Saturday Picks and Sleepers
Saturday night SXSW blurbs
8pm, Speakeasy The cultural dialogue around Israel remains dark and sobering, so we should be blessed to have bands like Terry Poison to prove that not everything has to be so ugly and complicated. A trio of fashion-forward kids from Tel Aviv playing bubblegum electro-pop that seems genetically engineered to reassure us all that everything's going to be okay.
8pm, Bar 96 The original Chinese punks, Beijing brothers Gao Xing and Gao Yang have been kicking against the pricks with their Sham 69-style slam dance since 1994. Reforming last decade with a blend of Oi! and late-era Stiff Little Fingers, they perform for the first time in the U.S., first stateside visuals outside crackly old VHS footage from mid-Nineties basement gigs.
9pm, Headhunters Patio The rain rarely pauses in Portland, Ore., but the beach is only an hour away. Hence Guantanamo Baywatch, a feral trio that plays blown-out surf-punk with the tremolo riptide of Dick Dale and the Cramps' B-movie sleaze. 2012 debut Chest Crawl is an instant party LP, but Surf N Turf, a recent split EP with Natural Child, proves the band's equally capable of bleary-eyed ballads.
9pm, Friends Power-pop from Prince Edwards Island in Canada, Paper Lions had an unusual YouTube experience in the last year. A video for "Travelling," originally uploaded in 2007, went viral resulting in more than four million views and an exploding fan base. Late 2013, the foursome released My Friends, which displayed a matured songwriting style while retaining their ability with bouncy pop hooks.
9pm, Holy Mountain Since meeting in 2009, Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz have melded folk, gospel, and bluegrass into a seamless whole. With their third release, 2013's This Side of Jordan, the North Carolinians push gentle, easygoing harmonies, all the while urging spirituality before religion and expanding their sonic palette into blues and honky-tonk.
9:30pm, Hotel Vegas @ Volstead Frontwoman – strange to call her that, given that she's still in high school – Clementine Creevy snarls and swoons on a dime on this L.A. snot-punk trio's debut Haxell Princess (Burger Records). One minute she's crooning about grilled cheese, then reflecting on the vagaries of growing up, her voice slicing through a backdrop of grungy guitars. Creevy's also a contributor to blogger enfant terrible Tavi Gevinson's Rookie mag.
9:35pm, Bungalow Seattle duo THEESatisfaction conduct extreme adventures in sound. Awe Naturale, the wonderfully weird self-produced debut by rapper Stasia Iron and singer Catherine Harris-White, mixes soul and hip-hop both bizarre and brilliant – intergalactic and out of the box. The pair of "QueenS" share a cosmic aesthetic with Sub Pop labelmates Shabazz Palaces and offer this advice: "Turn off your swag and check your bag."
10pm, Ten0ak Local treasure Sara Hickman could be our version of Beck: A hard-to-classify singer-songwriter who spans genres from children's music to the Beatlesque psych-pop cloaking a vicious putdown on 2013's Shine, "Selfish Freak." Even her vintage bubblegum evinces a strong eroticism ("Tasty Sweet"). It's all so artfully warped yet still indescribably sweet; Hickman manages to always be no one but herself.
Dikes of Holland
10:15pm, Hotel Vegas @ Volstead The first thing I do when I visit Austin is check to see if/when Dikes of Holland is playing. The local garage-punk quintet boasts the best frontwoman in town, Liz Herrera, an unmanned firehose whose whiplash tenacity intensifies the band's no-wave punk. It's a cathartic calamity, and the Dikes never disappoint. A third LP and European tour are both in the works for the fall.
10:30pm, Central Presbyterian Church Greenwich Village's adopted daughter adds grime and grit to her nouveau folk with Tales From the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles. It's yet another experiment from the whispery chanteuse who dabbled in a cappella urban beats on "Tom's Diner" and industrial influences on 99.9F°, but the Presbyterian's acoustics might tempt something closer to the Close-Up series' acoustic reinventions.
