SXSW news and carryings-on

Macklemore (by John Anderson)

Sport'n a Woody

Odd Future, SXSW 2011
Odd Future, SXSW 2011 (by Sandy Carson)

Billed as "Music that college students love," the mtvU Woodie Awards lineup came off more like the soundtrack to a beer-pong sesh than cutting-edge college radio material. Hosted by the incongruent personalities of rapper Machine Gun Kelly and indie-pop sister act Tegan & Sara, the award ceremony aspect was hardly noticeable. "There's something special about Austin," announced indie-rapper Macklemore to thousands of young spectators. "We went from playing to 13 people at South by Southwest to playing for all of you!" Wearing a locally purchased poncho, he shouted-out some South Congress resale shops before he and producer Ryan Lewis launched into their chart-topping signature song, "Thrift Store." Stealing the show was rising piano pop duo Twenty One Pilots. Boasting deep lyrics, daring stage antics, and slaughterhouse hooks, they pulled a huge emotional response out of an audience that clearly wasn't familiar with them. "You're probably wondering who the fuck we are," singer Tyler Joseph admitted, "but we will be your band if you'll have us." The show airs Sunday night on mtvU.

Earl's Future

During Odd Future's atomic breakout at South by Southwest 2011, rapper Earl Sweatshirt was stuck in Samoa completing a therapy program at Coral Reef Academy, a retreat for at-risk youths. "Free Earl!" a crowd of thousands chanted throughout their headlining Mess With Texas set. A year later, Sweatshirt, now 19, returned to Odd Future with a sold-out show at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York and has since given focus to his solo album, Doris, the studio follow-up to his lo-fi debut that helped break the Odd Future gang. Due time for his own SXSW limelight, the rapper made his first Austin appearance on Wednesday night to a large audience outside the Scoot Inn. Joined by Odd Future compatriot Domo Genesis, he gave fans a short, but intriguing first listen to tracks off Doris, then brought the crowd to a violent frenzy with a version of his brutal first hit "Earl." Catch him performing with other underage rappers DyMe-a-DuZiN and Joey Bada$$ at Lucille, 9:30pm.

Vamps Like Us

Vampire Weekend
Vampire Weekend (by Gary Miller)

Kicking off the local PBS staple's 39th season, Austin City Limits will tape Vampire Weekend on Sunday at the Moody Theater. "What I mainly love about these guys is the way they mash and mix up different musical styles, and they aren't afraid to push the envelope as they continue to evolve," remarked executive producer Terry Lickona. "I got to hear some of the new tracks a few weeks ago and I think it's their best work. It's definitely a little darker." That album, Modern Vampires of the City, sees light on May 7. Today, Vampire Weekend headlines a star-studded Radio Day Stage lineup at the Convention Center: Divine Fits (noon), Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell (12:45pm), Iron & Wine (1:10), Charles Bradley (2pm), Pickwick (3), Dawes (4), and you-know-who at 5pm.

Syria's Souleyman

Arabic folk-pop singer Omar Souleyman comes to SXSW on a special mission: bringing awareness to the continued violence in his home country of Syria. Today marks the two-year anniversary of the Middle Eastern country's uprising in which an estimated 70,000 have died. "The war has brought life to unbearable conditions. There is no electricity now, no running water, no heating oil," writes Souleyman, whose village was taken over by the Free Syrian Army in November. "Death and destruction is everywhere. Our most beautiful cities are destroyed, and people die everywhere." Souleyman hosts the Our Heart Aches for Syria benefit, which features performances by the Young, the Orwells, White Lung, Deradoorian, Deer Tick, Souleyman, and the Black Lips. Afterward, Chronicle scribe Austin Powell conducts an interview with Souleyman. Tickets are $10, no wristband necessary. The event runs 9pm-2am at the Long Center near Auditorium Shores, where the Flaming Lips will be wrapping up their free show at 9:30pm. Come support. "It fills my heart with great joy and pride that I can for the first time help my people with my song," concludes Souleyman.

Half Notes

Omar Souleyman at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2012
Omar Souleyman at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2012 (by Sandy Carson)

Tonight's "Secret Show" presented by the new Myspace features Theophilus London, Dillon Francis, Sleigh Bells, and Flying Lotus at the Coppertank Events Center Downtown. RSVP online. Saturday's show at that spot features my third favorite 'N Sync member.

Until tonight, no Cuban metal band has played on U.S. soil. "It's a small and rabid community," describes journalist David Peisner, who profiled the country's scene for Spin and today hosts a SXSW panel discussion with Cuban bands Escape, Ancestor, and Agonizer (3:30pm, ACC, Room 11AB). "Like metal scenes everywhere, they're marginalized," says Peisner. "They have no sway with the powers on either side of the border." Fortunately, Unblock the Rock, an organization aiming to close the cultural rift between the U.S. and Cuba using heavy metal, raised money and secured visas for the bands who, I'm happy to report, have landed and are ready to melt faces tonight at the Jr, 8pm.

East Bay Ray
East Bay Ray (by Gary Miller)

Willie Nelson joined his son Lukas' band Promise of the Real for a surprise performance at family owned Arlyn Studios on Tuesday. The father/son collaboration lasted 20 minutes and included an all-too-significant cover of "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys."

The fourth annual Metal Fest at Hoeks Death Metal Pizza on Sixth Street was shut down by the Austin Police Department on Tuesday for not having a permit, causing more than 50 bands to relocate performances. In an interview with Metal Illuminati, Hoek's owner Jason Adams said the event was shut down because he did not have a copy of his outdoor music permit and he was ticketed for noise violation.

The central point of SXSW's Avoiding Internal Band Disasters panel on Thursday was simple: if you're in a band, get paper. Make a songwriting agreement with your bandmate, even if you're rebellious punks who don't intend to get famous. When guitarist East Bay Ray self-released the Dead Kennedys first vinyl single, he never thought they'd end up being a band with gold record status. After the group's demise, Ray and singer Jello Biafra ended up entangled in lawsuits. "He's a very charismatic sociopath," Ray said of Biafra. "He'll say anything to get his way, but doesn't care about people."

Don't miss Flatstock, a flea-market-sized convention where you can purchase incredible concert bills from both local and national artists. It runs today and tomorrow from 2-6pm in the Austin Convention Center, Exhibit Hall 4

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