We at Team 360 love a good cover song. Nay, we crave a good cover song. In fact, one of our favorite post-festival rituals (be it ACL, Fun Fun Fun or SXSW) is comparing notes on which bands covered which other bands. Here’s one that slipped past us, though. At SXSW Music 2015, pop-rock band Bleachers, surf rockers Best Coast and rapper Future all covered Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”
The three artists all played Uproxx House on East Fifth Street during the music festival between March 19-21, and each one performed a rendition of the metal classic. And because these sorts of things happen at sponsored events, Uproxx mashed the three performances into a single music video. Not to fall too hard for that sweet, sweet #branding, but come on: This is pretty fun.
Watch the stitched-together Jack Antonoff/Bethany Cosentino/Nayvadius Wilburn collaboration below.
Fort Worth soul singer Leon Bridges, Australian indie sensation Courtney Barnett and veteran Austin rock band Spoon are the winners of this year’s Grulke Prizes, South by Southwest announced Tuesday.
Bridges, who skyrocketed from relative obscurity late last year when two songs posted to SoundCloud helped get him a deal with Atlantic Records, was the winner for Developing U.S. Act. He drew a beyond-capacity crowd for his SXSW showcase at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary and also played shows at Hype Hotel, Spotify House and other venues. His debut album is expected to be released later this year.
Barnett, who had a breakout local performance at last fall’s Fun Fun Fun Fest, just released her debut album “Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit” this week after three momentum-building EPs. She had official showcases at Stubb’s and Cedar Street Courtyard and also played several daytime events.
Spoon, the first Austin band to receive a Grulke Prize, was the Career Act winner. They headlined Thursday’s free outdoor concert that reopened Auditorium Shores, in addition to playing official showcases at Hype Hotel and Cedar Street Courtyard as well as Alejandro Escovedo’s unofficial Sunday-night closing event at the Continental Club.
The Career Act prize is presented to “an established artist who appeared at SXSW to reinvent themselves or launch an important new project,” according to SXSW’s website. Spoon’s 2014 album “They Want My Soul” was the band’s first in four years and featured new members as well as a move from their longtime label Merge Records to major-affiliated Loma Vista.
Previous winners were Future Islands, the Strypes and Damon Albarn in 2014, and Haim, Chvrches and the Flaming Lips in 2013. The Grulke Prize was instituted after the August 2012 death of longtime SXSW creative director Brent Grulke. The Developing Act awards include $10,000, while the Career Act receives $10,000 to give to a charity of their choice. All winners also receive a two-day studio and hotel package at NightBird Recording Studios and the Sunset Marquis Hotel in Los Angeles.
Last week, SXSW organizers dedicated the city’s new Brent Grulke Plaza just below the First Street Bridge as part of the reopening of Auditorium Shores. The reopening also included a christening of the park’s East Lawn music performance space as Vic Mathias Shores in honor of the longtime civic leader, who died in 2013 and first gave the name Auditorium Shores to the parkland along the section of the Colorado River now known as Lady Bird Lake.
You know that new sound you’re looking for? Dublin noise quartet Girl Band may have found it.
As long as there have been electric guitars passionate players have searched for unique sounds to summon from the belly of the six-stringed beast — seeking to lay claim to a wee bit of fuzzy amplified tone to call their very own. During the final hour of SXSW Saturday, i.e., Sunday morning at 1 a.m., the misleadingly named Girl Band (none of whose members are female) brought their noise rock to Latitude 30 for the closing set at this year’s British Music Embassy, and the fury they unleashed was unlike anything I can put my finger on.
It’s a common problem for the band. If you manage to successfully Google navigate your way to Girl Band and find the four gentlemen from Ireland you’ll see people, including the band, tend to have a hard time describing their sound or listing comparables. The “grunge” label gets thrown out there, and while that doesn’t feel right to my ears there were brief milliseconds of Kurt-ness in their live show that I picked up on before being able to blame someone else for incepting that label in my head.
