SXSW Wednesday Picks and Sleepers

Wednesday Picks


7:25pm, Austin Music Hall; Fri., 12mid, Copa Gone are the days of Brownout being the musical stepchild of Grupo Fantasma. Austin's ninepiece Latin funk orchestra remains a force of nature in its own right. Taking cues from early Santana, War, and the Meters, Brownout's 2012 release Oozy secretes stickier than Texas in July. – Thomas Fawcett


7:30pm, St. David's Historic Sanctuary Though billed as a reading from Scott's new memoir, fanboys and girls won't suffer a fisherman's blues when the original Waterboy, with his impassioned Scottish brogue, takes the stage with UK fiddle legend Steve Wickham. The acoustic miniset will doubtless draw from 2011's acclaimed An Appointment with Mr. Yeats, but bet on some oldies, too. – Dan Oko


8pm, Haven In "Keep You," singer Natalie Bergman questions why her "little man" won't stay with her," enumerating among her charms "a pretty face and [...] a nice dress." Meanwhile, the band, including Bergman's brother Elliot, defies the wintry climes of Chicago in favor of the sunny beaches of Jamaica. The group's debut, Isles (Columbia), delivers what it promises: progressive, intelligent island music with a white hipster ethos. – Melanie Haupt


8:30pm, Mohawk Forget your other plans! This day, this hour, you will be here, seeing the band that invented punk rock and featuring rock & roll's most death-defying frontman preview its 40-years-overdue Raw Power follow-up, Ready to Die. They have James Williamson, the man who inadvertently taught Steve Jones guitar, back in the fold. – Tim Stegall


9pm, Maggie Mae's Eighties synth pop meets fuzzy garage shoegazer rock in an American trio fronted by sultry Danish expatriate Victoria Cecilia. Tours with Smashing Pumpkins, BRMC, and the Horrors pale in comparison to a 2006 UK concert in the nude. Austin's own Modern Outsider label released the band's latest LP, Langsome Dans. – Michael Toland


9pm, Soho Lounge Articulating the grandeur of the Golden Boys' soulful, slop-rock charm remains a chore best left to drunks and fools. With five prolific musicians walking the same crooked groove, the Austin band bangs out crate-digger delights dipped in spastic, Double Nickels on the Dime-style ambition. Last year's Dirty Fingernails hit the high-water mark, but smart money says this creek keeps rising. – Greg Beets


9pm, St. David's Bethell Hall One of the venerable ECM imprint's star acts, Zurich pianist Nik Bartsch strips his group Ronin down to a duo with bass clarinetist Sha for this rare stateside appearance. This kind of swirling, melodic Euro jazz has its own distinctive flavor, and the spiritual confines of St. David's will be the perfect place to taste it. – Michael Toland


9:15pm, Bat Bar; Thu., 10:15pm, Stage on Sixth Although the blues birthed hip-hop, the two rarely intersect. In steps Oregonian singer-songwriter ZZ Ward, a 24-year-old Hollywood Records signee marked by a youth spent listening to Muddy Waters, though she first rose to recognition in hip-hop circles. Last year's debut LP Til the Casket Drops knits the two disparate genres into dirty blues and beats. – Abby Johnston


9:30, Parish For Kentuckian Ben Sollee, the personal and the political are inseparable from his art. A dedicated environmentalist, he frequently tours via bicycle, hauling his trusty cello in a specially made trailer. In 2010, he released Dear Companion with Daniel Martin Moore to fight mountaintop removal in Appalachia. Last year's Half-Made Man, his fourth, layers folk-pop into circumspection by an artist dedicated to real talk. – Melanie Haupt


9:45pm, ACL Live at the Moody Theater If it feels like forever since you've heard from the head Dixie Chick, you a haven't been following @1NatalieMaines, the singer's funny, feisty, outspoken Twitter feed. Out of the blue, however, Austin's free-form FM godsend, KUTX (98.9) started playing her cover of Pink Floyd's "Mother," from the West of Memphis soundtrack, and also the title cut of her May 7 debut solo album. Thirty million Chicks CDs sold and 13 Grammys won, Maines 2.0 starts at SX. – Raoul Hernandez