Giving Tree Band
11pm, Shotguns Led by brothers Todd and Eric Fink, Illinois septet the Giving Tree Band takes its cues from original roots rockers like the Band and the Grateful Dead. They aren't copying what's come before them, simply using it as a road map to an honest and exhilarating sound of their own. Recent release Vacilador featured the band's impeccable ensemble play and songs both joyous and creative.
11pm, St. David's Sanctuary Currently from Nashville but a native of Kentucky, Sturgill Simpson makes country music with an old-fashioned bent. In many ways, he recalls the like-minded Marty Stuart, last year's High Top Mountain featuring no nonsense honky-tonk and mountain music that's lyrically direct and emotionally deep. Follow-up Metamodern Sounds in Country Music drops in May.
11:10pm, the Hideout An indie punk band's indie punk band, Protomartyr captures the best parts of Detroit's rock lineage: impulsive energy greased with assembly-line efficiency. Frontman Joe Casey captures Motor City bankruptcy in more ways than one, with wry observations and telling details, like the Hold Steady's Craig Finn raised on the wrong end of 8 Mile. Second LP Under Color of Official Right drops next month for Sub Pop offshoot Hardly Art.
Graham Reynolds/Golden Arm Trio
11:15pm, Elephant Room At this point in Graham Reynolds' career, labels like "jazz" or "classical" or even "avant-garde" mean little. Even the more fitting term "composer" seems too limiting for a dude armed with film scores, theatre accompaniment, symphonies, string quartets, rock songs, and countless freewheeling performances by his amorphous ensemble Golden Arm Trio.
12:30am, Valhalla One limb of the brooding post-rock Radar Recordings collective, Massachusetts Hum fanatics Junius will be packing copies of new EP Days of the Fallen Sun for Texas. Returning to the epic, doom-laden insistence of 2009's The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist after 2011's soaring Deftones-meets-King Crimson Reports From the Threshold of Death, tracks like "Forgiving the Cleansing Meteor" are modern cosmic chants.
1am, Lit Lounge Founded in 1983, Pittsburgh's Cynics became a favored child of Nuggets on the strength of Sixties-style contagions like "Baby, What's Wrong" and "Now I'm Alone." Three decades on, this action-packed garage rock combo still delivers. Guitarist/Get Hip Recordings head honcho Gregg Kostelich unloads fuzzed-up riffs with the efficiency of a candy factory as vocalist Michael Kastelic seals the deal with his sneering, bug-eyed demeanor.
1am, Parish Underground Puppets, dinosaurs, BMX, and art punk: Brooklyn duo Japanther knows how to put on a show. For over a decade, Matt Reilly and Ian Vanek have churned out lightning-fast cuts augmented by a fantastical live interpretation. Mid-2013 album Eat Like Lisa, Act Like Bart furthers the crust-punk aesthetic.
1am, Red Eyed Fly Given doom legend Scott "Wino" Weinrich's penchant for spelunking in his own past – witness the recent Obsessed festival appearances and the ongoing Saint Vitus reunion – it shouldn't be any surprise that he's decided to revisit one of his best projects. The original run by his spiritually inclined psych-metal trio lasted just long enough to be perfect.
1am, Lit Lounge Upstairs These veteran Austin space cases fuse experimental, psychedelic, prog, and punk impulses into a synapse-bending parallel reality. ST 37 commemorated the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination with a twisted ode to Marina Oswald. Before that, they composed alternate scores for Fritz Lang's Metropolis and Destiny. Whether they're floating across a desolate sonic frontier or roaring with hardcore temerity, normalcy is never the norm.
Micah P. Hinson
1am, Shotguns Micah P. Hinson's decade-long career winds through a tale of exceptionally inspired songwriting and constant near-music-ending disasters. The latest to befall the Abilene artist resulted from a 2011 car accident in Spain, almost losing use of his arms, but recovery delivers the harrowing, upcoming And the Nothing on French label Talitres. Hinson's scarred croon embeds the weary experience of dread and determination.