Singer Dara Kiely took to the stage blond and handsome, a sweet, clean-looking guy with a Chris Hemsworth/Hollister model look that might have led the uninitiated to think we were about to see some light beer-sipping pop rock. Then Kiely starts singing. In his gentler mode, there’s a delay before he falls into his lines — like he’s pulling in a quick gasp of air where you or I might naturally start singing if in his shoes. His cadence and annunciation has the slacker-like, stuffy nasal sound of Stephen Malkmus or the Dismemberment Plan’s Travis Morrison. (There are definitely some D-Plan vibes in the drumming too.) But he’s not afraid to bare his teeth and go for the growl.
Save for the drums, which are inhumanly perfect whether maintaining a techno beat loop for six minutes or swapping funky time signatures and tempos on a dime three times a song, all of the elements of Girl Band’s sound seemed to have two modes. There’s a clear sense of on and off, left and right. It’s minimal post-punk that gets furiously loud but isn’t always running.
While other noise rockers have guitar and bass that sound abrasive, Girl Band’s sound like they’re coming from machines. Alan Duggan’s guitar is television static nails on a rusty chalkboard, and he shifted it sharply from the left to right speakers in the venue for a surprisingly cool, jarring effect on some tunes. Daniel Fox’s bass sounded like twisting oscillator knobs, accomplished through a unique and fun-to-watch style of sliding and bending those fat bass strings until stretched to a point I assumed would be far past breaking.
While there’s a hardcore rage to their energy that fans of Metz will find appealing, throughout it all there was a danceable undercurrent courtesy the bass and drums that the packed house at Latitude 30 responded to. (No moshing here, though it would have been equally appropriate.)
Girl Band is off to California for a few shows next week wrapping up their first brief trip to the states before heading back to the UK.
Kirin J Callinan may be the devil, but he seems like someone you’d like to have over for a dinner party. With a Cheshire Cat grin he appeared in a comically thick cloud of smoke at the start of his midnight Sunday set at Red Eyed Fly. He sort of looks like Nic Cage, but maybe that’s just the appearance he chooses to take for me.
Kirin was shirtless with a tattoo reading “quesadilla” scrawled on the side of his lean, muscular torso. On his head was a silky, mullet-like ponytail, pencil-thin mustache paired with a petite soul patch, eyeliner, and earrings dangling. He was alone on the stage accompanied with electronics and a Caribbean blue Fender. The sound he makes is masculine and industrial, somewhere on the spectrum between Nick Cave and Marilyn Manson.
Like Cave or Bowie, Kirin is a bizarre but magnetic frontman who comes across as cool while doing things lesser performers couldn’t get away with in a million years. Callinan brandished the microphone stand like a pitchfork on the vocal-only set finale “The Toddler.” “I’m the toddler. I’m not a baby, not yet a boy. I’m the toddler,” he howled with a grin while snapily shifting from side to side. This was received like much of Kirin’s set, with stunned silence and chuckles — though to be clear the crowd was totally in to it.
On “Halo,” the closest to conventional-sounding song in his woefully short set, thick Depeche Mode synths and drum machine beats danced around bizarro Bruce Springsteen vocals.
Previewing his setlist, Callinan said, “I’m going to play a song some of you might know, then a song no one knows — but me — and then I’m going to play a song that’s questionable if it’s even a song at all.”
In a New York Times write up of Kirin J Callinan’s record “Embracism” the reviewer called it “one of the most unpleasant listening experience in recent memory,” which I don’t think they totally meant as a negative. The Australian crooner and guitarist is out there, and he’s not for everybody. But, hey, I never would have guessed listeners would have so enthusiastically latched on to the fantastic Future Islands, so I could be wrong — maybe the general public is more willing to embrace weird than I give ’em credit for. Either way, the people who Kirin is for (me, it turns out) will find him fascinating and unlike nearly anything else.
Kirin got a late start, giving him enough runway to get through just four songs before being gently carried off stage smiling by two older men in suits. I don’t know if they were security or what, but I’d like to imagine Callinan was gently packaged like high-priced audio gear in a TSA-approved sarcophagus to slumber until his next destination. Whatever that destination may be, keep an eye out for Kirin J Callinan.