10pm, Viceland; Sat., 1am, Elysium Fresh from an Austin stop with the XX, Toronto trio Austra swings back through with classically trained frontwoman Katie Stelmanis coolly delivering her operatic, bouncing soprano over dark pop. Her institutional background shows in songwriting, too, standing as a sinister inversion of classical melodies. – Abby Johnston


10pm, Rebels Honky Tonk; Sat., 9pm, BD Riley's Formerly of the late, great Dexateens, Lee Bains III puts his working knowledge of punk, jangle pop, and Southern rock to good use on the first Glory Fires album, There is a Bomb in Gilead, a fine combination of urban grime and rural beauty. Given these road dogs' relentless concert schedule, expect a tight live powerhouse. – Michael Toland


10pm, Blackheart Shinyribs serves up Austin's Kevin Russell, frontman of local twang-rockers the Gourds, who play SXSW 2013 in a Film Fest doc only. Shinyribs' 2010 debut, Well After Awhile, harnesses the grit of outlaw country, the spice of Louisana swamp rock, and the Arkansas twang of Levon Helm. Expect a follow-up this spring. – Melanie Haupt


10pm, Maggie Mae's; Thu., 11pm, Hickory Street Led by veteran singer-songwriter Jeff Klein, My Jerusalem mixes alternative rock hookery with seething unbalance, like Nick Cave collaborating with the Afghan Whigs. The potency of second and latest LP, Preachers, earned the local quartet stage time with the Wallflowers, the Heartless Bastards, Psychedelic Furs, and X. – Michael Toland


10pm, Buffalo Billiards Local levitation unit the Black Angels challenge the politics of fear with harrowing psych dirges. If new single "Don't Play with Guns" is any indication, the band's fourth LP turns its scope away from the Vietnam era to the present, while pushing the kaleidoscopic psychedelia of 2010's Phosphene Dream even further. Indigo Meadow arrives April 2, just in time for the band's annual Austin Psych Fest. – Austin Powell


10pm, 512 Houston's most promising musical export has been "crushing on" as fronted by 24-year-old frontwoman Asli Omar, a fierce rock & roller with Billie Holiday's jazzy whisper. The indie quartet's 2011 EP Golden is over all too quick, but it's otherwise a sublime blend of blues, psych, soul, and atmospheric rock, manifested on new 7-inch "Bones." Bun B's favorite band. – Thomas Fawcett & Dan Oko


11pm, Empire Control Room Too bad Prince hates the Internet. He would find a lot in common with latest buzz Autre Ne Veut. Brooklyn-based singer Arthur Ashin emotes the same sort of raw sex appeal in high falsetto, the R&B ornamentation of his debut LP Anxiety recalling the Artist Formerly Known As. Never tipping the scales to camp, it's just ostentatious enough to be delightfully gaudy. – Abby Johnston


11pm, Blackheart; Sat., 7pm, ACL Live at the Moody Theater Nabbing five Austin Music Awards last March, including Best New Artist and Best Roots Rock, the Hill Country quintet kept the momentum rolling with a national tour, ACL Music Fest slot, and an appearance on Last Call With Carson Daly. The twangy indie rockers, three of whom are brothers, follows up its well-received debut Portraits, with April's Gold Boots Glitter. – Kevin Curtin


11pm, White Horse One of Austin's most upstart outfits, the local quintet plays its irreverence like a stringed instrument. The madcap hillbilly holler and fiddle of Bobby Fitzgerald leads the fracas of banjo, upright bass, guitar, and washboard percussion, but don't let the brashness distract from the genuine bluegrass talent, with last year's sophomore effort, Rampa Head, recalling the raucous energy of early Old Crow Medicine Show. – Doug Freeman


