SXSW Spotlight: World’s top gayageum rocker Luna Lee

Luna Lee will perform at SXSW 2018. Photo contributed by Joe Oh

Catch Luna Lee at 9 p.m. March 15 at Russian House and at 1:30 p.m. March 16 at Flatstock Stage at the Austin Convention Center

When the South Korean government pulled her South by Southwest funding last year because she wasn’t a K-Pop artist, she found her way to Austin anyway. Now, the world’s only professional gayageum rocker Luna Lee returns to the festival – for two showcases on Thursday and Friday – to keep pushing musical boundaries.

Lee takes a traditional Korean zither-like string instrument called the gayageum and custom designs it to play the popular rock and pop music that’s earned her legions of YouTube fans around the world.

“A musical instrument is a musical instrument,” Lee says. “It can’t decide the genre.”

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Transforming her own gayageum to play everything from Prince to Jimi Hendrix covers as well as her own original songs means installing guitar pickups, pedals and amplifiers to kick up the volume necessary to rock during live shows.

While she’s nailed the production of her studio recordings for YouTube, she said she’d like to perfect the gayageum sound for live performances, which means some more custom designing of the instrument.

“I’m still working on it,” she says. Lee has about 15 gayageums and brought her favorite one to SXSW. She spent part of her Monday installing some custom parts for her upcoming showcases.

MORE SXSW: See all of Austin360’s SXSW coverage

Lee has been playing the gayageum since she was 11. As a teenager, she remembers coming home after school and experimenting with non-traditional music on the gayageum. She later devoted her university studies to the instrument when she majored in gayageum.

“If I didn’t enjoy it I would give it up, but once I find a new tone I’m thrilled,” she said. When Lee covers a song, she says she doesn’t just cover the music but also interprets what she imagines the musician feels when performing. “I can feel the mood of each song,” she said.

Her YouTube popularity has also sprung younger fans curious about how she created her own musical path. Lee said that she feels a duty “to pass on knowledge to the next generation.”

Earlier this year, Lee temporarily moved to Los Angeles, where she’s working on the next phase of her career. She had a residency at Disneyland and hopes to tour throughout the U.S. and practice her English this year. After that, she says, she’s open to the possibilities ahead.

South by Southwest adds more than 200 acts for 2018 music festival

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South by Southwest has released its first batch of performers for its 2018 music festival, with more than 200 names on the list. They include international acts such as the Wedding Present from England and New Zealand’s Marlon Williams, as well as national notables including Nashville’s R.Lum.R. and Shamir of Las Vegas.

RELATED: Country star Keith Urban will speak at SXSW 2018

More than a dozen locals also are on the list, among them David Ramirez, Cilantro Boombox, Charlie Faye & the Fayettes, Oliver Rajamani and Adam Torres.

R.Lum.R., who performed on Saturday at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, will be back in March to play at South by Southwest. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Applications for music artists to perform at SXSW 2018, which runs from March 9-18, are being accepted until Oct. 20.

Here’s the full list of acts announced Wednesday:

