SXSW Wednesday Picks & Sleepers

Second night SXSW handicapping

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Mirel Wagner

7:30pm, Red 7 Having already been profiled in The Village Voice, Wagner arrives as more than just mere curiosity. The Ethiopia-born, Finland-based singer's stark and frankly disturbing songs – her first single, "No Death," is on the surface about necrophilia – make her the mostly uniquely misplaced act this year. – Michael Bertin


8pm, Maggie Mae's Gibson Room After Austin's Voxtrot volleyed from charming hit-and-run pop on a series of EPs to become a much moodier, ambitious band with a meekly received debut LP, the group split. While former members have kept busy, lead singer and principal songwriter Ramesh Srivastava was mostly quiet about his future. Shows with Beirut and a new EP put speculation to bed, replaced with a new batch of slow golden burners.
Adam Schragin

John Fullbright

8pm, St. David's Historic Sanctuary Young Okie singer-songwriter John Fullbright is from Okemah, also the hometown of Woody Guthrie. Fullbright's brand of so-called red dirt music is akin to contemporary masters Townes Van Zandt and Mickey Newbury, brimming with vivid images and sandpapered poetry. While 2009's Live at the Blue Door was a strong calling card, Fullbright releases his first studio set, From the Ground Up, this spring.
– Jim Caligiuri



8:10pm, Beauty Bar Backyard Brooklyn-based girl-group Habibi has a new 7-inch out on French label Born Bad. Its lovably simple debut single, "Sweetest Talk," evokes the retro rock of Goldie & the Gingerbreads. The track's prominently featured in the new James Franco-directed short, "Who Killed Natalie Wood?"
Kevin Curtin


8:30, Mohawk Patio; Sat., 12:15am, Malverde Originally the work of French DJ Frederic Riviere, Anoraak has bloomed into a full-fledged trio. Debut LP Whenever the Sun Sets is a relentlessly radiant Nu Disco melange of new New Wave and electro-pop. Despite all of the "new"s, there's something about it that's decidedly stuck the mid-Eighties. Someone page Craig Finn. – Michael Bertin


9pm, Victorian Room at the Driskill A self-described "alt-folk-progressive acoustic string band," MilkDrive features some of Austin's hottest young pickers. Three-fifths the remnants of the South Austin Jug Band plus guitarist Noah Jeffries, it's drawn comparisons to the Punch Brothers, melding bluegrass and jazz into something undefinable. 2011 release Road From Home blended sublime instrumentals with tunes from Beck, Jeff Buckley, the Greencards' Kym Warner, and local songwriter Drew Smith. – Jim Caligiuri

Max Gomez

9pm, Skinny's Ballroom; Thu., 11:15pm, St. David's Bethell Hall What does it say that contemporary music doesn't have any hooks for today's twentysomethings? Don't ask Max Gomez, a young man with a guitar, a batch of songs, and a love for John Prine, Kris Kristofferson, and the blues. That the Taos, N.M., native works his influences into his own rootsy sound makes the anticipation of his New West Records debut later this year all the sweeter.
Michael Toland

Nikki Jean

9pm, the Belmont Nikki Jean first came into focus after two guest spots on Lupe Fiasco's 2007 album The Cool, but since then, the Philadelphia-via-Minnesota singer has turned to classic soul and American standards, releasing Pennies in a Jar last year with help from Bob Dylan, Carole King, Carly Simon, and Burt Bacharach. A far cry from her days trading bars with Black Thought and Dice Raw, Jean's "Million Star Motel," a triumphant soul number featuring Thought and Fiasco, proves the singer paid close attention to "The Sound of Philadelphia."
Chase Hoffberger

Choir of Young Believers

9:35pm, Club de Ville Patient and orchestrally intricate, Denmark's ambitious Choir of Young Believers weaves diverting textures that tender equally ethereal and contorted into expansive pop opuses. This year's sophomore LP, Rhine Gold, follows on the acclaim of 2009 debut This Is for the White in Your Eyes, with Jannis Noya Makrigiannis leading the amoebic outfit through dramatic and at times experimental soundscapes. – Doug Freeman


10pm, Saxon Pub A quartet of transplanted Californians, Shurman takes its devotion to Gram Parsons seriously. The locals' new LP, Inspiration, finds them mixing styles with distinctive ease. Augmented by a soulful edge and ardent harmonies, it displays the gritty energy of Shurman's live performances which have quickly gained it loud and large audiences. Singer Aaron Beavers claims inspiration from being part of John Popper's band. – Jim Caligiuri

Soul Khan

10:15pm, Club 606; Sat., 11:50pm, Malaia Eminem went from battle rapper to the most recognizable name in hip-hop, but the story doesn't usually work that way. The skill set needed to punk opponents (punch lines, punch lines, punch lines) doesn't always translate to songcraft, but early returns from Soul Khan, who left the battle circuit in 2010, are promising. His cadence is a tad too similar to Brother Ali, but hell, is that such a bad thing?
Thomas Fawcett


11pm, Latitude 30; Thu., 8pm, the Jr Featuring Jimmy Jagger, swivel-hipped offspring of Mick and Jerry Hall, this ear-shattering punk foursome from London is ready-made for a phone-hacking scandal. Rhythmic duties are held down capably by James Dunson on bass and Josh Ludlow on drums, while guitarist Luis Felber rounds out the brain trust. With tracks like "Monster Pussy" and "Alien Girl" it's more Never Mind the Bullocks than Exile on Main Street.
– Dan Oko


