Anderson Paak, Lapsley, Iggy Pop win SXSW’s 2016 Grulke Prizes

Anderson Paak & the Free Nationals at NPR Music's SXSW Showcase at Stubb's on Wednesday, March 16, 2016. Photo by Erika Rich for American-Statesman
Anderson Paak & the Free Nationals at NPR Music’s SXSW Showcase at Stubb’s on Wednesday, March 16, 2016. Photo by Erika Rich for American-Statesman

California hip-hop act Anderson Paak & the Free Nationals, British electronica singer-songwriter Lapsley and proto-punk legend Iggy Pop are the 2016 recipients of the Grulke Prize, South by Southwest announced Wednesday.

The awards, determined by a jury of music industry attendees and SXSW staff, are designed to single out performers who had the highest impact during the six-day run of the music festival. Paak and Lapsley won for Developing U.S. and Non-U.S. Act, respectively. Pop was recognized as Career Act, given to “an established artist who appeared at SXSW to reinvent themselves or launch an important new project,” the event’s website states.

Paak seemed omnipresent during the festival, drawing acclaim for performances at high-profile venues including Stubb’s, the Mohawk and a YouTube pop-up stage.  Lapsley, whose debut album came out earlier this month, also performed at Stubb’s as well as on the Radio Day Stage in the Convention Center. Pop premiered songs from his new “Post Pop Depression” album with Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme over two nights at ACL Live, one of them taped for an “Austin City Limits” episode.

The prizes, which have been handed out annually for the past four years, were instituted after the 2012 death of longtime SXSW creative director Brent Grulke. Previous winners were Leon Bridges, Courtney Barnett and Spoon (2015); Future Islands, the Strypes and Damon Albarn (2014); and Haim, Chvrches and Flaming Lips (2013).

SXSW 2016: Dilly Dally and Autolux get noisy

Toronto grunge rockers Dilly Dally and L.A. shoegaze trio Autolux were in high demand around SXSW 2016, spreading beautiful noise around Austin.

Canadians are sometimes stereotyped as being overly friendly, but Toronto grunge act Dilly Dally has a sound that’s anything but. The hyped four-piece with a raucous, retro Pixies/Nirvana sound was in high demand around SXSW 2016, playing at least six shows, including a stop at the popular Spotify House and one of Pitchfork’s day parties.

Their first appearance at the fest was Wednesday at Cheer Up Charlies’ outdoor stage, where frontwoman Katie Monks’ beautiful and tormented howls and growls seemed to grip the afternoon crowd and never let go. Making a crowd at SXSW shut up and watch the show is hard enough, but it’s even harder when it’s outdoors in the middle of a sunny afternoon. The band’s live sound has an intensity that makes you grit your teeth — and then kicks them in.

Monks exudes an air of ’90s “couldn’t care less” cool that extends to her vocal cords, which she seemingly trashes for the sake of rock like Pete Townshend bashing a Rickenbacker. Her gravely voice calls to mind Courtney Love at times and Karen O at others — not bad company to keep.

While Dilly Dally looks back to grunge, L.A. alt-rockers Autolux recall My Blood Valentine and Sonic Youth with a dark-synth and drum-machine edge.

Autolux played their final set of SXSW 2016 Saturday night at The Gatsby with Bloc Party and Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires. (Side note: I’m not sure who decided putting Autolux and “The Screaming Eagle of Soul” Charles Bradley on the schedule back to back made sense thematically, but I love and thank them.) Autolux drew a packed crowd, and within 10 minutes before they took the stage, the venue was at capacity.

Autolux’s dreamy, dreary shoegaze moves beyond MBV worship with electronic beats breaking up those fuzzy walls of toothy guitar and distorted noise. The electronic side of Autolux really took the front seat on their new material with ’90s trip-hop beats and a slight hint of one-time tour mates Nine Inch Nails’ touch.

The band’s third LP is set to release in April, when they’re also scheduled to play at Coachella.

 

SXSW 2016: Hip-hop 4 Flint event raises over $3,000 for water crisis

Away from the downtown core of South by Southwest Saturday afternoon, a roster of roughly 30 hip-hop, R&B and spoken word artists gathered to raise money for relief efforts for people affected by the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Local organizers coordinated with national activists to produce the event and over the course of six hours over 300 people attended.

The group well exceeded their fundraising goal of $2,000. On Sunday morning, local artist and social worker DaShade Moonbeam, who helped put the event together, said they raised over $3,000. The money will go toward the purchase of water filters that will be distributed to families by members of the national Hip-hop for Flint effort.

