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JEFF LEVEN'S SXSW PREVIEW:
THE BANDS, THE SCHEDULE
Everything You Wanted to Know about SXSW
but Were Afraid to Ask


Everyone who knows me well knows what kind of effect SXSW has on me. Like the echo of primordial drums through the Texas Hill Country, the opening chords of SXSW hit me in heathen tremors, staggering shots of lightning in my circadian pulse, slowly transforming a shaggy but otherwise well-mannered attorney into an all-night song-prowling wolf (who looks so triple-booked in the sun)*. SXSW Beast-mode is upon me. Let the inner music nerd roar and gather wristbands.

If you’re new to this list: (and many of you are). This is how I do SXSW. I’ve been going since I was a high schooler in Texas back when we made guitars out of stone, walked eighteen miles in the snow uphill both ways and there was no bloody twelve-story high Doritos machine in the center of Downtown Austin. The way to make it all make sense (for me at least) is to script my plays in advance as best I can. In some way its my own small stand against the tyranny of volume that now characterizes SXSW, but in other ways it’s also one man’s cross-section of the Fest’s embarrassment of riches. It’s also a way to give some love to my bands and offer musical friends a little dose of freedom from choice if they so desire. The fine folks at HITS have also been so kind as to publish it on their site, and so it has also become another of my outlets for music journalism, whatever music journalism meets on hotel wi-fi at 3am this week. So, anyway, WELCOME, make of it what you will and thanks for reading (to the extent you’re reading). Can’t hardly wait to see you on the ground in Texas.

Chance the Rapper

Phantogram

The bigger picture lead-in (with inevitable meta-comment): We can talk about the arc of the festival, we can talk about the arc of genres and taste, but beyond all that it feels like a searching moment in the music business. On a personal level, I’ve spent countless hours, brain cells and half-whispered prayers incubating the Stereoverse venture (those who know me follow, those who don’t give it time…) and as we all search for the ways to move music to the ultimate end-point that the available technology offers, the bigger questions become the ways that we need music in our lives and culture at large. A 97 show binge at SXSW isn’t exactly the answer, but perhaps tucked somewhere in there are some of the clues. This week there will be a lot of performances that the bands themselves walk away shaking their heads from over-travelled gear shorting out, not enough time to get the wheels up in a set, a bartender-turned-sound-guy dropping out all the mid-range in a venue not built for sound but there will be moments real ones where a kid stage dives in a hot room or someone discovers a band that will lead them through a stage in their life where nothing is so necessary as that SONG. To get the most of SXSW, you have to talk yourself back into the limitless romance of music, and somehow for me at least, it never takes long to reunite. If the Interactive folks have kicked a thousand ideas and monetization models and heuristic algorithms into the ether of the Austin skies like so many bats from under the bridge, maybe it’s on us to throw some heart and mystery back into the mix. The challenge this week isn’t just to live it and breathe it it’s to honestly, genuinely FEEL it. Kick away the soap box, throw out the ear plugs, and have a go. I, for one, can’t wait.

Other fun things about SXSW this year: Possibly the best and only way to drown out the "Everything Is Awesome" LEGO movie song from your head if you have kids under 10; the notable absence of two feet of snow; the chance for L.A. people to torture me talking about the notable absence of two feet of snow; following @ on Twitter; the chance it gives Dave Galea to escape the reality of the Knicks season for a week; the over/under on A&R whiz Mollie Moore losing her voice by Thursday; the knowledge that at least a few folks will be fresh of the boat from Parahoy and can tell me what I missed; the coincidence of St. Patty’s Day making the proceedings 27.6% drunker than usual; the fact that Peter Lewit has morphed into a cutting edge hip hop attorney and still looks like a member of the Go-Betweens (in a good way, Peter!); the God-blessed persistence of Alejandro Escovedo; looking like a Welcome Back Kotter refugee because my haircut got delayed another week; Lenny Beer yelling at me for not seeing enough of his bands; David Burrier yelling at me for not seeing enough of his bands; joining old cowpunk McGathy for some Jon Langford; Particle; the fine folks at C3, Austin’s perennial ambassadors; a notorious NYC (Blank) taper lurking the premises; the thousand questions about the status of the firm party (which WILL return); the likelihood that somewhere, somehow I’m going to end up driving at least one artist per night to some party in a barn somewhere in Greater Austin; Waterloo Records, Huts burgers, the Tex-Mex, Mex-Mex, Tex-Tex and open road…