As the set ended and the smoke cleared, one enthusiastic guy I overheard behind me summed it up as well as possible: “What the [expletive] was that? That was… transcendent.”
“Did you ever think we’d all be here, drinking in a hat shop? I sure didn’t,” marveled Irish pop singer Orla Gartland early Saturday afternoon as she sang and played a few songs on her acoustic guitar without amplification to South Congress patrons looking for indoor duck-ins from the steady light rain.
Goorin Bros., a couple doors down from the Continental Club, doesn’t usually host music, but this is South by Southwest, of course. Gartland, a just-turned-20 rising pop star in her home country looking for a U.S. breakthrough, played an official showcase Wednesday night at a downtown venue. This informal add-on proved an ideal place to appreciate her charm, as she donned a different hat from the store shelves on each song and tried out a new tune called “Flatline” for the crowd:
Lost in the endless party that collectively constitutes SXSW is that it also involves quite a bit of work for the masses who gather in Austin every March. That’s as true for artists shuffling to multiple showcases as it is for the bar and restaurant employees serving the massive throngs. It’s true of your humble American-Statesman and Austin360.com team, too: This is the busiest week of the year for many of us, and sometimes that means taking time out from the madness to write, edit and push all of our coverage out there via print, digital and social media avenues.
Thus sometimes we aren’t able to get to music event we want to catch because we’re, well, writing about music events. Saturday afternoon’s efforts produced our SXSW wrap-up in Sunday’s Statesman, but meant missing Kansas City band the HillBenders playing their bluegrass version of “Tommy” at Threadgill’s for a Folk Alliance International throwdown, among other great day parties galore at Maria’s Tacos, Yard Dog, Gingerman and more. (I did manage to squeeze in one last look at red-hot Richmond, Va., band Avers at the Tiniest Bar in Texas.)
The beginning and the end of Saturday provided ideal bookends, though, courtesy of local alternative-country band Harvest Thieves. Just past noon among picnic tables and scattered hay in the back of Lucy’s Fried Chicken off South Congress, the group eased into SXSW’s final stretch with a laid-back set of tunes that drew revelers of all ages:
At 11 p.m., just after the marathon Doug Sahm tribute had let out at the Paramount Theatre (see our Austin360 review by John T. Davis here), the band took the stage again at West Fifth Street hangout Lucky Lounge for their official SXSW showcase. They turned up the intensity with an impressive 40-minute set that highlighted original songs from their 2013 debut EP and an upcoming full-length album.
They also slipped in a couple of perfectly fitting covers: “Hard Luck Story” by Whiskeytown, Ryan Adams’ 1990s alt-country forerunners, and a set-closing stomp through Sahm’s “Give Back the Key to My Heart” that would have gone over like gangbusters at the Paramount an hour earlier had Harvest Thieves been part of that massive celebration.
One of the night’s most rewarding moments involved ducking out of the Sahm tribute and scooting over to the Victorian Room of the Driskill Hotel, where Paraguayan ensemble the Recycled Instrument Orchestra of Cateura performed on stringed creations made from discarded parts. They became one of the big success stories of this year’s SXSW when “Landfill Harmonic,” a documentary about the group, won the audience award for the SXSW Film Festival’s “24 Beats Per Second” music series.
Leader Favio Chavez talked about how the instruments were fashioned out of items such as roof gutters, food canisters and, in the case of one drumhead, an X-ray slide. He led the youth group through a set highlighted by a rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” a perfect song to represent the band’s vision of using creativity to rise above urban poverty and decay.
John T. Davis was the Paramount Theatre on Saturday night for the Doug Sahm tribute show and shares this report:
Here’s all you need to know about Doug Sahm: On Saturday night, it took scores of musicians onstage at the Paramount Theatre to duplicate what the multi-faceted “Texas Tornado” could accomplish on his own on any given night at Antone’s or Soap Creek Saloon.
If it was played within the confines of the Lone Star State, Sahm could rock it: blues, Western Swing, swamp pop, horn-driven R&B, straight-up country, psychedelica, Tex-Mex rock ‘n’ roll, conjunto and anything else that crossed his wide-ranging musical radar.