11pm, Clive Bar Last year during SXSW, Kiwanuka – raised in North London to Ugandan parents – served notice on his full-length 2012 debut Home Again with the voice of an angel bringing to mind Otis Redding and Bill Withers. A busy year has seen him tour internationally and sit in with the Roots on Late Night With Jimmie Fallon. – Dan Oko


11pm, Stubb's After the YYY's glossy, more electronic-leaning It's Blitz! in 2009, Karen O promises that the New York art-rockers will deliver a return to the trio's grungy aesthetic on fourth album Mosquito (Polydor). First single "Sacrilege" channels PJ Harvey as O chants the title over and over until weaving her voice in with a gospel choir. Yeah, yeah. – Melanie Haupt


11:30pm, Red 7 Portland, Ore., trio the Thermals might loathe being considered pop-punk, but then again they've covered Green Day's "Basket Case." They crank high-velocity, fuel-powered guitar music, sometimes inspired by earnest infatuations, sometimes inspired by biblical apocalypses. – Luke Winkie


12mid, Buffalo Billiards Onetime post-Buzzcocks wunderkinder Ash grew up ages ago, taking its brash punk-pop with them. The North Irish trio's A-Z singles series and 2012's covers-heavy Little Infinity sound – dare I say? – Lush! They still sound like they may own a Flying V, however. – Tim Stegall


12mid, Holy Mountain Backyard 2011's Larceny & Old Lace dropped a hurricane in the "Trailer Park Boneyard," much like this devilish quartet's previous two. The Atlanta misfits scramble together a field of dissonance, leaving trackmarks that burn like those produced by Austin's Screaming Females, hellraisers with little more than a guitar and loose drums. – Chase Hoffberger


12mid, Headhunters Patio Born in Tehran in 1979 as Iran's Islamic Revolution unfolded, Golpayegani's emotive guitar dexterity transcends East and West. Now based in L.A., his epic combinations of prog-metal and Middle Eastern folk elements shred stylistic barriers with the gape-mouthed joy of new discovery. These suspense-filled compositions also make excellent video game scores, as the makers of Quest of Persia: Nader's Blade and Garshasp can attest. – Greg Beets


12mid, Antone's; Fri., 12mid, Clive Bar A fixture on the Seattle hip-hop scene, Macklemore finally blew up and crashed Top 40 radio on the back of "Thrift Shop," a cheeky, ballin'-on-a-budget anthem over a bumping three-ring circus of beats by DJ/Producer Ryan Lewis. The MC, who clearly came up on a heavy diet of Rhymesayers, tackles everything from addiction to gay marriage on independently released The Heist. – Thomas Fawcett


12mid., Rebels Honky Tonk; Fri., 8:25pm, 1100 Warehouse A foot-stomping fireball of country, blues, and metal, this local singer/guitarist's 2011 release, Bad Ingredients, earned Blues Album of the Year from the Independent Music Awards. His ability to flatpick on an old archtop guitar, reign sludge on a Gibson Explorer, or melt hearts with a sentimental ballad like "Still Drunk, Still Crazy, Still Blue" leaves a little something for everybody. – Kevin Curtin


12mid., Maggie Mae's; Thu., 1am, Bungalow Ume drummed up fans outside of Austin in its relentless tour supporting 2011's Phantoms, but the ambient-punk trio took a "break" from blowing hair back in September to record with Adam Kasper (QOTSA, Cat Power, Foo Fighters). If Kasper's confidence doesn't demonstrate the band's reach, its $20,000 Kickstarter campaign is a testament to fan's devotion. – Abby Johnston


12mid., Haven; Thu., 11pm, Lustre Pearl; Fri., 1am, the North Door Chazwick Bundick quietly became the image of synth pop, riding the chill wave early in its swell. The oversized glasses and flat bill are ubiquitous of the South Carolina native, while latest Anything in Return rejects his microgenre even further than 2011 LP Underneath the Pine. The album weaves a new kind of richness to Bundick's chill. – Abby Johnston