Davis Shapiro Lewit Grabel Leven Granderson & Blake, LLP Love
: We have almost as many bands at the fest as we now have people in the name. But I’m proud to say this year we have some of the particularly white hot ones. Ya know: Chance the Rapper, Phantogram, HOLYCHILD, Childish Gambino, Top Dawg Entertainment’s crew (including Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Isaiah Rashad, etc.), the immortal 50 Cent, unstoppable Aloe Blacc, together PANGEA, Vic Mensa, Drowners, Ingrid Michaelson (poised for pop explosion with her new single), Childish Gambino, Mary Lambert (guest star of the Macklemore smash), R&B phenom Tinashe, Migos, Ludacris, A$AP Rocky and so on and so forth :)

Finding Nemo/Waldo/Leven: I arrive in Austin Tuesday afternoon/evening and will be around until Sunday afternoon. I’ll be reachable at all hours by email or on my cell 310-388-7048. Or you can hum the first nine bars of the Replacements’ "Alex Chilton" and I might just emerge.

The Real Wordsmiths: Plus, pretty much every publication I’ve ever written for (Paste, Revolver, Alternative Press, Aquarium Drunkard, briefly even Pitchfork) is having a party so check them all out, too. Plus, this year the HITS crew has a particularly great set of bands, so follow the rest of their scribes as they go.

The Disclaimer: Apologies if I seem to be missing your band/your showcase/your party, etc. I’ll do my best to be everywhere I can so hit me on the fly and I’ll try to pull it all off!!!

LET’S KICK OUT THE JAMS!!!!!!!!!!!

(featured artists below followed by full curated schedule)

*Name the Clash song, I’ll buy you a Shiner.
 

Featured Artists

HOLYCHILD: Some artists have a certain manifest destiny about them, a unique and individual voice that makes a twist in the cosmos when it airs.At its utmost, the winners hand-create a perfect storm, riding the bleeding edge while beckoning you in to participate with warm inclusive courage is what makes the best pop artists both, well, “pop,” but also “artists.” Hooks and color, messages and bodily quivers, being and becoming. Liz Nistico and Louie Diller of HOLYCHILD are about as good a case in point as you can get. With a breezy freshness they captured hearts at CMJ, found their way to the elegantly curated corridors of Glassnote and now visit Austin to celebrate the release of their debut EP and give a hint of what’s ahead. It’s loveable and dazzling and challenging all at once. Shows: Monday 10 3:45 pm Spotify House; Wednesday 12 1:40 pm Lamberts (C3 Party);4:30 pm Blackheart, 86 Rainey (Danger Village Party); 1 am Central Presbyterian, 200 E. 8th (Glassnote showcase); Friday 14 1 pm Hype Hotel, 505 E 7th; Saturday 15 Time TBD iheartcomix at Empire Garage
  
together PANGEA: If (then) Pangea was a spinning cloud of dust on the horizon at SXSW last year, this year they are a hurricane of broken headstocks to the face. To be really real rock n’ roll needs nothing so much as ENERGY, and the fact that together PANGEA fuse the rawest version of that with the most understated but powerful craftsmanship is what truly,truly makes them the shape of rock to come. Shows: Monday 10 6 pm Mohawk (Onion Party); 10:45 pm Hotel Vegas (Do512 Party); Tuesday 11 1 am Haven (Harvest Records showcase); Wednesday 12 2 pm Hype Hotel (Consequence of Sound Party); 5:10 pm Red 7 outside (Echo Party); 10 pm Mohawk (House of Vans); Thursday 13 5:30 pm Scoot Inn (Thrasher/Converse); 9:15 pm Yellow Jacket (Juxtapoz Party); Friday 14 4 pm Bar 96 (Filter/Doc Martens); Saturday 15 10:30 pm Hotel Vegas (Burger Records showcase)
  
The Silent Comedy: Evolving from the frenzied Big Tent Revival vibe of their early years storming San Diego, The Silent Comedy have emerged as rock stalwarts, edging onto radio while harnessing the lessons of life on the road. There’s a timeless cinematic tinge to their latest material that only gains from the continuing smolder of their stage show. Shows: Wednesday 12 9 pm Rusty’s (Crave Party); Thursday 13 5:30 pm Rusty’s (Manic Fest Destiny); 1 am Tap Room, 319 Colorado St. (Jambase)