Photo by Reshma Kirpalani
Photo by Reshma Kirpalani

The scene on the ground Saturday radiated positive energy. The inside of the theater was packed to capacity and members of the audience, many of whom brought their children, stood along the walls or sat on the floor in front of the stage. The audience was attentive, warmly receiving the sounds of young emerging artists alongside their more experienced counterparts. Meanwhile, outside the theater graffiti artists painted a mural on the side of the theater building with the words Hip-hop 4 Flint blazed proudly in the middle.

Moonbeam said the turnout far exceeded his expectations.

“I kept hearing ‘Why are these types of shows not done more frequently?!’ and ‘When is the next event?!'” he said Sunday.  “I felt like we did the right thing in providing a family oriented four elements hip hop event.”

UPDATE: This report has been updated to correct fundraising totals provided by the organizers.

SXSW 2016: Everything Everything are on the cusp of something (something big)

After a rough week included a band member in the hospital and multiple canceled and delayed shows, bizarro British art-rockers Everything Everything closed out their first SXSW with a strong set at the Hype Hotel.

After a rough SXSW 2016 that included a band member in the hospital, two canceled shows and one delayed set, bizarro British art-rockers Everything Everything landed on their feet, closing out their first SXSW with a strong set at the Hype Hotel Saturday night.

 

By my math, Everything Everything should already be as big as Alt-J in the states coming into this SXSW. Their excellent full-length debut, Man Alive, was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2011. (Alt-J’s also-excellent debut, An Awesome Wave, was nominated, and won, the next year.) Everything Everything was set to play SXSW back in 2013 but had to drop out at the last minute. (That’s the same year as Alt-J played SXSW. Coincidence? Obviously — still, you get the idea.) But the most important parallel is the lack of parallels in sound. Both Everything Everything and Alt-J have a musical style that’s hard to compare and both make use of a… let’s say non-traditionally “talented” singer. I don’t mean that as a knock against either band’s frontman — I dig ’em — I’m just saying they won’t work for every set of ears.

Everything Everything takes a heart of R&B and Frankensteins it inside a body made of shouted harmonies, jagged guitar, and out-of-sync clockwork rhythms from a drumline of booming, banging drums and chirping insect heartbeats. It also felt wonderfully British: There were hints of Radiohead and other times where the band sounded like an Elbow record played at double-speed.

The band’s math-rock-meets-R&B sound may sounds insane — or at least unapproachable — but the band pulls it off live. Take “Cough Cough,” one of the highlights from their Saturday set: It’s up-tempo, bare beginning “Yeah… so… um… wait a second…” sounds plucked from a Destiny’s Child song then morphs in to a Battles track, rhythmically rocketing in all directions in a manic, danceable mess that somehow runs so fast as to not have its pieces fall apart.

I tried to catch the band earlier in the week at Barracuda, but sound check troubles burned through their entire set time.

Then Thursday night night there was this.

Then Friday night, as lightning delayed sets across town, the band was delayed and played an extra abbreviated set.

Then, finally, Saturday, everything went right for Everything Everything. The band, wearing matching gray robes and coats in a way that only cults and rock bands can get away with, took the stage after 11 p.m.

 

Singer/screamer/falsetto-enthusiast Jonathan Higgs’ voice was less polished live, but he made up for it with a rapper’s presence, cupping the mic and striding around the stage, and a snarling intensity — all while still hitting on those almost comically high highs that should click with fans of Muse.

The band closed with “Distant Past,” the closest thing to straight-forward dance music they’ve done yet and a finale that really cemented how fun the set was. Everything Everything makes experimental music for the masses, and the masses were moving — at least the ones not just there to get wasted on free booze. (Sigh. Crappy crowds are just a part of the deal at SXSW more often than not, but that’s another story.)

So, is Everything Everything finally ready to really make it in America à la Alt-J? Maybe. If nothing else, their SXSW 2016 finale was a big step in that direction.

 

5 Women who rocked last day of SXSW

Yissy & Bandancha perform at The Sounds of Cuba at The Speakeasy on Friday, March 18, 2016 in Austin, Texas. Erika Rich for American Statesman
Yissy & Bandancha perform at The Sounds of Cuba at The Speakeasy in Austin, Texas. Photo by Erika Rich for American-Statesman

The night wasn’t planned that way, but the beauty of South by Southwest is that sometimes cool stuff bubbles to the surface when you’re not looking. On the last night of festival, it hit me that show after show I was seeing all of these mind-blowing, talented and powerful frontwomen back-to-back.

All of them were incredibly different in their musical style, but all were rocking the fest in their own inspiring ways.

