronk alongside the Crack Pipes guitarist Billy Steve Korpi, while vocalist Joe Doerr summons a bellowing Beefheart brogue for the travelogue. This is one rabbit hole you won't mind falling down. – Greg Beets

White Hills

10pm, Emo's Jr. White Hills was the best surprise at the Jim Jarmusch-curated All Tomorrow's Parties festival in September 2010. These New York psychedelic speed freaks issue free-form jams that lift off in nanoseconds and never turn back. While they're as prolific as Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O., last year's eponymous LP for Thrill Jockey makes an excellent entry point. – Austin Powell


10pm, the Marq In professional-wrestling terms, Crew54 are road warriors, a formidable tag team with a physical stage presence and an uncanny ability to play to each other's strengths. The Killeen duo of G-Christ and M.O.S. hustles hard, producing several mixtapes and a debut full-length, Beaters & Babies, heavy on beats and soulful rhymes, as well as a Web video series, The 54 Reality Show. – Austin Powell


10pm, TenOak Move over, Bieber. Mbekezeli "Gamebouy" Ndlovu is 12, comes from South Africa, and has already performed onstage with Compton, Calif.'s Game. That he's got real flow is basically icing on the cake. His coming-of-age debut, 13, touched down last month. – Chase Hoffberger


10:30pm, Saxon Pub Deadman's Saxon Pub showcase lands the local Texan sextet in familiar settings, the venue serving as home to last year's live album, which captured the band's explosive folk-rock at its peak. Led by Steven Collins, Deadman's sound swaggers around swirling B3 grooves and Southern-rock guitar drenched in the Band and the Flying Burrito Brothers. – Doug Freeman

Caleb Coy

11pm, Stephen F's Bar A Texas drifter in the spirit of Townes Van Zandt and Blaze Foley, Caleb Coy spent the past few years in desert drone outfit Headdress. His debut album, Wild Desert Rose (Yer Bird Records), forgoes the reverb and shaman blues in favor of outlaw country, both solo and acoustic, but his peyote visions of devils, dust, and heartbreak are still just as haunting. – Austin Powell

Agent Ribbons

11pm, Ghost Room Austin trio Agent Ribbons looks like something out of a Henry Darger painting, but 2010 LP Chateau Crone pours out more mature. The opening track, "I'm Alright," stamps out girl-group innocence with a thigh-high boot, stalking alleyways with its half-Victorian, half-punk-rock twin. – Audra Schroeder


11pm, Easy Tiger Patio Guards' Richie James Follin may be giving away his debut EP as a free download, but that's no indication of its appreciation level. After releasing his solo album, Battle, in 2009, the former Willowz frontman (and brother of Cults' Madeline Follin) takes up the new moniker to deliver shoegaze-tinged garage blues that can bend equally dark and light. – Doug Freeman

Brown Brogues

12mid, B.D. Riley's Hailing from Wigan, England, brothers Mark and Ben Vega of Brown Brogues steep their trash-punk nuggets in a bluesy, fuzzed-out haze that simulates the high-water mark of profuse inebriation. Even so, the surface racket of the guitar-and-drum duo's songs belies an incipient charm offensive. – Greg Beets


12mid, Easy Tiger Patio This Parisian pop trio combines rich, chamber-strung melodies with folk harmonies spanning from 1960s UK pastoral to 1990s Northwest indie à la Elliott Smith. The youngsters' 2011 Astralwerks EP, Parallel Lives, even tips back a bit of Benedictine monks in closer "Balulalow." – Raoul Hernandez


1am, Nuvola Despite overt flashes of commercial appeal, J*Davey's sexy, dance-savvy electro-funk is too all over the place to be an easy sell. Of course, they once said the same thing about Prince. Vocalist Miss Jack Davey and producer Brook D'Leau deliver a shimmering synth-pop revelation with their unlikely cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on February's Evil Christian Cop EP. – Greg Beets

Texas Terri Bomb with The Hot Things

1am, Karma Lounge You'd need a map to follow Texas Terri's flight from Austin to Los Angeles in '84. Now based in Berlin, Terri roped the Hot Things from Houston into backing her here at SXSW, an appropriate showcase for the lioness' return to her first jungle. Incendiary, smokin' real punk. – Margaret Moser


1am, Easy Tiger Monika Heidemann's vocals don't bear the Feist-y crackle that has come to signify this style of delicate yet driven synth-pop. In fact, it's her strong, smooth, Dusty Springfield/Annie Lennox power (vocal) cords that surge through these feathery beds of glassy textuality, the ground in this live wire of electro schizz. – Kate X Messer

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