SXSW Wednesday Picks & Sleepers

Second night SXSW handicapping

WEDNESDAY PICKS

Youth Lagoon
Youth Lagoon

Francis Mbappe

8pm, Flamingo Cantina Cameroon native Francis Mbappe comes by his slinky guitar chops through a lengthy tenure leading fellow countryman/saxophonist Manu Dibango's group beginning in the early Eighties. His funky FM Tribe gives way to the New Yorker's own trio, which at a Waterloo Records in-store last year proved as supple and subtle as Lionel Loueke on Blue Note.
Raoul Hernandez

Dessa

9:10pm, Scoot Inn A female rapper tough enough to hang with the brawlers in the Doomtree crew, Dessa's October effort, Castor, The Twin, rearranges the contents of 2010 debut A Badly Broken Code and spotlights the Minnesota native's slow burning ballads. "Kites" and "Palace" both incorporate jazz instrumentation to build something intimate and refined. Stripped-down closer "The Beekeeper" is projected as the first single on a follow-up. – Chase Hoffberger

Turbo Fruits

9:50pm, Beauty Bar Backyard Nashville, Tenn.'s country-punk powder keg Turbo Fruits knows how to have a good time. Formed by guitarist Jonas Stein, formerly of post-riot grrrl bloodletters Be Your Own Pet, the band is happy in delirious, deep-fried debauchery. Two LPs in and the charm shows no sign of wearing off. – Luke Winkie

The Mastersons

10pm, Skinny's Ballroom Texans Chris Masterson and Eleanor Whitmore racked up credits with Son Volt, Jack Ingram, and Regina Spektor before pairing professionally and personally and heading to New York to seek their fortune. They found it not only as part of Steve Earle's Dukes and Duchesses, but also with Birds Fly South, their beautifully crafted and intensely melodic debut for New West Records due out in April. – Michael Toland

Dan Deacon

10pm, Stubb's; Thu., 11:15pm, Beauty Bar Backyard Weird, frantic, and abstract may be the best ways to describe Dan Deacon's electronic music. The Baltimore, MD.-based dynamo's extensive discography of strange and hip music pairs up with his contemporary classical training. Deacon's live shows have become legendary since he encourages audience participation that tends to turns his concerts into dance parties.
Zoe Cordes Selbin

XXXY

11pm, Barcelona Rupert Taylor's XXXY moniker is one of many producers redefining the slippery UK garage electronics of the early 2000s with flecks of Timbaland R&B and fuzzy trance hooks. The Manchester-based producer constructs elastic dance floor throbs slathered with cut-up vocals and fleet-footed percussion as one of the most hedonistic disciples at the bass-music altar. One spin of "Ordinary Thing" and you'll be singing his praises.
Luke Winkie

Lee Fields & the Expressions

11pm, Red 7 Patio With a career stretching back to the Sixties, Lee Fields has enough R&B bonafides to satisfy the pickiest Northern soul collector. His 1979 LP, Let's Talk It Over, fetches high prices in R&B nerd circles, but it's his recent work with the Expressions that's put him with Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley at the forefront of the soul revival. His latest record, Faithful Man, drops the day before his showcase. – Michael Toland

Youth Lagoon

11pm, IFC Crossroads House at Vice; Thu., 1am, Club de Ville Trevor Powers, aka Youth Lagoon, is Ben Gibbard for the 2012 generation. His tunes are dreamy electro-tinged slow burns that feel like a snowstorm. Although Youth Lagoon has only released one album, last year's The Year of Hibernation, this 22-year-old Idahoan already grips the hearts of hipsters and bloggers nationwide. – Zoe Cordes Selbin

M. Ward

11pm, Central Presbyterian Church After spending the past few years alternating between pop duo She & Him with Zooey Deschanel and rootsy supergroup Monsters of Folk, Portland, Ore.'s M. Ward now gears up for the April release of his next solo disc, A Wasteland Companion (Merge). During the past decade, Ward's positioned himself as one of the leaders in the indie-folk movement with a sound both present and past. – Jim Caligiuri

Not in the Face

11pm, Buffalo Billiards Jonathan Terrell began making a name for himself as a rootsy singer-songwriter, but nothing prepared us for his local teaming with drummer Wes Cargal. Not in the Face unleashes country-punk-rock blues that's both boisterous and electrifying and yet not lacking subtlety. Last year's debut, Bikini, tempered with plenty of Texas redneck attitude, won spots on quite a few Austin Top 10 lists. – Jim Caligiuri

Hacienda

11:10pm, Red 7 Everyone in Hacienda is either a brother or cousin to everyone else, and they sound like it. The San Antonio quartet is deeply rooted in that city's unique Tex-Mex tapestry, bouncing effortlessly between fuzz-pop, country-rock, and Chicano soul. 2010's Big Red and Barbacoa played almost as good as its two namesakes taste together. Producer Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys is back at the boards for forthcoming follow-up, Shake Down. – Greg Beets

Alabama Shakes

11:15pm, Stubb's; Fri., 12mid, Easy Tiger Patio The buzz surrounding Alabama Shakes has grown so loud you'd be forgiven for not realizing the quartet has only a four-song EP of bluesy Southern rock & soul under its belt. Since its release the Athens, Ala., act has conquered late-night television, signed to Dave Matthews' ATO label, and Brittany Howard – who's worn out a Janis Joplin record or two – has one hell of a vocal instrument, as the world will learn upon the release of Boys & Girls. – Thomas Fawcett