Sahm, who died in 1999, has been the subject of tributes before, both live and recorded, but Saturday’s event had a special valedictory feel to it. Not only was the San Antonio native and Austin musical godfather being honored onstage, he was also the subject of a new documentary, “Sir Doug and the Genuine Texas Cosmic Groove,” which had its premiere at SXSW Film.
“You can talk about Doug,” said journalist and the documentary’s director Joe Nick Patoski at the top of the evening, “but hearing his music is where it counts.”
And with that, a memorable evening of music commenced.
Sahm’s career was bookended by two hit-making groups decades apart: the Sir Douglas Quintet in the 1960s and the Texas Tornados in the ‘90s, and both eras, and all the marvelous musical jumble in between, were well represented.
Freda and the Firedogs, the country rockers with the long ‘n’ tall “girl singer” named Marcia Ball, were reunited for the first time in God knows when and took a quick trip through Sahm’s country catalog, including the homesick lament, “Beautiful Texas Sunshine” and “Wallflower,” the waltz Bob Dylan penned for Sahm’s first solo album.
After the Bizarros romped through Austin’s unofficial anthem, “Groover’s Paradise,” an all-star house band that included guitarists Charlie Sexton and Denny Freeman, keyboardist Michael Ramos and drummer Mike Buck backed up an array of performers the included Freddie Krc, David and Hector Saldaña of the Krayolas, Patricia Vonne, Rosie Flores and more.
There were some outliers as well: Luluc, the folk duo from Australia, crooned a sun-drenched version of one of Sahm’s hippie head trips, “Sunday Sunny Mill Valley Groove Song,” and C.C. Adcock and the Iguanas, both from Louisiana, put down some swamp pop and bordertown Cajun/Conjunto markers.
One of the night’s standouts (in a night of standouts) was Robert Rodriguez’s transformative take on the national song of San Antonio, “Hey Baby, Que Paso.” With his band Chingon, the filmmaker transformed the cheerful sing-along into a sweeping cinematic soundtrack drenched in dramatic musical flourishes.
Steve Earle, a fellow San Antonio native, called Sahm “my own hometown personal rock ‘n’ roll hero,” before rolling out “The Rains Came” and his own “San Antonio Girl.”
Then it was off to the races as Shawn Sahm, Doug’s son, brought out the reconstituted Texas Tornados, featuring SDQ alumni Augie Meyers and Jack Barber, along with the West Side Horns and a slew of musical guests. Roy Head killed with his 1965 hit, “Treat Her Right”; Joe “King” Carrasco romped through the Tex-Mex roller rink pop of “Adios, Mexico”; Doug’s other son, Shandon, sat in on drums for a romping version of the Quintet’s irresistible “Mendocino” (“where life’s such a groove you blow your mind in the morning…”).
The whole thing wound up with, inevitably, the entire cast onstage leading a delirious audience through “She’s About A Mover,” the infectious, organ-driven hit that sent the Sir Douglas Quintet shooting up the charts in 1965.
But Doug Sahm was never just about the hits; the groove was his muse. And the groove was in the house at the Paramount on Saturday. Doug would’ve dug it.
“What are you doing to me?” Fantastic Negrito playfully asked the sound guy as the volume on his microphone was cutting out early into the set. “I’m trying to live up to the hype. There’s a lot of hype going ’round in this [expletive].”
Xavier Dphrepaulezz, better known to those familiar with NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concerts as Fantastic Negrito, is a black roots musician from Oakland, Calif., Dphrepaulezz ended up being one of this SXSW’s most talked about artists after winning a contest with more than 7,000 other unsigned artists to perform for NPR Music.
“There’s only one Fantastic Negrito, and he’s in Austin tonight,” Dphrepaulezz said. His Saturday night SXSW showcase was at the Lucky Lounge, where a full house crowded in to see the charismatic blues man in the sharp three-piece suit and tie with a velvet blazer.