12:05am, Hickory Street Survivors of the Nineties garage punk revival, the Woggles could be fellow Altantans Black Lips' better behaved fathers. They still hew close to the Sixties punk template, Farfisa, Brian Jones bowl cut, and all. 2010's Ragged But Right displayed them in fine, fuzzy, tambourine-smashing form, with the new Rock & Roll Backlash following it up on vinyl this month. – Tim Stegall


12:05am, Lucille Steel guitar-driven barroom rockers, Li'l Cap'n Travis exude the shaggy trappings of an Austin that ceased to exist five minutes after you arrived. Though rooted in Americana, the quintet's collective musical mind enables them to pull from any number of subgenres in perfecting their loser's club gospel. Besides, how many other bands can work the West Texas colloquialism, "Busier than a three-peckered billy goat" into song? – Greg Beets


1am, Cedar Street Courtyard; Fri., 10pm, Pandora Porch If 20-year-old NYC rapper Angel Haze's influences are hard to peg, it's because she's still gleaning them. A childhood spent among the Pentecostal Greater Apostolic Faith shielded her from much of the nonsecular world. She may have just been acquainted with Biggie Smalls, so she raps with a wizened and angry intensity. – Abby Johnston


1am, Maggie Mae's Gibson Room Somewhere between New Order and Passion Pit sits Funeral Suits, a Dublin quartet enjoying the steam from its 2012 debut LP, Lily of the Valley. Granted, that space has nooks tucked away in wooded glens populated by cheerful elves and dangerous hillbillies, which is where you'll find these gents striking the perfect balance between fancy and menace. – Melanie Haupt


1am, Stage on Sixth After reaching new heights with 2009's The Mountain, Heartless Bastards hit the bullseye with last year's fourth LP, Arrow (Partisan). Ericka Wennerstrom's stunning voice and guitar, accented by the addition of second axman Mark Nathan, conveyed a brazen restlessness and weary yearning in the album's epic expanses and soulful earthiness, a triumph of the Austin quartet's powerful blues-rock evolution and the frontwoman's brawny vocal prowess. – Doug Freeman


1am, Blackheart 2012's And You Are Me constituted a huge step forward for Austin's Uncle Lucius. After signing with global indie Entertainment One, the quintet gelled as a band, composing songs together in ways they never had before. Their raucous sound remains definitively of the South, country and blues with a hard rock edge. – Jim Caligiuri

Wednesday Sleepers


8pm, Cedar Street Courtyard; Fri., 11pm, Blackheart; Sat., 11pm, Cedar Street Courtyard Road warriors willing to play any small town with a bar, Glossary are survivors. The Murfreesboro, Tenn., quintet wield a variety of influences into a monstrously good whole. Their most recent disc, Long Live All of Us, found them combining gospel, soul, and country in ways that were unusual for the band, while retaining their roots-rock undertow. – Jim Caligiuri


9pm, Blackheart Waylon ... Willie ... Corb. His 2012 release, Cabin Fever (New West), rose to the top of the charts in his native Canada, but honky-tonker Lund remains a relative unknown in the lower 48. Pity, because the missteps are few to nonexistent, with Lund eschewing Nashville shtick for a deep strain of outlaw country informed by his own experiences – and that of his crackerjack bandmates. – Dan Oko


9pm, Bar 96 Keegan DeWitt, a film composer, and Jeremy Bullock, another veteran of the Nashville scene, debuted this project at Bonnaroo in 2012, releasing debut LP Youth in the process. The perky percussion of "Thunder Clatter" and warm, melancholy tones to "Drive" suggest Wild Cub wouldn't be out of place at a Vampire Weekend family reunion. – Melanie Haupt


9pm, Lustre Pearl; Wed., 1:15am, Hotel Vegas; Sat., 12:30am, Hotel Vegas Nashville's loosest rock & roll trio, Natural Child keep the old-fashioned tour/record gears grinding, with two LPs in 2012 alone. Leon Russell compares them to Dylan, Waylon, and the Stones. – Michael Toland