Wavves

11:35pm, Lustre Pearl; Sat., 12mid, Hype Hotel Imagine a burned-out teenage boy, smoking weed and noodling on a guitar all day at Venice Beach. The brainchild of Nathan Williams, these lo-fi loser anthems are anything but lame; these guys are fast, raw, and fun. The unapologetically annoyed and apathetic lyrics are married to sunny, fuzzy guitar riffs that sound like they've been through the blender a few times. – Zoe Cordes Selbin

The Dunwells

12mid, Creekside at Hilton Garden Inn The Brits like Americana, über-polished Americana. That'd be Yorkshire, England's Dunwells, who came all the way to Austin to record its debut, Blind Sighted Faith, cut at Willie Nelson's Pedernales Studio and released on local imprint Playing in Traffic, home to Los Lonely Boys and Speak. Listening to Faith, you'd never guess the band isn't from here. – Michael Bertin

The Coathangers

12mid, Swan Dive Hugging a DIY ethos that values functionality and form only inasmuch as they don't get in the way of whip-smart hooks and half-winked quips, the Coathangers out of Atlanta happily burns the candle at both ends, its repertoire leaping from wild riot grrrl ragers to homespun punk ballads in just a few bounds. Latest album Larceny & Old Lace, likewise prods at its idiosyncratic yet familiar garage-pop formula. – Adam Schragin

Bomba Estereo

12mid, Red 7 Patio; Fri., 10:30pm, ACL Live at the Moody Theater; Sat., 4pm, Auditorium Shores Stage A collaboration between producer Simón Mejía and lyrical firecracker Liliana Saumet, few acts have fused folkloric and futuristic sounds with more explosive results. The Colombian duo fused cumbia with pounding electro-beats and psychedelic surf guitar on 2009 breakout Blow Up, while 2011 follow-up EP Ponte Bomb features a slew of remixes and a cheeky cover of Technotronic's "Pump Up the Jam." – Thomas Fawcett

Doomtree

12:15am, Scoot Inn Like fellow Twin City institution Rhymesayers Entertainment, Doomtree Records has built an underground empire on hard-hitting beats, dexterous lyricism, and an army of rappers that can't stop putting out albums. The label's core, a seven-person foundation led by POS, Sims, and Cecil Otter, released its second LP in November. Titled No Kings, the disc proves the providence of "The Grand Experiment." – Chase Hoffberger

Yelle DJs

12:15am, Mohawk Patio With snares that ratchet up like a sitcom slow clap then explode into dance music's ubiquitous oonce-di-di-oonce-di, this oh-so-French and Julie Budet-fronted crew doesn't need to speak a lick of English to tell you what's up. That would be its unapologetic candy-colored take on pop and fuck-all joie de vivre.
Kate X Messer

Trash Talk

12:15am, Lustre Pearl Sacramento, Calif.'s barn-burning, rabble-rousing, shit-kicking Trash Talk symbolizes the best of the basement-punk ethos; four kids starting as much trouble as they can in 90-second bursts. Moments of snarled doom or corrosive thrash are mixed in, but it's mainly just pure-blooded hardcore, and last year's "Awake" 7-inch came pretty damn close to perfection. – Luke Winkie

Dikes of Holland

Dikes of Holland
Dikes of Holland (Photo by Shelley Hiam)

12:30am, Valhalla The shout-a-long garage punk of local favorite Dikes of Holland is reminiscent of the Gories or what it might have sounded like if that band yelled and did tons of speed. For the Dikes, high-gain guitars and vocal reverb are necessities. The local quintet puts on a searing live show thanks to lots of mic sharing and dynamic frontwoman Elizabeth Herrera. A self-titled 2010 debut and plenty of singles on local imprint Sundae encore. – Kevin Curtin

Gary Clark Jr.

Gary Clark Jr.
Gary Clark Jr. (Photo by Todd V. Wolfson)

12:45am, La Zona Rosa; Fri., noon, Radio Day Stage, Austin Convention Center It's been a hell of a year for Austin's Gary Clark Jr. After years of toiling away on the local scene, the 28-year-old blues guitar phenom released his major label debut Bright Lights on Warner Bros., played on Late Night With David Letterman, and just last month was introduced at the White House as "the future of the blues" before playing five feet from the Obamas. – Thomas Fawcett

Apparat Band

1am, Haven Prolific electronic composer Sascha Ring has found success mixing intricate, digital experimentation with techno music. Last year's The Devil's Walk for Mute Records was a grand departure: moody, more pop oriented, and with a paranoid frailty that recalled Thom Yorke's solo output. While the album lacked the climatic resolve of his post-rock touchstones, there's beauty to be found in its unresolved tension. – Austin Powell

Joe Pug

1am, St. David's Historic Sanctuary Joe Pug's 2008 debut EP, Nation of Heat, introduced a prescient new voice, the Chicago singer-songwriter dragging a weary husk of harmonica-accented drawl and a poised conscience both political and personal that conjured Dylan, Prine, and Earle. 2010's debut LP Messenger fulfilled that promise behind exceptionally wrought acoustic narratives, and upcoming sophomore effort The Great Despiser continues to cut Americana to the bone.
Doug Freeman

Cults

1am, Red 7 Patio; Fri., 12mid, ND at 501 Studios Cults is cute. Made up of couple Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion, the band produces sweet, twee songs, and even the sad numbers sound adorable. Last year's eponymous major label release sounds like it sprang from a jukebox in 1965, its twinkly pop somehow totally vintage and completely relevant. Don't be fooled by the sweetness, Follin's voice packs a wallop. – Zoe Cordes Selbin

WEDNESDAY SLEEPERS

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

Ramesh

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

Habibi

Habibi
Habibi

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

Anoraak

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

Milkdrive

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

Shurman

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

Turbogeist

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

Deadman

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

College

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

Crocodiles

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

Astronautalis

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

Christeene

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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