  • Ace Tee (Hamburg GERMANY)
  • Aero Flynn (Minneapolis MN)
  • Altre di B (Bologna ITALY)
  • Antytila (Kyiv UKRAINE)
  • Aries (Bilbao SPAIN)
  • Automelodi (Montreal CANADA)
  • Avatar Darko (Seattle WA)
  • Bad Moves (Washington DC)
  • Bad Pony (Sydney AUSTRALIA)
  • Alice Bag (Los Angeles CA)
  • Lee Bains III + the Glory Fires (Birmingham AL)
  • Bajaga and Instruktori (Belgrade SERBIA)
  • Baywaves (Madrid SPAIN)
  • Benin City (London UK-ENGLAND)
  • Dan Bettridge (Bridgend UK-WALES)
  • Bishops (Austin TX)
  • Blackberries (Solingen GERMANY)
  • Blood Wine or Honey (Hong Kong CHINA)
  • Boogat (Montreal CANADA)
  • Moses Boyd Solo Exodus (London UK-ENGLAND)
  • Brightness (Newcastle AUSTRALIA)
  • Britanys (New York NY)
  • Abraham Brody (Vilnius LITHUANIA)
  • Marla Brown (London UK-ENGLAND)
  • Buddy (Compton CA)
  • C-Kan (Guadalajara MEXICO)
  • Dylan Cameron (Austin TX)
  • Fabrizio Cammarata (Palermo ITALY)
  • Cape Francis (Brooklyn NY)
  • Castlecomer (Sydney AUSTRALIA)
  • ChihiroYamazaki+Route14band (Tokyo JAPAN)
  • Cifika (Seoul SOUTH KOREA)
  • Cilantro Boombox (Austin TX)
  • Cirkus Funk (Cali COLOMBIA)
  • C.Macleod (Stornoway UK-SCOTLAND)
  • Kelvyn Colt (Bingen GERMANY)
  • Coma Pony (Chihuahua MEXICO)
  • Crumb (Brooklyn NY)
  • Cursed Earth (Perth AUSTRALIA)
  • Curved Light (Austin TX)
  • Cut Worms (Brooklyn NY)
  • Mikaela Davis (Rochester NY)
  • Jarv Dee (Seattle WA)
  • Helena Deland (Montreal CANADA)
  • Deluxe (Aix-En-Provence FRANCE)
  • Dirgahayu (Kuala Lumpur MALAYSIA)
  • Stella Donnelly (Fremantle AUSTRALIA)
  • Keelan Donovan (Portland ME)
  • Joey Dosik (Los Angeles CA)
  • Draper (London UK-ENGLAND)
  • Dygl (Tokyo JAPAN)
  • El Otro Borges (Buenos Aires ARGENTINA)
  • El Otro Grupo (Santa Marta COLOMBIA)
  • Farina (Medellin COLOMBIA)
  • Fatai (Melbourne AUSTRALIA)
  • Favx (Madrid SPAIN)
  • Charlie Faye & the Fayettes (Austin TX)
  • Ruby Fields (Cronulla AUSTRALIA)
  • Fis and Rob Thorne (Palmerston North NEW ZEALAND)
  • Fish Police (London UK-ENGLAND)
  • Flyte (London UK-ENGLAND)
  • Foreign Resort (Copenhagen DENMARK)
  • Forever (Montreal CANADA)
  • Foxtrax (New York NY)
  • Francobollo (London UK-ENGLAND)
  • Freedom Hawk (Virginia Beach VA)
  • Fuglar (Santiago CHILE)
  • Ganges (Madrid SPAIN)
  • Gang of Youths (Sydney AUSTRALIA)
  • Nubya Garcia (London UK-ENGLAND)
  • Samantha Glass (Madison WI)
  • William Harries Graham (Austin TX)
  • Grand Analog (Toronto CANADA)
  • Grandchildren (Philadelphia PA)
  • Greenbeard (Austin TX)
  • Grim Streaker (Brooklyn NY)
  • Grupo Rebolu (Colombia NY)
  • Gulfer (Montreal CANADA)
  • Gurr (Berlin GERMANY)
  • Sinead Harnett (London UK-ENGLAND)
  • Hatchie (Brisbane AUSTRALIA)
  • Hater (Malmo SWEDEN)
  • Ashley Henry Trio (London UK-ENGLAND)
  • Higher Brothers (Chengdu CHINA)
  • Homesick (Dokkum NETHERLANDS)
  • Honduras (Brooklyn NY)
  • Warren Hood (Austin TX)
  • Husky Loops (London UK-ENGLAND)
  • Huxlee (Los Angeles CA)
  • Iamddb (Manchester UK-ENGLAND)
  • Izzy True (Trumansburg NY)
  • Jade Imagine (Melbourne AUSTRALIA)
  • Joji (Tokyo JAPAN)
  • JP the Wavy (Tokyo JAPAN)
  • Keith Ape (Seoul SOUTH KOREA)
  • Sarah Klang (Gothenburg SWEDEN)
  • La Banda Morisca (Andalucía SPAIN)
  • Manu Lanvin (Lyon FRANCE)
  • Leather Girls (Austin TX)
  • Luna Lee (Seoul SOUTH KOREA)
  • Lethal Bizzle (London UK-ENGLAND)
  • Benji Lewis (Melbourne AUSTRALIA)