Even without knowing about his opportunity with NPR or his backstory involving a near fatal car crash that left him in a coma, it’s hard to not feel inspired when seeing Fantastic Negrito perform. It’s raw roots music with a positive attitude. “The name of this show is exorcise the demons, exorcise the [expletive] out of your life.” Exorcise and exercise, cause though there was barely room to scratch your nose in the tightly packed Lucky Lounge there was plenty of dancing.
Fantastic Negrito and his outrageously good band of four, each in their own snazzy-looking vintage threads, rocked though boogie blues with Dphrepaulezz front and center doing pelvic thrusts and James Brown spins and charming the crowd.
The band closed with the song that brought them here, as Dphrepaulezz put it, the fiery and undeniable “Lost In a Crowd” but only after managing to make himself even more likable. “I have terrible stage fright. I don’t know if any of y’all caught me, but I threw up three times before this.”
No more Kanye rumors, no more rain, no more half-baked Miley cameos. The only way to send SXSW 2015 off in style was with a well-oiled, energetic noise monster like Pity Sex. The Ann Arbor, Mich., band closed out a Run For Cover Records showcase at Holy Mountain on Saturday night, and thus probably closed out the festival itself for many attending.
Opening with one of their catchiest, most melodic songs, “Wind-Up,” the band hit emotionally sensitive nerves through what they said were the biggest amps they had ever played with. The vocal interplay throughout the set between Brennan Greaves and Britty Drake, both of whom keep the vocals demure and low-key, grounded the loud electric sonic id shaking the stage.
If you want to get super over-analytical, it’s interesting that bassist Brandan Pierce and drummer Sean St. Charles were the most animated, reactive people on the stage. Even if the sometimes stoic singers were confessing “I wanna cry with you/I wanna die with you once or twice,” the musicians ostensibly providing the structure for the songs were full-body emoting like French mimes. Pierce is no stationary bassist, instead bouncing around the stage and throwing his body back and up like someone is pulling his string. And though drummers have license to go nuts, St. Charles heaved his whole body as he pounded, at one point resting his head on his kit like he was in the throes of ennui. Levels! Contrast! Rock!
A performance of “Dogwalk” put a bow on the night, diving headfirst one last time into a deafening whirlpool of feelings. Pity Sex’s huge, raw sound taps right into the heart of what SXSW can still be: brash and just off the beaten path.
Smallpools’ SXSW set at IFC Fairgrounds on Saturday night started with a little mayhem: Frontman Sean Scanlon’s keyboard stopped working halfway through their first song, and guitarist Mike Kamerman said he broke a string on-stage for the very first time ever. After that, though, there was only pure, poppy polish.
There was no line to get into the sprawling outdoor venue, probably owing in part to the viscous, muddy terrain left by the weekend rains. The Los Angeles band still packed an eager crowd of notably young faces.
Songs like “Streetfight” and “Over and Over” floated in the air thanks in great part to Scanlon’s “cool sounds knob” (read: synthesizer). Gems of the set included a couple of covers: Electric Youth and College’s “A Real Hero” from the movie “Drive” and the briefest snippet of The New Radicals’ “You Get What You Give.” When the crowd repeatedly calls for a song, though, it’s a good bet that that one will be a winner, and the driving, hooky earworm of “Killer Whales” came to those who waited.
Smallpools does earnest synth-pop distilled to its platonic ideal: a little cheesy, but a lot joy-inducing, too.
Rumored guests (Drake! Kanye!!) never showed for J. Cole’s “Dreamville Takeover” show at ACL Live Saturday night, but even without the added star power it was the most high profile hip-hop event of the week. Cole, who has a summer tour in the works which includes a stop at the Austin360 Amphitheater, performed alongside rapidly rising stars Joey Bada$$ and Iamsu as well as artists from his own, label Dreamville records. The bill also featured college rap fave G-Eazy and Redman. The only name missing was Cole’s summer tour mate, Big Sean, who was a featured panelist who played a few parties but (oddly) did not do an official showcase at the fest.
