Thursday SXSW Picks

Smif N Wessun
Smif N Wessun

Mike Watt & the Secondmen

8pm, the Main II
Minutemen/Firehose/Stooges bassist Mike Watt initially formed this trio with organist Pete Mazich and drummer Jerry Trebotic to perform 2004's The Secondman's Middle Stand. Mazich's Hammond B-3 work and Trebotic's thunderous fills provided Deep Purple pathos to Watt's semi-autobiographical rock opera based on Dante's Inferno. A pensive cover of "Shit on Me" highlighted last year's Dicks tribute, The Dicks From Texas. – Greg Beets

Pins

8pm, Latitude 30
Simultaneously fun-loving and sinister, this Manchester, England, noise-pop quintet proffers fuzzed-up hooks by the truckload. Touchstones like the Shangri-Las, Jesus & Mary Chain, and Best Coast are refracted through swagger-happy takedowns like "Too Little Too Late" from 2015's Wild Nights. Despite a stylized appearance and keen ear for melody, much of their energy comes from a slow boiling stew of sneers lurking just beneath the surface. (Also: Sat., 9pm, Blackheart) – Greg Beets

Carrie Rodriguez

8pm, the Majestic
Daughter of late, great Texan song poet David Rodriguez, native Austinite Carrie Rodriguez engraved her name on the folk and Americana scene by herself. On sixth solo newbie Lola, the comely singer and Berklee-schooled fiddle blaze adds Southern twang to a compilation of traditional, Mexican-style boleros both old and new in a bilingual format that's risky, but stirring. – María Núñez

Chairlift

9pm, YouTube@Coppertank
Among the last-minute additions to this year's SXSW, this Brooklyn (by way of Boulder) synth-pop duo boasts opening slots for MGMT, Phoenix, and the Killers. Festival regulars nationwide, Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimberly dropped their third LP, Moth, early this year. Its future-forward dance and avant-pop appeal belies the duo's quirky initial goal – writing songs for haunted houses. – Neph Basedow

The Relatives

9pm, Antone's
Explosive Dallas gospel/funk act the Relatives lost founder and leader the Reverend Gean West last February at 78. His final recordings appear on new disc Goodbye World, both an elegy and a celebration of the band's four-decade legacy. Now piloted by founders Earnest Tarkington and Tommie West, their explosive Temptations-style R&B continues with a band led by Austin guitarist and Antone's booker Zach Ernst. – Jim Caligiuri

Elephant Stone

9:15pm, Hotel Vegas Patio
Elephant Stone's luscious blend of Paisley Underground psych, Indian classical music, and dance beats has earned patronage from peers the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Black Angels, knocking out an Austin Psych Fest audience along the way. The Montreal trio's fourth album, Ship of Fools, featuring groovy single "The Devil's Shelter" with the Angels' Alex Maas, is imminent. – Michael Toland

Javier Escovedo

9:30pm, Saxon Pub
Showcasing for his new label, San Antonio's Saustex Media, Javier Escovedo sleeps on its Hickoids frontman/imprint founder Jeff Smith's couch while promoting latest punk & roll release, Kicked Out of Eden. Edgy and emphasizing the Zeros leader and former True Believer's roots in the New York Dolls, garage, punk, and early glam, the album balances his patented riff raunch with the jangly pop of his first solo issue, City Lights. – Tim Stegall

Autobahn

9:30pm, Hotel Vegas
Leeds, England's Autobahn take a spin at punk with a thirst for death, nihilism, and glamour. Post industrial meets raucous punk as shrilling guitars and bludgeoning drum rolls accompany throat-rattled yells. Their debut, Dissemble, isn't for the light-hearted as it lingers along despair and loneliness. Dig beneath the surface, and you'll find yourself in isolation. – Alejandra Ramirez

Hayes Carll

11pm, the Gatsby
Hayes Carll jumped to national attention behind 2011's breakout fourth disc, KMAG YOYO (and Other American Stories), garnering an Americana Awards nomination for Artist of the Year behind clever, literate tales of outsiders and ramblers. The Austin songwriter's upcoming release, Lovers and Leavers, takes a different turn as he strips back his country/roots sound for an exceptional set that rings more personal and revealing. – Doug Freeman

Dressy Bessy

10pm, Continental Club
Emerging in the mid-Nineties with a moniker nicked from a Seventies Playskool toy, Denver's Dressy Bessy became heralded exemplars of twee-pop. Bandleader Tammy Ealom and Apples in Stereo guitarist John Hill achieved staying power by keeping hooks above the sugar-shock line. After a seven-year layoff, the quartet return with Kingsized, a tastefully wizened ball of contagions featuring guests like R.E.M.'s Peter Buck. (Also: Sat., 11:30pm, Hotel Vegas Patio) – Greg Beets