  • Dean Lewis (Sydney AUSTRALIA)
  • Lng/Sht (Cancun MEXICO)
  • Los Wilds (Madrid SPAIN)
  • Lolo Lovina (Sydney AUSTRALIA)
  • Luneta Mágica (Manaus BRAZIL)
  • Magnettes (Pajala SWEDEN)
  • Manatee Commune (Seattle WA)
  • Mannequin Pussy (Philadelphia PA)
  • Maréh (Cali COLOMBIA)
  • Marlene (Stockholm SWEDEN)
  • Anna McClellan (Brooklyn NY)
  • MC Lars (Berkeley CA)
  • Melo Makes Music (Chicago IL)
  • Milk & Bone (Montreal CANADA)
  • Miqui Brightside (DJset) (Madrid SPAIN)
  • Mogli (Hamburg GERMANY)
  • Mothership (Dallas TX)
  • Museless (Barcelona SPAIN)
  • My Life As Ali Thomas (Bangkok THAILAND)
  • Hans Nayna (Mahebourg MAURITIUS)
  • Night Beats (Austin TX)
  • Not3s (Hackney UK-ENGLAND)
  • No Vacation (San Francisco CA)
  • October (Auckland NEW ZEALAND)
  • Nnamdi Ogbonnaya (Chicago IL)
  • Okey Dokey (Nashville TN)
  • ONR (Glasgow UK-SCOTLAND)
  • Orielles (Halifax UK-ENGLAND)
  • Our Girl (London UK-ENGLAND)
  • Outer Vibe (Nashville TN)
  • Outfit, TX (Dallas TX)
  • Jay Park (Seoul SOUTH KOREA)
  • Partner (Windsor CANADA)
  • Peach Pit (Vancouver CANADA)
  • Sloan Peterson (Sydney AUSTRALIA)
  • pH-1 (Seoul SOUTH KOREA)
  • Phe Reds (Seattle WA)
  • Sara Pi (Barcelona SPAIN)
  • Plastic Picnic (Brooklyn NY)
  • Pronoun (Brooklyn NY)
  • Punjabtronix (Bristol UK-ENGLAND)
  • Oliver Rajamani (Austin TX)
  • David Ramirez (Austin TX)
  • Rancho Aparte (Quibdó COLOMBIA)
  • Ratboys (Chicago IL)
  • Gemma Ray (Berlin GERMANY)
  • Lou Rebecca (Paris FRANCE)
  • Repeat Repeat (Nashville TN)
  • Jess Ribeiro (Melbourne AUSTRALIA)
  • Rich Chigga (Jakarta INDONESIA)
  • R.Lum.R. (Nashville TN)
  • Lucy Rose (London UK-ENGLAND)
  • Rude Kid (London UK-ENGLAND)
  • RVG (Melbourne AUSTRALIA)
  • Salem’s Bend (Los Angeles CA)
  • Sammus (Ithaca NY)
  • Sarasara (Lille FRANCE)
  • Sassy 009 (Oslo NORWAY)
  • Say Sue Me (Busan SOUTH KOREA)
  • Ed Schrader’s Music Beat (Baltimore MD)
  • Shamir (Las Vegas NV)
  • Shopping (London UK-ENGLAND)
  • Sik-k (Seoul SOUTH KOREA)
  • Silibrina (São Paulo BRAZIL)
  • Raz Simone (Seattle WA)
  • Smut (Cincinnati OH)
  • Snail Mail (Baltimore MD)
  • Sonars (Bergamo ITALY)
  • Sports (Philadelphia PA)
  • SsingSsing (Seoul SOUTH KOREA)
  • Steak (London UK-ENGLAND)
  • Stefflon Don (London UK-ENGLAND)
  • Stonefield (Macedon Ranges AUSTRALIA)
  • Sturle Dagsland (Stavanger NORWAY)
  • Sun Seeker (Nashville TN)
  • Surfbort (Brooklyn NY)
  • Surma (Leiria PORTUGAL)
  • Talisco (Paris FRANCE)
  • Tennis System (Los Angeles CA)
  • Terry vs. Tori (Seville SPAIN)
  • Theodore (Athens GREECE)
  • Tika (Toronto CANADA)
  • Adam Torres (Austin TX)
  • Totally Mild (Melbourne AUSTRALIA)
  • Touts (Derry UK-N. IRELAND)
  • Uni (New York NY)
  • Us and Us Only (Baltimore MD)
  • Dhruv Visvanath (New Delhi INDIA)
  • Vowws (Los Angeles CA)
  • Voyager (Perth AUSTRALIA)
  • VVV (Austin TX)
  • Warbly Jets (Los Angeles CA)
  • Watchers (San Francisco CA)
  • Weather Station (Toronto CANADA)
  • Wedding Present (Leeds UK-ENGLAND)
  • Jerry Williams (Portsmouth UK-ENGLAND)
  • Marlon Williams (Christchurch NEW ZEALAND)
  • Wo Fat (Dallas TX)
  • Woodie GoChild (Seoul SOUTH KOREA)
  • “World Music Unleashed” by SIPM (Austin TX)
  • Yemen Blues (Tel Aviv ISRAEL)
  • Yultron (Los Angeles CA)
  • Yungen (London UK-ENGLAND)
  • Zephyr Bones (Barcelona SPAIN)
  • Violetta Zironi (Reggio Emilia ITALY)