9pm, The Hideout; Sat., 9pm, Meduse Lounge Looking like an unassuming teen, Pakistani guitar phenom Usman Riaz plays the guitar like an alien. Like Kaki King and Preston Reed, the self-taught Riaz utilizes fret tapping, string slapping, and hand drumming to make his unaccompanied acoustic guitar sound like an entire band of gypsies. – Kevin Curtin


9:10pm, Victorian Room at the Driskill Among the best bluegrass pickers in Austin with the awards to prove it, MilkDrive plays an acoustic style best described as jazzgrass. Improvisational without being too jammy, they show their chops while retaining a reverence for that high lonesome sound. Last year's Waves brought out the quartet's ability to compose funky arrangements and smart folk ballads. – Jim Caligiuri


10pm, Continental Club Since he decamped from Detroit for Nashville, head Deadstring Brother Kurt Marschke has softened the sound of the band a bit. Their fifth album, Cannery Row, due in April, holds more Laurel Canyon vibe than their past work. Still Glimmer Twins in everything they do, these bros make cosmic American music. – Jim Caligiuri


10pm, North Door; Thu., 11pm, Cedar Street Courtyard If you don't find it significant that the Allah-Las coalesced while working at Amoeba Records in Hollywood, you've never been there. The quartet's self-titled 2012 debut LP exhumes a specific sub-strain of High Western psychedelia redolent of fringed jackets, yucca plants, and acid exploitation movies. They also allude to ghosts of L.A.'s Paisley Underground like the Long Ryders and the Dream Syndicate. – Greg Beets


10pm, Avenue on Congress Hard not to be intrigued by FEAT (Decon Records), the latest LP from the Chicago duo calling itself the Hood Internet. FEAT evokes the mash-up ethos without using samples, the secret being collaboration between unrelated artists. "One for the Record Books" teams New Pornographer A.C. Newman with Doomtree rapper Sims for an organic meshing more vibrant than any laptop fiddling. – Melanie Haupt


10:05pm, Victorian Room at the Driskill Standing at five feet even, people don't expect such a large voice out of BettySoo. Yet the Austinite and former Kerrville New Folk winner continues to surprise with songs that move the listener in unpredictable ways. She just finished a monthlong residence in New Haven, Conn., where she performed in the musical Long Time Gone: Words & Music by Bob Dylan. – Jim Caligiuri


10:20pm, Holy Mountain California X bedazzle a faded jean jacket and throw it over their shoulders. The Amherst, Mass., quartet has 1992 souls trapped in 21st century bodies, but that doesn't stop them from chugging out massive, chunky, acid-washed riffage. Self-titled debut traffics in Dinosaur Jr., Nirvana, Pearl Jam, but blasted with stir-crazed youth and a full head of hair. – Luke Winkie


10:30pm, Parish Houndmouth's deep rooted, literary Americana bites hard, drawn in the weary twang shared by all four singers in the New Albany, Ind., quartet. Their auspicious eponymous debut EP, released last year on Rough Trade, paws heavily at the Band and Felice Brothers, but finds its own electrified folk footing in narratives like "Penitentiary" and "Houston Train," with Katie Toupin adding pitch-perfect female touches. – Doug Freeman


11pm, Lustre Pearl; Fri., 12:30am, Headhunter's Patio Part of Nashville's fertile rock & roll scene, Bad Cop bangs out its multihyphenated (glam, punk, roots, etc.) pop with giddy enthusiasm and salty grit. Adam Moult's songcraft keeps the hooks flowing on the band's debut LP Harvest the Beast and upcoming 7-inch. – Michael Toland


11pm, Maggie Mae's Austin boasts a rich post-rock scene, and while the Calm Blue Sea washes in familiarly warm crescendos and intricately climaxing compositions à la Explosions in the Sky, the locals' tension and release enthralls with its own unique movements. Sophomore album, Arrivals and Departures (Modern Outsider) captures the enveloping intensity of the keyboard- and guitar-driven quartet. – Doug Freeman