Yissy: Yissa García first got on my radar at the Sounds from Cuba showcase Friday night where her hip Afro-Latin jazz fusion band Yissy & Bandancha performed. She not only has mad percussive skills, but also leads the group. She’s the daughter of musical hero Bernardo García, who founded the groundbreaking Cuban group, Irakere. Yissy brought her fierceness to the SXSW Outdoor Stage at Lady Bird Lake while backing other Cuban artists Telmary Díaz and Kelvis Ochoa.

Miss Garrison: Francisca Straube of the Chilean electro pop-rock outfit Miss Garrison is another drummer who doesn’t stay on the sidelines. Her hauntingly beautiful voice also has enormous power. During a live show you can see her rock out on the drums, sing and play the keyboard. What can’t this woman do?

Maureen Choi Quartet: Originally from Detriot, Michigan, the virtuoso violinist Maureen Choi now lives in Spain. According to quartet’s bio, she’s one of the few violinists in the world who can blend the virtuosity of classical music with improvisation and driving Latin rhythms.

Maureen Choi Quartet at The Elephant Room
Maureen Choi Quartet at The Elephant Room

Nitty Scott MC: So I couldn’t tear myself away from the Maureen Choi show early enough to catch Nitty Scott MC, but she was one of my picks for U.S.-based Latin acts not to miss at SXSW. The New York rapper has been on the rise lately with her socially conscious music that explores themes from her Afro Latina identity to mental health and spirituality. The half-Puerto Rican, half-African American artist has collaborated with rappers such as Kendrick Lamar and Action Bronson. Luckily, Austin 360 writer Deborah Sengupta Stith did catch Nitty’s awesome show. Here’s what she had to say: https://www.instagram.com/p/BDKWkxZjHmw/?taken-by=deborific

Madame Gandhi: When I ran into a friend early Saturday, he recommended this project to me and described it as an “electro-feminist” group. I kind of like that description. Kiran Gandhi, vocalist and drummer (that’s three kick-butt female drummers leading their respective bands!) and Alexia Riner are uber smart, savvy and talented musicians. Gandhi is also a feminist activist, earned an MBA from Harvard and has toured professionally drumming for M.I.A. Dear SXSW, can Gandhi return next year and also be a speaker at the conference?

You’ll never guess who all joined The Roots for their SXSW jam

All you have to do to build a buzz is put “and special guests” on your bill. The South by Southwest party-goers will come a’ runnin’, just like they did for The Roots SXSW Jam Session on Saturday night at Brazos Hall.

The last-night-of-festing event that promised the “Tonight Show” house band — plus genre-smashing supergroup Big Grams and the aforementioned special guests — attracted a line hours before the 9 p.m. doors-open time, leaving many in the dust once the venue filled to capacity.

The evening kicked off a little after 10:30 p.m. with a jolly sousaphone leading The Roots into a cover of “Express Yourself.” (Not the Madonna song.) And about those special guests: Rumors of Ashanti and Naughty By Nature started circulating on Twitter before the jam started, and a lineup that leaked on social media ultimately proved quite accurate.

But the crowd at Brazos Hall, not all clued in to this, grew restless after a strong start from Black Thought, Questlove and co. gave way to a rotating showcase of somewhat obscure rising talent, with The Roots sitting in as a house band. X Ambassadors squeezed in “Renegade” and a Sam Cooke cover. Bronx rapper Tish Hyman served up major Lauryn Hill vibes and was the valedictorian of the jam’s newbies. Soul singer Marc E. Bassy (performing like a room temperature Robin Thicke) eked out a cover of Radiohead’s “High & Dry”; a sharp-dressed R&B singer named Emily King wisped when she should have wailed.

Then the big guns came out. Veteran emcee Too Short was first and drew comparisons between the longevity of his career and of SXSW itself. Comedian Hannibal Buress emerged to stall for time and to deflate event sponsor Bud Light. As expected and highly anticipated, Big Grams put on the most substantial part of the show. The collaboration between Outkast alum Big Boi and Phantogram’s Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel injected much needed electricity into the room, with “Fell In the Sun” an obvious standout. Barthel and Big Boi’s interplay, awkward as it was, charmed.

The most rapturously received moments of the night were the few Outkast tunes that worked their way into the setlist, including a reworked “Ms. Jackson” performed by Big Grams. (Likewise, Phantogram tallied a couple solo joints, like “Fall In Love.”)

The cameos were rapid-fire quick hits after that, which rankled a bit considering the talent show at the beginning of the night. Rappers Yo Gotti and Talib Kweli made brief appearances. R&B singer Ashanti came out for a very well-received, high energy medley that included a “What’s Luv?” that came just as the night was dragging to the finish line. Naughty By Nature dropped “O.P.P.” and “Hip Hop Hooray,” which obviously reduced the entire audience to a bunch of hands in the air.