Nonetheless, Cole, whose highly intelligent fusion of R&B and hip-hop has made him a radio star, had fans lining up early. At 3 p.m. a line wrapped around the block outside the venue. By 7:30 p.m., the line had swelled to a throng and it was moved into a few well-organized queues across the street. The hype level was in overdrive and even official badge holders realized the only way to guarantee entry was to show before 8. Around that time, as the club neared capacity, Bay Area up-and-comer Iamsu took the stage. With an excellent new school West Coast flow, the rapper has had a great week at the fest. Repping for the Bay, he punctuated his set with an appearance from his “uncle” Too Short who showed up to “Blow the Whistle.”
Wu-Tang affiliate and Method Man collaborator Redman, was the only ’90s artist on the bill and he used it to his advantage. He came in blazing his verse on “Da Rockwilder.” He played a few more Meth and Red songs but much of his set was a veritable old school hip-hop clinic shouting out Biggie, Wu-Tang, Slick Rick and a mess of others. “It ain’t even that turnt up music, it’s hip-hop and it still gave you that feeling,” he said, dropping classic groove after classic groove. He also used the occasion to announce he and Meth have a new album in the works and a sequel to their classic stoner flick “How High.”
G-Eazy kept the party moving but there was much more anticipation for Joey Bada$$. “There are so many wack rappers. I truly believe you are seeing some of this generation’s greats tonight,” DJ Statik Selektah — himself one of this generation’s great producers– said while setting up for Bada$$’s set.
With a gravelly voice and a grimy, lyrical flow Bada$$ came with a NYC street style. Though he’s only 20 years old many consider him an heir to the throne built by rappers like Nas. Throwing down a furious performance he proved he’s aiming to seize the title as new leader of the “Beast Coast.”
The Dreamville portion of the show started with a quick mix of artists from the label helmed by Cole. Southside Chicago emcee Omen who introduced himself with his verse in the J Cole joint “Enchanted” and then dropped his own track “Motion Picture” kicked things off. Then Cozz, J Cole’s newest signee a 21-yr-old L.A. native proved his star potential with “Can’t Knock My Hustle,” before underlining the evening’s theme. “A year ago from this month I dropped a video for a song called ‘Dreams.’ That (expletive) changed my life,” he said launching into the lyrical track.
With a melodic flow that echoes Cole’s own, Queens emcee Bas was the biggest hit with the crowd and is likely to be the label’s first big breakout. He got the crowd hype with “We Made It” smoked an a Capella and perfectly set the stage for Cole.
Shortly after 11:30, and following a short break during which the crowd chanted his name, Cole hit the stage. As the crowd went wild, he launched into “Wet Dreamz,” the hip-hop/r&b coming of age tale about an awkward first sexual encounter. With his brutally honest storytelling and melodic hooks that tumble into verses the song feels like a game changer in an industry that tends to hang sexual content on bravado. He segued into “A Tale of 2 Citiez,” a harder edged hip-hop take that had the crowd on their feet screaming wildly.
Cole explained he was promoting the summer tour and at those shows he’ll be playing his excellent 2014 joint “Forest Hills Drive” in its entirety. At this show, he said, he was just giving audiences a taste. Nonetheless he put in close to 45 minutes of thrilling performance. The packed crowd sang and rapped along to every song. Though he’s known for his melodic prowess, Cole is no velvet-toned crooner. He proved himself to be a furiously engaging, with the sing-song flow coming off as edgy instead of soft.
About thirty minutes in, he once more explained how he’ll play the entire album through at the summer tour but he was going to call it a night. Then, refreshingly, he decided to skip the artifice of pretending to leave to provoke calls for an encore and instead gallantly offered to play one, no two, more songs. He took it out on a high note with a two-song blast from the past featuring “Crooked Smile” off his 2013 album “Born Sinner” and early single “Can’t Get Enough” off his debut full-length “Cole World.” His set was absolutely riveting and likely had the desired effect of convincing a good portion of the audience that yes, they do in fact want to go see his full show.
Sure there were no superstars save for Cole himself, whose rapidly eclipsed the “B-List celebrity” label he gives himself on “No Role Models,” but it was all for the best. Instead, the show unfolded as a look at the future of hip-hop which is in very capable hands.