Mastodon goes back to roots, debuts new music at SXSW, in warm up for ACL Live show in May

Mastodon didn’t have lasers back in the day, but the band has played rooms like Empire before. They performed Friday, March 17, during South by Southwest. Andy O’Connor/For American-Statesman

Before Friday night’s headlining performance at Empire Garage, Mastodon hadn’t played a show in almost six months, according to bassist and vocalist Troy Sanders. For a band that’s usually constantly on the road, that can feel like an eternity. While metal has seen better days at SXSW, this was a show people were excited about, and the band got to unveil some new songs from their upcoming record, “Emperor of Sand,” live.

They opened with “Sultan’s Curse,” a return to the intricate prog-metal they came up on. It was knotty but also immediate, and guitarists Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher were flexing with flair like it was second nature. “Andromeda” further went on the prog tip, a throwback for fans who crave them going nutty with instrumental flair. “Show Yourself,” on the other hand, is a more straightforward rocker, dominated by drummer Brann Dailor’s high-strung vocals. His move into singing has been one of the best things about Mastodon’s more mainstream sound, and he’s still a dexterous drummer on top of that. That was evident when he ripped the opening roll of “The Wolf is Loose” from “Blood Mountain”; if anything, all this touring has only made him a more disciplined, but also vicious player. Finding that sweet spot between tight and loose is important to them: Hinds ripped out a shreddy country lick during “Megalodon” that’s still as twangy and juicy as it’s ever been. It was a little part of what makes Mastodon a treat live: yeah, they know all of these weird time signatures, and they still manage to have some fun on top of that.

HIGHLIGHTS: Some of our team’s favorite moments from SXSW 2017

One of SXSW’s main features, for better or for worse, is putting big artists in rooms far too small for them. This forced intimacy can make for some great Instagram moments and bar talk for some, and frustrating lines for many more. Mastodon came up playing rooms far smaller than Empire, so this felt like a natural return to form for them. They built their reputation not just on merging prog with metal, but by packing rooms where even if you weren’t in the front, you could still make out all their tattoos. They thrive off bodies moving in close contact with each othe. and while they didn’t have lasers when they played the old Emo’s on Red River a decade ago, this show was like the old days in spirit. They went all the way back to their debut, “Remission,” to close the set with “Mother Puncher,” and hearing that crunch felt as new as it did in 2002. Most of the crowd seemed like newcomers who probably didn’t check that album when it first came out — Mastodon’s energy made equals of everyone, as long as you were able to get in.

Couldn’t make it out during SXSW? Mastodon will be back May 20th at ACL Live with Eagles of Death Metal and Russian Circles.

5 Women Who Rocked SXSW 2017

Liniker Barros performs with the band Liniker e os Caramelows at SXSW 2017. Photo by Reshma Kirpalani/American-Statesman

South by Southwest 2017 has been full of inspiring moments and amazing musical discoveries. I kept finding myself at showcases led by strong, talented women. Here’s a few who caught my eye.

Luna Lee (South Korea): She may be small, but she’s fierce. Not only is the Seoul-based musician a rock star, but Lee has revolutionized the way a traditional Korean gayageum is played. She’s invented techniques to play rock and blues on the zither-like string instrument. And when her government pulled funding for her to attend SXSW, Lee’s fans brought her here anyway.