Ashanti performs at the Bud Light Factory at Brazos Hall during South by Southwest on Saturday March 19, 2016. (JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Ashanti performs at the Bud Light Factory at Brazos Hall during South by Southwest on Saturday March 19, 2016. (JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

As it was in the beginning, so it was in the end. The Roots closed the night with a final jam that really just made one wish that there had been more Roots at the Roots jam. But if you’re going to dedicate about 7 hours of your life from queue to quitting time on one party, seeing Phantogram and Naughty By Nature in one night without leaving the room is quite the feat to boast of. And in a SXSW lacking big star power — save Drizzy — this jam was certainly an explosive finish.

Treach, left, and Vin Rock of Naughty by Nature perform at the Bud Light Factory at Brazos Hall during South by Southwest on Saturday March 19, 2016. (JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Treach, left, and Vin Rock of Naughty by Nature perform at the Bud Light Factory at Brazos Hall during South by Southwest on Saturday March 19, 2016. (JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Six things that happened during Drake’s SXSW Week debut

Drake performing at Fader Fort on Saturday night. Photo by Erika Rich
Drake performing at Fader Fort on Saturday night. Photo by Erika Rich

For the past several years the biggest SXSW rumors have revolved around a certain Canadian rap superstar. Each year hopes have been raised then dashed. This year, Dreezy fans’ dreams came true as the “6 God” closed out the Fader Fort (presented by Converse) at the popular unofficial party’s final year at Pine Street Station. Here are 6 things that happened at the show.

Three women in choir robes sang a gospel version of Ginuwine’s “Pony.” As the stage went dark and an OVO Music sign blazed in the background the women  strode onto the stage and took a spot in a corner. They opened the showcase pouring their heart and soul into the timeless tune about freaking a body right.
Artists from Drake’s OVO label performed. Drake brought his whole crew with him and his squad goal was to remind everyone Toronto, Canada is the world capital of chilly R&B sex jams. Dvsn, Roy Wood$, Majid Jordan and Party Next Door all put in sets.
Erykah Badu sat in the pit. The photo pit was mostly closed for the show and functioned as an uber-VIP section for he show. With her magnificent hair spilling on all sides of her unmistakeable hat Ms. Badu sat in the front graciously posing for pics with some of the lucky folks around her. Sadly, she did not perform her amazing cover of “Hotline Bling” with Drake.
Drake opened with “Energy” and the Fort nearly exploded. Drake is a fantastic performer and his energy was red hot for this set. He told the crowd Fader asked him to do one song but he wanted to do a few. He danced, he jumped, he worked the crowd, he continued his eight-month assault on Meek Mill with “Back to Back” and played “Jumpman” with the crowd handling Future’s verse.
He didn’t play “Hotline Bling” but he did do the amazing dance. He took a break in the middle of “Summer 16,” his new single, to show off his “Hotline” moves in all their magic hand spinning, kitten baiting, Carlton from Fresh Prince emulating glory. The man really is a walking meme.
He teased his new album drop and promised Texas tour dates. Drake reminded the crowd his new album “Views From the 6” is due to drop next month and promised its accompanying tour would take him through Austin, Houston and Dallas.

Drake’s set list

ENERGY

KNOW YOURSELF

BIG RINGS

JUMP MAN (once by himself and once with Metro Boomin)

BACK TO BACK

SUMMER 16 

SXSW Second Play: A great way to spend dinner hour

Even if you’ve been going to South by Southwest for a while (28 of 30 holes punched in my own card), a new year offers an opportunity to discover something at the festival you didn’t know about. For me in 2016, that was SXSW Second Play.

A weeklong series that offers intimate early-evening sets in hotel bars by performers who are also playing bigger evening showcases at the festival, Second Play proved a great way to catch performers I might otherwise have missed during time slots that have less competition.

Holly Macve performing a SXSW Second Play showcase at the Hilton's Liberty Tavern, March 19, 2016. Photo by Peter Blackstock
Holly Macve performing a SXSW Second Play showcase at the Hilton’s Liberty Tavern, March 19, 2016. Photo by Peter Blackstock

Saturday, I checked out 20-year-old English singer-songwriter Holly Macve at Liberty Tavern in the Hilton, SXSW’s flagship hotel across from the Convention Center. Switching between acoustic guitar and piano, Macve played at 6 p.m. to a crowd that was a mix of bar gatherers, casual diners and those who came just for the performance.