1am, Dirty Dog Bar The infectious folk-pop strumming and intimate, playful harmonies of Wild Child's 2011 debut LP Pillow Talk swept the Austin quintet to national attention, and last year's sophomore LP cemented the love. Produced by Ben Kweller on his Noise Company label, The Runaround adds more power and diverse arrangements, while still highlighting the interplay between Alexander Beggins uke melodies and Kelsey Wilson's dynamic vocals and violin.
J. Roddy Walston & the Business
TBA, Stubb's They're better suited for the stage, the only place where this style of old-time rock & roll can get a true workout these days, but fourpiece Baltimore sweat rag J. Roddy Walston & the Business have found a way to redirect that energy onto wax. Released last September, second album Essential Tremors did what the first one couldn't: leave you listening until the very end.
7pm, St. David's Historical Sanctuary His voice will give you chills. Reminiscent of Roy Orbison, although higher and sadder, the Arkansas native's trembling, ethereal pipes are a gift, adding a forlorn quality to his songs of love and life. Tragic as Townes Van Zandt and romantic like Patsy Cline, Denny's songwriting exudes a respectable country classicism. A long overdue follow-up to 2007's Age Old Hunger is finally in the cards.
9pm, Half Step I'm fairly confident in saying PapaNegro is the greatest dirty funk/hip-hop quintet that came out of Chile in the late Nineties. Beloved at home, and working on their fifth album, it's acts like this that make SXSW feasible in Austin every spring. I doubt they'll be making any other U.S. stops.
9pm, Lit Lounge Upstairs Canterbury, England's Broken Hands summons the angry heavens with ear-splitting space fuzz while maintaining just enough trajectory to make it stick. Vocalist Dale Norton projects confidence merely by being heard over the celestial din. The youthful quartet proved its festival mettle by playing at last year's Rolling Stones show in London's Hyde Park. Latest EP Silver Landing Program centers around flight.
9pm, 18th Floor at Hilton Garden Inn Sophomore LP Apologies displayed a growth in David Ramirez's songwriting that quickly established him as one of Austin's significant rising voices. The pull of his languid, confessional folk mesmerizes with a gentle and subdued passion and direct, poignant detail, equally emphasized on new EP The Rooster behind the songwriter's low, easy croon.
9:15pm, 512 Rooftop Last year's Kulture Riots proved more song-centric than Subkulture Patriots' eponymous 2011 debut, pitting the amiable, smoked-out SKP quartet second in command to the League of Extraordinary Gz in the ATX posse rap conversation.
9:45pm, Cheer Up Charlie's Generating hard-charging beats with an electronic drum pad and topping them with noisy guitar wreckage, ambient electronics, gritty basslines, and politicized screams like "Stop and Frisk," new Austin trio BLXPLTN captures the urgency and anger of Eighties punk and pushes it into the future. Their debut hasn't hit yet, but the minority outfit, featuring Mighty Mountain vocalist Jonathan Horstmann and Tuna Helpers alum Khattie Quinones, seems poised to shake things up in Austin.
10pm, Tap Room at the Market Ariel Abshire is the voice of young Americana. Literally: She began as one of Austin's initial U-18 artists, and already had an amazing voice with a breathtaking catch in it. Now a young vet with two releases under her belt, tracks like 2011's "No Great Pretender" from Still So New demonstrate a mature grasp of a twentysomething's head befuddled by her own heart's mind.
10pm, 18th Floor at the Hilton Garden Inn Atlanta's von Grey sisters, average age 16, were breakout stars at Amanda Palmer's near-legendary Scottish Rite ninja gig at SXSW 2013. The quartet transmute Suzuki method home-schooling, the studio sheen of their eponymous debut EP washed away to reveal a fearless and enchanting fusion of Celtic, Americana, and wistful Nashville pop.
10pm, Bar 96 Comprising teenage Temple City, Calif., brothers Mikaiah and Anaiah Lei, Afropunk darlings the Bots come off like Jack White getting ahold of Bad Brains and stripping them down into a duo suspiciously close to one White once led. Except for those thrashaholic tendencies, of course. Their two EPs, including 2013's Sincerely Sorry, are fresh and exciting.