ILe (Puerto Rico): You may recognize her as the feminine voice of Calle 13, who for nearly a decade toured with her brothers Rene Pérez Joglar aka Residente and Eduardo Cabra aka Visitante. But it’s time to get to know Ileana Cabra’s own music as a solo artist. Cabra pours everything into her moving, theatrical performances that are a nod to yesteryear.

La Dame Blanche (Cuba): Yaite Ramos Rodriguez oozes swag. The hip-hop artist struts on stage wearing a cape and smoking a cigar. She spits rhymes and then turns around and starts playing the flute. She’s uber talented and her live performances can’t be missed.

Luz Elena Mendoza (Portland): In the middle of the madness that can be SXSW, Mendoza, frontwoman for the folk band Y La Bamba, offered an authenticity that pierced through all of the festival noise.

Liniker e os Caramelows (Brazil): It was her first time performing in the U.S., but hopefully not the last. We want to hear more from Liniker Barros, frontwoman for the popular Brazilian soul/funk band. As a black, transgender singer, she brings an important perspective to music and on stage her charisma and magnetic performances make her an artist to watch.

SXSW Flatstock is ready to rock your naked walls

Scenes from the Flatstock show at the Austin Convention Center. Photo by Eric Pulsifer/For the American-Statesman

If you’re looking for some affordable art that screams “I like music!” to adorn your naked walls, consider a detour from shows to the SXSW Flatstock gig poster show in the Austin Convention Center.

Whether it’s a minimal industrial-looking print from a Wilco show, a melty psychedelic neon cat on a Neon Indian gig poster, or cute Threadless-esque pun-ny prints for a kid or kid-at-heart’s bedroom walls, the show has a wide selection of art from local and international creators. Other items include postcards, shirts and enamel pins. Some smaller prints start at $5 and other limited or rare pieces, like the full nine poster series from the original Emo’s closing run of shows, go for more than $150.

Flatstock rolls on from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The event is open to badges and the public via a free SXSW Guest Pass. A full list of the exhibitors is available here.

Scenes from the Flatstock show at the Austin Convention Center. Photo by Eric Pulsifer/For the American-Statesman

On twerking, joy and acceptance: Tunde Olaniran’s SXSW show is a celebration

Tunde Olaniran plays Thursday at the Sidewinder during South by Southwest 2017. Eric Pulsifer/For American-Statesman

On paper, what Tunde Olaniran does in his live show should be a well-intentioned trainwreck, derailed by trying to be too much. A socially conscious mash-up of hip-hop, punk, funk and R&B with choreographed dancing and an audience on-stage twerk-off at its close? How could that possibly work?

Picture: Before his SXSW Music showcase slot Thursday night at The Sidewinder, two vertical banners are unfurled: “This is a safe space.” A sound bite of a TV news story about the lead in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan, plays as two dancers in all white save for black string veils over their faces stoically take the stage, followed by the towering Tunde Olaniran himself. In glimmering golden garb he moves at a deliberate, thoughtful pace as if in some sort of ritual.

By this point, you may find yourself deep down wondering if what you’ve walked into may be too much reality for a festival that serves as an escape from the real world’s headlines and heartaches. Free beer! Buzzworthy bands! But you’re intrigued.

Olaniran introduces himself. He lives in Flint. He explains the banners. He wants this to be a place where people can be accepting — of themselves and each other — a place where we can “exchange a little joy.” OK, you think. Maybe joy’s something you could get down with.

Then the music starts. Heavy beats rumble in the air. Tunde springs into action with his dancers and he lets down his hair, setting long braids free in a wild whip of circular headbanging. The crowd loses it.

Tunde Olaniran is currently opening for Sleigh Bells. (“We call them ‘Bae Bells,’ because they’re so sweet,” Olaniran said.) And the two acts make an oddly perfect pairing. Olaniran’s banging boombox beats have a similar bone-rattling effect and there’s an energy to Olaniran’s performance — an energy that would leave you feeling fully charged even if he swapped the positivity and conscious messages for more trite and tired song topic fodder. He’s equally well-equipped at soulful singing and funky falsetto as he is at rapid-fire rapping and layering piles of auto-tuned vocals into a futuristic distorted robo chorus. Then there’s that bit about joy in the set’s mission statement.