Macve’s clarion voice is her defining characteristic. If you find it appealing, you’ll probably love her music, but its unusual quality probably isn’t for everyone. Most of those at the Liberty Tavern seemed appreciative, even if the room’s acoustics were a bit too chattery to provide the intimacy Macve’s music needs.

She supplemented original material with a standout cover of Willie Nelson’s “Crazy,” a nice nod to the home crowd. “I’ve been in Texas for a week and I love it here, she said. “I went horseback riding today!”

Robbie Fulks at the bottom of the Hyatt Regency's towering atrium for SXSW's Second Play show on Saturday, March 19, 2016. Photo by Peter Blackstock
Robbie Fulks at the bottom of the Hyatt Regency’s towering atrium for SXSW’s Second Play show on Saturday, March 19, 2016. Photo by Peter Blackstock

A mile walk across the bridge to the Hyatt Regency brought a chance to hear Chicago troubadour Robbie Fulks, who joked about playing in the wide open atrium as glass elevators towered upward. Fulks played most of his SXSW shows with a full band, but he was a joy to hear as a solo act here, playing songs from an exemplary new album called “Upland Stories” that’s due out April 1 on Bloodshot Records.

Though he’s known primarily for his songwriting skills, Fulks also is a first-rate guitarist, as was evident on several songs. He noted that the presence of Austin roots-rock heroine Rosie Flores motivated him to push the envelope a bit with this playing, and then gave the audience a special treat by calling up Flores for a duet.

Elsewhere around town this week, artists such as Jack Ingram, the Quebe Sisters and National Parks played similar dinner-hour sets at hotels including the Radisson, the Westin and the Van Zandt. An extra bonus: These shows were free and open to all, with no badges or wristbands required.

 

Intocable, 3BallMTY get party started at SXSW lakeside show

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Kenia Norato and Luis Tenorio, right, listen to División Minúscula at the SXSW Outdoor Stage at Auditorium Shores during SXSW on Saturday, March 19, 2016. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The sun shone on a dry Auditorium Shores Saturday afternoon after the free shows on Friday evening were cancelled due to severe weather. But for a while last night, I worried that there was a chance that the Latino concerts would suffer the same fate as they did last year.

In 2015, the free Latino showcases at Auditorium Shores were cancelled because of standing water following a heavy downpour. Disappointed fans never got to see the evening’s headliner, Intocable, which the festival invited back this year.

Division Minuscula play at the SXSW Outdoor Stage at Auditorium Shores. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
División Minúscula play at the SXSW Outdoor Stage at Auditorium Shores. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

But thankfully on Saturday, the park’s gates opened and festgoers enjoyed the laid-back vibe that these shows offer. Children kicked around soccer balls, others played frisbee between shows, which started at 2 p.m. with soulful Cuban artist Telmary Díaz followed by Cuban trova singer Kelvis Ochoa. Both of them were featured performers at SXSW’s first Sounds from Cuba showcase.

Kicking up the party atmosphere on Saturday afternoon was 3BallMTY from Monterrey. The group of young DJs who are both SXSW and Pachanga Festival alums helped popularize tribal dance music by mixing regional Mexican sounds with electronica and cumbia. They had fans of all ages bouncing to their beats (look mom, no laptops). That’s right, the guys were making beats on stage as opposed to hitting play on a computer.

The free shows also featured punk rockers División Minúscula, Colombian collective Systema Solar, Latin funk masters Grupo Fantasma, and headliners Tejano/Norteño fusion band, Intocable.

Lissie at SXSW: Stevie Nicks vibes, sun-kissed folk and a Kid Cudi cover

If the long-running rumors are true and Stevie Nicks is an actual witch (“American Horror Story: Coven” may be definitive proof), then she’s 100 percent been using folk rocker Lissie as a familiar. Husky-voiced chill was the order of the day for the singer’s South by Southwest set at the Spin party at Brazos Hall on Saturday.

(Eric Webb/American-Statesman)

“I’m going to be pretty acoustic-y,” Lissie told the audience, which was fresh off of a body-positive turn-up from rapper Lizzo (no relation). Arming herself with an acoustic guitar and looking like she just got back from a chakra-centering desert hike, the singer’s dust-in-the-throat voice and able strumming intertwined beautifully with her electric guitarist’s wavy vibrations on songs like “Hero” and “Further Away (Romance Police).”

Mostly, it was a set that made you wish you had a nice Chardonnay instead of a Bud Light — except for the closing performance of Lissie’s signature “Pursuit of Happiness” cover. For as chill as Kid Cudi is, it’s hard to scream out profanities and still keep the mellow folk vibes. And, good: Lissie looked ready to cut loose for her SXSW farewells.