Boulevards

10:30pm, 3ten ACL Live
Performing as Boulevards, 31-year-old Jamil Rashad of Raleigh, N.C., peddles slick modern funk that lands somewhere near the intersection of Prince, Cameo, and Bruno Mars. His 2015 self-titled EP is full of quasi-disco dance numbers that will have you running to the dance floor and sliding panties to the side in the backseat of a cab. (Also: Fri., 9pm, Cedar Street Courtyard) – Thomas Fawcett

Sarah Jarosz

10pm, St. David's Historic Sanctuary
Hill Country native and mandolin slinger Sarah Jarosz returns from her New York City roost as a repeat Grammy-nominated Americana artist. Still the prodigy, the early twentysomething reveals an older soul with each subsequent album. Fourth studio album Undercurrent is due out in June. – Abby Johnston

Rayland Baxter

10pm, Blackheart
Among the new breed of serious songwriters out of Nashville that include Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson, Rayland Baxter made the album of his career with 2015's Imaginary Man. The son of noted pedal steel player Bucky Baxter (Steve Earle, Bob Dylan) makes an instantly identifiable Southern sound that's evocative, unpretentious, and potent. Just issued Soho EP features intimate readings of tunes from Imaginary Man. – Jim Caligiuri

The Eastern Sea

10pm, Maggie Mae's Gibson Room
The Eastern Sea shot to national relevance with 2012 folk rocker The Plague, Okkervil River-like in its rich instrumentation and literary bent, both of which launched the local fivepiece on a whirlwind of cross-country tours. All of that driving left time for introspection, which resulted in November 2015 follow-up The Witness, a powerful and cinematic analysis straight from the mind of bandleader Matt Hines. – Abby Johnston

Lower Dens

10pm, Banger's
Eighties pop is alive, well, and celebrated through Lower Dens, who've made the transition into full-on revivalists. Steered by onetime local Jana Hunter's controlled, husky lull – a voice ringing out close to fellow Baltimore-born band Beach House – last year's acclaimed Escape From Evil built a dreamy, expansive soundscape, an instrumental study of the beloved power ballads of decades past. – Libby Webster

Luke Sweeney

10pm, Cheer Up Charlies Inside
Much like his kindred L.A. spirit Bart Davenport, San Francisco singer/songwriter Luke Sweeney approaches pop with a decidedly askew sense of priorities. He confounds aural expectations and puts the knock on reverence in a manner that summons the peccadilloes of eccentrics like Todd Rundgren and Stephen Malkmus. 2014's riveting Adventure:Us crackles with time-worn allusions to psychedelia, bubblegum, glam, and mellow Seventies balladry. – Greg Beets

Mick Jenkins

10pm, the Main
Turning the sociopolitical through strains of ill flows, Chicago MC (by way of Huntsville, Ala.) Mick Jenkins has boosted himself into competitive standing within his adopted metropolis' diverse offerings, propagating positive messaging with slick technical ability. After gaining notoriety in the underground with The Waters mixtape, conquest continued on last year's Waves EP. Upcoming debut LP: The Healing Component. – Kahron Spearman

Tacocat

10:15pm, Cheer Up Charlies
Channeling tongue-in-cheek twee, Seattle foursome Tacocat tackle feminism and period positivity with their sunny surf rock. New track "I Hate the Weekend" serves as an anthem for the masses of Austin's service workers, eviscerating yuppies with lyrics like, "Got a hall pass from your job, just to act like a fucking slob." Follow-up to 2014's NVM arrives via Hardly Art on April 1. – Libby Webster

Smif N Wessun

10:30pm, Austin Music Hall
Part of Brooklyn super crew Boot Camp Clik alongside groups like Black Moon and Heltah Skeltah, Smif N Wessun embodies that grimy, early-Nineties East Coast steez that aging hip-hop heads still worship. A cease-and-desist order from the gun manufacturer forced the duo of Tek and Steele to rebrand as Cocoa Brovaz for a stint, but the pair never stopped spitting bullets. "Bucktown! Home of the original gun clappers." – Thomas Fawcett

Blood Orange

10:45pm, YouTube@Coppertank
Originally coming up with short-lived English dance-punk outfit Test Icicles, musician/songwriter Devonté Hynes then became Lightspeed Champion for exactly one full-length album. His greatest success has come as Blood Orange, an R&B-soaked project filtered through electronics. 2011's Coastal Grooves got modest reviews, but two years later critical success flew in on Cupid Deluxe, an NYC-inspired album. In between projects, he's written for Solange and Kylie Minogue. – Kahron Spearman