Of course, songs about acceptance and joy may sound a bit too kumbaya for SXSW. This is SXSW, after all, all corporate and cynical and tiered with primary and secondary access and you’re not allowed in here, sirs.

Olaniran’s triumphant set and the crowd’s enthusiastic reception of it — with its joyous and silly moments (like the aforementioned all-hands-on-deck twerk-off) — proves there’s still room for heart and human moments at SXSW, if you know where to find them.

SXSW fans get a whole lot of Snoop, no whiff of Trump controversy

Snoop Dogg performs at RIO on 6th St. during SXSW on March 16, 2017. (Tamir Kalifa/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The one thing rap superstar Snoop Dogg wasn’t interested in Thursday night at the Rio nightclub was courting controversy.

One wonders if the veteran party starter regretted the timing of President Donald Trump’s Twitter commentary earlier this week about the questionably controversial “Lavender” video. It happened just before Snoop was to hold a fairly high-profile event during South By Southwest with media partners Twitch, Reddit and his own Merry Jane marijuana-centric digital platform.

It was obvious from the drop on Thursday that the event was almost entirely about furthering Snoop’s brand.

From early performances by protégé acts Stix, Southern Playas, Beach City (Ladies) and October London, to a nearly two-hour marathon of long-form videos – think the extended video/film that accompanied “Murder Was The Case” in 1993 – that make up a chunk of Merry Jane’s content, the crowd was slowly boiled in all things Snoop ahead of his walking on the stage that was stocked with bottles of his Snoop’s Premium Nutrients plant food.

It’s worth noting that the “Lavender” video was not among the selection shown, and the rapper made no mention at all of the heat he’d received earlier in the week nor the support given by other entertainers unhappy with the Commander In Chief.

Instead, the main attraction of the night delivered a lean but tightly packed 40-minute set of material from throughout his 20-plus-year career. Hits like “Who Am I? What’s My Name?,” “Gin And Juice” and “Drop It Like It’s Hot” haven’t lessened in their crowd-pleasing impact, and the man behind them can cruise through a set like Thursday’s on muscle memory if he wanted.

Thankfully he was suitably engaged for the set, veering into crowd participation with a brief “Holler if you love…” tribute to departed rap heroes Eazy-E, Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac, and getting the audience primed for St. Patrick’s Day with a brief interlude from House Of Pain’s “Jump Around.”

These kinds of sponsored content/new act introduction/superstar performer cocktail seem to be the house specialty for activations during SXSW now. Thursday’s bid at Rio was a tough swallow at first because of the sheer volume of branding and promotion involved. But the night’s star delivered the hits to give it the smooth finish it needed.

Anything but plain Jain is SXSW’s rising pop import

Jain, a French singer-songwriter, performs at Youtube at Coppertank during SXSW on Wednesday, March 15, 2017. Erika Rich for American-Statesman

If pop is what you seek, Parisian solo sensation Jain should not be missed this SXSW. With an infectious dancehall-tinged take on electro-pop, the French solo artist charmed the crowd at The Gatsby Wednesday night, one of many shows the up-and-coming import is playing this week.

In a thick French accent she politely requested crowd participation. “Do this, please,” Jain said waving her hand side to side. (And they say manners are dead.) Time and time again the crowd respectfully obliged — besides, those beats are no joke. Her set was without a slowdown or a low point: Every song felt like a well-crafted would-be hit.

Jain was alone on the stage but the crowd was immediately on her side as she played an acoustic guitar covered in Sharpie scribbles and worked a wedge of electronic wizardry, blasting out thumping four-on-the-floor beats in time with the Pandora stage’s strobing lights.

For an extended take on the absurdly catchy “Come,” Jain sampled a member of the audience singing the chorus. His off-key voice cracking in the sample repeating as Jain jammed on may have been the most I’ve laughed all week.

“Do you want to dance for real now? Like this is the big party of South by Southwest?” Jain asked as her set came to its foot-moving finale. I suspect every Jain show just may be the big party of SXSW. Fans of Yelle take note. Or as Jain would sweetly put it, “please” take note.

Jain plays again at 1:50 p.m. Friday at Cedar Street.