12mid., 512 Rooftop; Sat., 8pm, Bungalow A Choctaw Indian from Shawnee, Okla., Samantha Crain issued her third disc, Kid Face, in February. More personal than her previous work, its deals with her reaction to issues she confronted on the road. Crain's fragile, haunting voice fills every available nook and cranny of her blended folk and country. – Jim Caligiuri


12mid, Velveeta Room This mind-blowing Houston band performs cosmic, experimental rock. Many have noted frontman Lucas Gorham's church-inspired steel guitar; fewer realize that his impressive ability to sing high and low simultaneously borrows from multi-pitch Tuvan throat-singing born of Siberia. Bolstered by pals Ryan Chavez and Geoffrey Muller, and occasionally Nashville-based songwriter and guitarist Robert Ellis (featured on the band's self-titled 2012 New West debut), words cannot suffice. – Dan Oko


12mid., Parish Underground; Thu., 9pm, Clive Bar Before Conor Oberst, Omaha wasn't known as a proving ground for rock & roll. Icky Blossoms thus bloomed when Oberst's label, Saddle Creek, released the band's self-titled debut last year. The threepiece specializes in artsy electro-pop informed by guitarist Nik Fackler and singer-guitarist Derek Pressnall's respective backgrounds in film and visual art, while singer Sarah Bohling adds a layer of sensual indifference. – Melanie Haupt


12mid, TenOak; Fri., 9pm, Holy Mountain Part performance art, part evolving concept album, Sorne's self-released debut from 2011, House of Stone, spins a complex and epic saga about five siblings dealing with the death and legacy of their father. A former Texas Biennial artist, leader Morgan Sorne possesses the tribal fierceness of Björk, visionary streak of Coheed & Cambria, and Tune-Yards' vocal theatrics. Last year, he toured with TV on the Radio and currently seeks funds for a sequel, Ego Altar. – Austin Powell


12mid, Scoot Inn; TBA, Lucille The 2010 release of Earl helped fuel the rise of L.A. rap antiheroes Odd Future, but when the crew broke nationally, Earl Sweatshirt was M.I.A. "Free Earl" chants rang out at shows and amateur Internet sleuths discovered the young rapper was at a Samoan boarding school. Since his return, he's appeared on Frank Ocean's Grammy-winning album, and releases Doris this year with production help from Ocean and the Neptunes. – Thomas Fawcett


12:15am, Mohawk Indoor Most bills typically denote WHY? as folk, but the Cincinnati threepiece convolutes genres to the point of resignation. For 2012 LP Mumps, etc., the band loaded into Denton's Echo Lab, tapping University of North Texas students to assemble an eightpiece choir and string quartet. This tamed circus produced one of WHY?'s more readable records, afflicted and equally intoxicating. – Abby Johnston


1am, Karma Lounge; Fri., 9pm, St. David's Bethell Hall; Sat., 12mid, Flamingo Cantina Named for the patron saint of music, La Santa Cecilia peddles a quirky fusion of indie rock and ranchera with a heavy dollop of whimsy. Led by the soaring vocals of La Marisoul, the quartet has a penchant for covers (U2, Soft Cell) they indulge on 2012 EP El Valor. Catch full sets Wednesday and Saturday and a 10-minute Beatles tribute on Friday. Their bilingual take on "Strawberry Fields Forever" remains a sure bet. – Thomas Fawcett


1:10am, La Zona Rosa; Fri., 12:15am, Scoot Inn A relative newcomer at 23, trap and bass producer Baauer (né Harry Rodrigues) only has a handful of songs under his belt. It just so happens one of those songs debuted atop the Billboard Hot 100 after fueling the most ubiquitous Internet meme since "Gangnam Style." There are other reasons to go see Baauer, but none better than watching people complete lose their shit when he drops "Harlem Shake." – Thomas Fawcett

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Thursday Interview

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March 20, 2015

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