Black Joe Lewis

11pm, Clive Bar
Since the days of "Bitch, I Love You" from his first EP in 2005, the unfettered rawness of Austin punk-soul hero Black Joe Lewis has been his most-enduring quality. When most in R&B veered toward smooth retro sounds, BJL infused soul shouting with the dirtiest of Delta blues and a decidedly punk rock ethos. Fans are still waiting on a follow-up to searing 2013 LP Electric Slave. – Thomas Fawcett

Eli "Paperboy" Reed

11pm, Continental Club
A blue-eyed Massachusetts soul shouter, Eli "Paperboy" Reed has long been an ace student of Southern soul and blues. 2014's slick and poppy Nights Like This was a sharp (and disappointing) departure from his Wilson Pickett-inspired R&B, but forthcoming fifth album My Way Home hints at a return to form. Lead single "Hold Out" is a pleading gospel-soul tune fueled by burning organ, a funky guitar riff, and Reed's fiery wail. – Thomas Fawcett

Judith Hill

11pm, the Belmont
Practically a spokesperson for "always the background singer, never center stage," Judith Hill finally gets her chance at the spotlight. Appearing in Academy Award-winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, having backed acts from Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson to Elton John, and just shy of making it to the season four finale of The Voice, the L.A. powerhouse's upcoming solo debut was co-produced and co-played with Prince. – María Núñez

Yak

11:30pm, 3ten ACL Live
Hailing from the land of the power trio, London's Yak takes rawk brawn and rips it through its own noisy filter somewhere between the Black Keys and Metz. The youngsters love all riffs equally, so why not play them all at once? Patronage from Spiritualized and a spate of digital singles and EPs set the stage for May debut Alas Salvation. (Also: Fri., 11pm, Latitude 30) – Michael Toland

Faust

11:30pm, Hotel Vegas Patio
First-wave German Krautrock – an electro fusion metronomed at Autobahn-like tempos – evolved one Faustian pact from Wümme near Hamburg in 1971. Today, of the founders' dueling factions, the Faust led by Jean-Hervé Péron and Werner "Zappi" Diermaier remains the most active, having released spare space/time explorations on Just Us in 2014. (Hans Joachim Irmler leads the other faction.) Only their fourth time in the U.S. since 1994. – Raoul Hernandez

Taylor Bennett

11:35pm, the Main
Taylor Bennett has been shaping a road for himself separate of the ever-looming success of his brother, Chance the Rapper. Though the Chicago MC hasn't yet gained national traction, his recent output – from the introspective naivete of Mainstream Music and the soulful funk on Broad Shoulders – proves he's a new voice of modern Chicago's youth. – Alejandra Ramirez

Suboi

12mid, Palm Door on Sixth
Dubbed Vietnam's "queen of hip-hop," Suboi found her way into the genre rapping alongside the music of Eminem and Mos Def. A staple within the country's underground scene, she possesses a rapid-fire delivery that ricochets between witty metaphorical references and outspoken braggadocio. The first Vietnamese artist to have her own official showcase at SXSW, this isn't Suboi's first go-round. – Alejandra Ramirez

Bleached

12mid, Barracuda Backyard
The Clavin sisters, Jennifer and Jessie, come off as the Go-Gos retooled for the Burger Records generation. Bright, sunny, upbeat, and anthemic – filled with Buzzcocks guitars and a Brian Wilson melodic sense – the Los Angelenos' sophomore LP, Welcome the Worms, digs a lot more moody, minor-key gristle to the sunny pop. – Tim Stegall

The Kills

12mid, Banger's
The Kills retain a lot of real estate in Alison Mosshart's heart, despite being the Dead Weather's centerpiece since meeting Jack White in the latter part of the last decade. Formed with guitarist Jamie Hince as the White Stripes and Strokes ignited the commercial garage-punk boom 16 years back, this drum-machine-blues-punk duo are following their four LPs with new single "Doing It to Death." – Tim Stegall

Killswitch Engage

12mid, Empire Garage
Even metalcore haters acknowledge the crossover success of "This Fire Burns," Massachusetts heroes Killswitch Engage being the closest the scene has to a household name. Roarer-in-chief Jesse Leach promises fresh release Incarnate is their darkest to date, and sneak peek singles "Strength of the Mind" and "Hate by Design" add new prog-metal depths. – Richard Whittaker

Rhymefest

12mid, the Main
Preeminent underdog, Rhymefest returns to reclaim some of the "Glory" he's earned but never received, co-writing the track with Common and John Legend, who took home the Oscar for the Selma tie-in. The Chicago MC born Che Smith has long been a writer for Kanye West ("Black Skinhead," "Jesus Walks") and looks to reestablish himself as part of new duo Kill Switch with Pittsburgh rapper/activist Jasiri X. The socio-politically charged #WarOnUs releases in the spring. – Kahron Spearman