Today at SXSW: Rock-ska Mexican band Panteón Rococó plays free outdoor show

Panteon Rococo. SXSW 2017

Even though they have toured extensively through Europe, Panteón Rococó has traveled less in the United States. Until now. This wildly popular rock-ska Mexican band will be in Austin for the first time, playing at the SXSW festival Alt Latino concert on Thursday at Lady Bird Lake. Ozomatli and Residente (formerly of the Calle Trece duo) will share the bill.

“We’ll see you in Austin, it’ll be a great show,” said Francisco Barajas, the trombone player. Last year, Panteón Rococó celebrated 20 years of existence with a concert before an audience of 22,000 in Mexico City, he said.

The group, which melds rock with ska, cumbia and ballads, will get hips moving to their sound. Some of their influences began in the 1990s with Latin American groups Mano Negra, La Maldita Vecindad and the Fabulosos Cadillacs.

Panteón Rococó has seven studio records and two live records to date, including the one they recorded live in Mexico City last year. They are preparing songs, talking to their producers about their next record.

“Last year was very good for us, we played a lot,” Barajas said.

In terms of Mexico’s political climate, he said, “it’s bad. There’s a lot of inflation, the price of the (U.S.) dollar has affected us a lot, the price of gasoline, people are very angry with the political leaders we have.”

Their songs talk about “the issues we see everywhere, from love to politics, to social issues, as well.”
However, people should not feel overwhelmed by problems in both countries (the United States and Mexico), they should instead, “remember that we are all united as humankind. It’s not a time to separate ourselves from the Americans, or from anyone,” he said.

If you go: Panteón Rococó is scheduled to play at 6 p.m. Thursday at SXSW Outdoor Stage at Lady Bird Lake. Free with guestpass

And also: Panteón Rococó plays at 11:30 p.m. Friday at Half-Step.

Danny Brown celebrates birthday at SXSW and the crowd gets the party

Danny Brown performs during South by Southwest on Wednesday at Empire Control Room. Photo by Andy O’Connor

When Detroit rapper Danny Brown hit the stage at Empire Control Room on Wednesday night, he had just turned 36 years old. Spending your birthday at South by Southwest? Of course that’s a cause for celebration.

His wishes were simple — he just wanted the crowd to hit the nae nae. They gave him a whole lot more though, a welcome relief from Tuesday night’s restrained Wu-Tang Clan set. There’s also a perpetual youth in Brown’s voice, high up and scratchy, worlds away from trap’s drawls. He’s always been a bit of an alien in the rap world, collaborating with dreamy pop duo Purity Ring in the past, and naming his latest record, “The Atrocity Exhibition,” after a Joy Division song, which in turn was named after a book from science fiction writer J.G. Ballard. On record, he sounds frantic and almost paranoid, which translates surprisingly well live. He’s able to take all that worry and put it into getting everyone bouncing.

Being a rapper in your mid-30s isn’t a death knell — in fact, Brown didn’t start popping until he left his 20s behind with his 2011 record “XXX,” and he wasn’t tired at all Wednesday night. What does he credit his longevity to? “You can be like this one day if you smoke five blunts a day,” he said. Not coincidentally, “Blunts After Blunts” from “XXX” and “Smokin and Drinkin” from “Old” got the most hyped reactions of the night. Just up the street at Cheer Up Charlie’s, the King of Teens Lil Yachty was performing at the same time, a coincidence that could have only been engineered by SXSW scheduling. Even with more than a decade more experience, Brown held his own, proving mindset is more important than age.

DJ Esco got the crowed warmed up with an energetic, if somewhat bizzare, performance. Here is the gist of his show: He and another person wearing a giant DJ Esco mask bounce around and vibe to other peoples’ songs. Since he is Future’s DJ, “Where You At,” “(Expletive) Up Some Commas” and “March Madness” — especially “March Madness” — made quite an impact. The nadir of artistry? Not quite — hip-hop shows are made and broken by rappers’ personalities, and he was jovial to a fault. Besides, who’s gonna not bounce around during “Bad and Bougie” at any given hour of the day? Brown sounded like he put work in, and DJ Esco may have been relying more on his famous friends (not unlike DJ Khaled, a marquee performer from last year’s SXSW), but the two didn’t clash. The latter’s infectious energy spilled over to the former’s set, and that’s why the whole show was a success.