11pm, Saxon Pub Walking the line between roots-rock jams and earnest songwriting, Austin's Deadman exhumes a Seventies folk sound that nudges the Band with Texas country sensibility. The Steven Collins-led sextet stakes out its home base at the Saxon Pub, venue for Deadman's 2011 live LP, cutting pedal steel and Hammond B-3 with a stomp, while also shuffling smooth Southern soul that shimmered on last year's title track for Take Up Your Mat and Walk. – Doug Freeman


10:30pm, Mohawk Patio The best electronic music is usually imported, and Parisian electronic composer David Grellier reinforces this. Operating under the name College, Grellier's New Wave rehashings have been brought to the forefront after his collaboration with Electric Youth, "A Real Hero," scripted Ryan Gosling's misadventures in Drive. – Abby Johnston

Pure X

11:15pm, Barbarella The legacy of Austin's slacker Nineties carries on in Pure X. The local trio has drawn critical praise from The New York Times for its languid psych-blues mantras that put a nostalgic spin on Texas slowcore. Debut Pleasure is an ideal soundtrack for that day at the beach that carries over into waves of sleep. Highly recommended. – Austin Powell


12mid, the Stage on Sixth Patio Coming out of the stellar San Diego indie rock scene, Crocodiles has been making a mark with its vintage rock and modern noise pop. Third album Endless Summer is due in June and just might have the momentum to give Crocodiles the buzz of Dum Dum Girls, whose singer is married to Crocodiles' frontman Brandon Welchez. Together, the couple runs Zoo Music, a garage rock empire. – Zoe Cordes Selbin

Nathaniel Rateliff

12mid, Maggie Mae's Rooftop On exceptional 2010 debut LP In Memory of Loss (Rounder) Denver singer-songwriter Nathaniel Rateliff displayed a versatile and tender ease. His slightly gruff vocals amble affectionately across minimal arrangements and harmonies with just enough halting grit to tinge his tunes with a restless yearning. With a spring sophomore LP planned, Rateliff continues unraveling competing impulses of destruction and salvation. – Doug Freeman

Dirty Ghosts

12:10am, Beauty Bar The brainchild of Toronto-bred San Franciscan Allyson Baker, Dirty Ghosts combines guitar rock with techno beats in a hybrid that achieves freshness without contrivance. Salvage yard allusions to New Wave and rhythmic post-punk abound on the Ghosts' debut, Metal Moon. Baker recently cited Chrome's New Age as a contributing influence, but her guitar and vocal approach also bear evidence of her time in Blue Cheer-influenced shredders Parchman Farm. – Greg Beets

Jacuzzi Boys

1am, Hotel Vegas; Sat., 1am, the Studio by HGTV Someone's been drinking Modern Lovers' Kool-Aid. Jacuzzi Boys' catchy songs are a newer, slicker, proto-punk but still have the attitude. Its tunes may not be complex, but its music reflects the loud, laid-back vibe of Miami. Latest album Glazin' was released last year on Hardly Art.
Zoe Cordes Selbin

Bare Wires

1am, Beauty Bar Bare Wires likes to keep things loud, catchy, and simple, folding glitter rock's stomp and arena rock's power into power-pop's melodicism and garage punk's raw attack. In other words, the Oakland, Calif., trio is a dream for lovers of unrefined guitar rock. With a handful of waxy recordings, including last year's 10-inch Cheap Perfume and 7-inch Let Down, Bare Wires is ready for its close-up. – Michael Toland


1am, 512 Rooftop Raspy-voiced vagabond Charles Andrew Bothwell is a surefire crowd pleaser with his intense delivery and theatrical touch. On last year's This Is Our Science, he continued his artistic evolution of synthesizing rap with indie pop and outsider rock, all with incredible songwriting that's as deep and complicated as it is accessible and entertaining. – Kevin Curtin

Cowboy & Indian

1am, the Bat Bar Many are drawn to Austin's Cowboy & Indian because Jesse Plemons (of TV's Friday Night Lights) is in the band. Along with ex-T Bird & the Breaks singer Jazz Mills and guitarist Daniel James of San Francisco's Leopold & His Fiction, he's created a traveling circus of a band that's part freak folk, part indie attitude, and all hearts and flowers. – Jim Caligiuri

Cancer Bats

Cancer Bats
Cancer Bats

1am, Latitude 30 Our neighbors to the north aren't so complacent. At least that's what it seems from Canadian hardcore band Cancer Bat's angry, pounding music. Its unrelentingly heavy music is some of hardcore's pit-inspiring best and could be just as welcome in Washington, D.C., in 1983 as it is here. Nominated for Juno Awards twice, Cancer Bats' American approval is surely forthcoming. – Zoe Cordes Selbin


1:10am, the Iron Bear Segwayed mall cops tried to shut down her "African Mayonaisse" video shoot and failed. She's trotted the globe for circuit parties that now must come with warnings. Here's one: Are your tetanus shots up to date? She's like a frickin' bear trap, our sweet Austin guttersnipe, and twice as rusty. Her brilliant dance art will cut your ass up.
Kate X Messer

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