White Denim

12mid, Clive Bar
Seventh White Denim LP Stiff, arriving via local imprint Modern Outsider on March 25, loosens the prog-hatched R&B of previous efforts by disbanding the Who-like power quartet of previous breakthroughs like the Jeff Tweedy-assisted Corsicana Lemonade of 2013. Front falsetto/bandleader James Petralli and lead bassist Steve Terebecki keep the local locomotive on track with jam-band aesthetics and the hookiest disc to date. – Raoul Hernandez

Camera

11:15pm, Hotel Vegas at Volstead
Medulla-stirring Berlin trio Camera melds elements of Krautrock, psychedelia, and post-rock into a performance vehicle all their own. Guitarist Franz Bargmann, keyboardist Timm Brockmann, and drummer Michael Drummer compose epic instrumentals that slowly evolve into seismic revelations. Their third LP arrives on Bureau B in June. – Greg Beets

Jake Bugg

12:15am, Stubb's
When Jake Bugg made his first SXSW appearance in 2013, he was 19 with the buzz of a remarkable debut garnering widespread critical acclaim. This year, he returns with an equally emphatic statement in previewing upcoming third LP On My One, Nottingham, UK, vernacular for "On My Own." Consider it Bugg's expression of restlessness and frustration as he tries to break out of the singer-songwriter mold. – Doug Freeman

NOFX

12:30am, Buffalo Billiards
Who would have thought, back in the mid-Eighties, that Los Angeleno punk rock besties Fat Mike and Eric Melvin would endure – or even be alive, given their substantive substance frolicking – for 30 years? The band's reality show, Backstage Passport, mirrored both their on and offstage global antics with resounding success and spawned a hellacious soundtrack. You can't call them sellouts if they never bought in. – Marc Savlov

DJ Khaled

12:45am, Austin Music Hall
Larger than life New Orleans-born, Miami-based DJ Khaled is nothing if not irrepressible. Originally an actual deejay, Khaled built his career's foundations through early alliances with Birdman and Lil Wayne. After moving to Fla., he became a "producer" – more a production amalgamator – and created a slew of Billboard-charting trunk bangers. A living meme, the Snapchat king apparently has the "key to success." – Kahron Spearman

Capsula

1am, the Iron Bear
Capsula blasted out of Argentina in 1999 on a blazing blend of glam, garage, and psychedelia. Eleven albums (including one backing former Voidoid Ivan Julian) and electric live performances leave converts at every turn. The Bilbao-based trio followed LP-length cover Dreaming of the Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders From Mars (performed Tuesday at SX) with the Tony Visconti-produced Solar Secrets and now prep upcoming Santa Rosa. (Also: Fri., 10pm, Javelina) – Michael Toland

A Giant Dog

1am, Tap Room at the Market
As musical as Oklahoma! and punk like the Damned, A Giant Dog was picked up last year by influential indie Merge Records. Andrew Cashen's roaringly precise guitar work and charismatic frontperson Sabrina Ellis' captivating alto, plus the duo's tight songcraft, means the locals could well follow fellow Merge mentors Spoon into stardom. Piano-driven new single "Sex & Drugs" proves it. – Tim Stegall

Calliope Musicals

1am, Tellers
Wielding psychedelic folk with circus-party theatrics, Calliope Musicals lacks no audience in Austin. Forthcoming album Time Owes You Nothing boasts Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zero's producer Kevin Augunas. As heard on 2013 EP Clouds on Fire, their fusion of glittering melodies and charismatic lyricism caters to the bohemian, free-loving folk. – Alejandra Ramirez

Riders Against the Storm

1:30am, Soho Lounge
Partners in life and rhyme, Qi Dada and Chaka celebrated their ninth wedding anniversary by dropping RE:Mixtape, a fresh blend of high energy hip-hop and elevated spiritual vibes. The mix from Austin's reigning Austin Music Awards Band of the Year nods to reggae, disco, and Qi Dada's Haitian roots. R.A.S. is guaranteed to make that "Booty Sweat." – Thomas Fawcett

Nas

1:30am, Austin Music Hall
Nasir Jones' graceful transition from genius MC to Las Vegas sneaker shop owner and label and magazine head (Mass Appeal) still seems improbable considering his rough Queens beginnings and non-businessman appeal. Now something of a mogul, he remains "Nasty Nas," an article of authenticity, and one of the top five MCs of all time. 2012's Life Is Good demonstrated a still razor-sharp blade. Lost Tapes 2 drops this year. – Kahron Spearman

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

2016 Picks, SXSW Music 2016

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