11pm, Speakeasy The electric neon freak-outs of Taiwanese disco punk outfit Go Chic are as vapid as they are contagious. We Ain't Home signals the latest "Grrrl Fight" from the all-female Taipei trio, an LP full of cheeky dance songs that "don't stop 'til sundown."
11pm, Swan Dive Patio Dancing from the ashes of Motel Aviv, Austin singer Rodney Connell joined with Houston synthesist Brandon Duhon to form Texas' fast-rising Night Drive. The duo's melodies don't step far from Motel Aviv's anthemic guitar pop, just minus the axes. With the EP Position I and an Arcade Fire remix under its belt, ND poises to make a splash outside of electro-pop circles.
11pm, Victorian Room at the Driskill Moniker of Denmark songwriter Bjarke Bendtsen and the varying collection of musicians he cobbles together, the Migrant wanders through folk-pop tunes with an elastic, psychedelic haze. After two albums, Amerika and Beads, new LP Flood douses with broader instrumentation and more power, while maintaining Bendtsen's meditative and lulling high trill and hypnotic, finger-picked guitar.
11pm, Dirty Dog Bar Ten pieces steeped in classic R&B, ska, and rocksteady sounds of vintage Jamaica, the Suffers fill a dance floor. Talented Kam Franklin fronts the horn-fueled Houston band and shines over the rapid rolling congas of "Gwan" or syrupy slow soul ballads like "Giver." The big band recently holed up at Church House Studios in Austin to record its forthcoming full-length debut.
11pm, Lit Lounge Together since 2002, this New Orleans fivepiece drops lo-fi psych-pop sermons loosely informed by the Syd Barrett synod and their low-lying environs. Twin Language (Get Hip) favors spiked bubblegum immediacy over atmospherics on short shots like "Self-Portrait" and "Effervescent Adolescent." Guitarist/vocalist Ben Glover strikes a balance between playful and disengaged as he unfurls one colorful couplet after another.
11:20pm, Red Eyed Fly The Australian King Parrot is a delightfully plumed and sociable bird. They are not – repeat, not – under any circumstances to be confused with Australia's King Parrot. Forcibly crossbreeding Turbonegro with the Devil's Rejects on "Shit on the Liver," the aggressive thrash/grind monsters are hellbent on restoring the humor of Eighties speed metal through unapologetic screamfests like "Epileptic Butcher."
12mid, Speakeasy It might be a backhanded compliment to call Fenster majestic, but that's the word that comes to mind. Easy, dreamy, and gently out of focus, the Berlin/New York quartet write songs that hit the same pleasure centers as the Cocteau Twins, Slowdive, and the Clientele. New sophomore effort The Pink Caves makes the whole world slow down.
12mid, Continental Club What kind of musician leaves L.A. for Houston? The kind that rocks out, and bounces blues and honky-tonk across Texas before most bands finish setting up their effects pedals. The road-tested Stinson couples musical versatility with adroit songwriting, as Dwight Yoakam's "Late Great Golden State" attests. Building on that, 2013's Hell and Half of Georgia packs equal amounts twang and wit.
Mozes & the Firstborn
12:30am, Hotel Vegas Proof that the garage rock revival has gone worldwide, youngsters Mozes & the Firstborn have extended the reach of Southern California tape label Burger Records into the Netherlands. The quartet's ridiculously catchy "I Got Skills," in which lead singer/guitarist Melle Dielesen boasts that he's too self-involved to take interest in others, evidences both their absurdist attitude and serious pop potential.
1am, Friends Perhaps no better way to close out SXSW than with the Canadian songwriter and DJ whose live shows rip with a rave-up intensity and fun. Exuberant and ambitious, Aucoin unloads from 2011's We're All Dying to Live with mixes made over three years and nearly 500 samples from his tours. The result drops somewhere between Daft Punk and the Flaming Lips, syncing driving beats and pop orchestrations.
1am, Headhunters Patio Because I'm Awesome is really seven years old? Ugh. Stupid linear nature of time. The L.A. trio's fifth, Barefoot and Pregnant, was delivered just last month and it's more bubblegum pop masquerading as punk rock. It's eminently enjoyable as such.