Beautiful Bodies: Pulling off the blend of punk and pop requires the finest of dances the ability to combine an essentially confrontational energy with dynamics a crowd can wrap a heart around. Beautiful Bodies pulls off the oxymoron with a moonwalk, a guitar snarl and crowd dynamics that push the crowd to something less like a show, more like an experience. Shows: Thursday 13 5:15 pm Shangri La, 1016 E. 6th (Midcoast Takeover); Saturday 15 8 pm Soho Lounge

Iration: The energy and musical ease of California/Hawaii reggae but with a crisp songcraft that recalls powerhouse adult alternative actslike UB40 at their peak, which is why they’ve more than found a lane at Alternative radio of late. Immaculate musicianship and warm vocals pave the way for hooks that actually mean something after you’ve sung them to yourself for the dozenth time. Shows: Wednesday 12 12 am Flamingo Cantina; Thursday 13 12 am Tap Room, 319 Colorado St.
 

It’s also very much worth checking out: Lovely Bad Things' loud, quiet, loud, loud, loud and catchy-as-hell Burger standard bearers from L.A. back for another year of the takeover; Gavin Turek's relentless dance courage with a soulful voice to match; Highly Suspect's unabashed charisma with furious guitar and knowing hooks; Last Internationale's witchy, wanton blues with a political bent and Rage drummer Brad Wilk in tow; Drowners' note-perfect Smiths apostles with killer songs; Twin Peaks' coruscating garage rock par excellence; Cerebral Ballzy's frenzied Afropunk stalwarts with speed and wit to burn; Night Riots' anthemic rock with dazzling range; Lydia Loveless' scrappy, scruffy and still somehow girly power-pop; Diarrhea Planet - shut up about the name and find awe in the four guitars; Autumn Defense's Wilco side-project that deserves its due as an end in itself; Roman Remains,a second-coming of the Duke Spirit; A Great Big World's surging pop-orchestral phenoms; Real Estate on the heels of an utterly incredible new album; country-tinged rock craftsmen The Wild Feathers; Sub Pop’s delicious latest Brit-catch Thumpers; The Midwest teen punks of Radkey blowing impressionable minds; scrounge-rock breakthroughs Parquet Courts; U.K.soul breakthrough Sam Smith; Sir Paul McCartney's star guitarist RustyAnderson; the return of undersung hip-hop legends People Under the Stairs; gorgeous psych-electro Forest Swords; Harvest Records' catch Banks; Snoop and Dam Funk collab 7 Days of Funk; cutting-edge, emerging pop duo In the Valley Below; Bright Antenna rockers Flagship; punk provocateurs Perfect Pussy; undersung guitar god Steve Gunn; on the heels of an amazing new album Sun Kil Moon alter ego Mark Kozelek; solo-lapping Black Crowes guitarist Rich Robinson; Mekons and Waco Brothers howler Jon Langford; Dave Cobb-produced twang mavens Whiskey Myers; L.A. rockers Dear Boy; hot free agents Lily and the Parlour Tricks; the insistent Afro-funk of Melt Yourself Down; Dead Boys/Rocket From the Tombs guitarist Cheetah Chrome; evolving prog-tinged rockers Burning of Rome; big sky futurists Desert Noises; Australian pop phenom Betty Who; gripping Latin urban beats with Los Rakas and the list goes on and on…


This year also features a cameo from Johnny Winter. On the heels of a Sony Legacy box (released no more than a month after what you could really treat as an incredible companion set for fellow guitar phenom Mike Bloomfield), the living link between pretty much every guitarist of the past forty years worth caring about takes a swing through Austin.

The 1975 basically “won” SXSW last year, and this year they are back again!


Also pillaging from the U.K.is Red Bull Records’ indie/hip-hop phenomenon Itch.


Classic, great lost punk band B’last is at SXSW this year (fresh on the heels of a Dave Grohl remix of their once-lost-and-apocryphal-but-still-influential LP).


Don’t forget the metal (death to false metal!): Relapse supergroup Iron Reagan (comprised of dudes from Municipal Waste, Mammoth Grinder, etc.) appears to preview songs from their still-being-recorded debut, while much of last year’s greatest records on the left-field side of the left-handed path will be aired as well, by the likes of Windhand, dense-guitar ass-kickers Black Tusk, the transcendant Kylesa or the shoegazey, gorgeous Nothing.


Oh yeah, and also Green Day, Soundgarden, Coldplay, Pusha T, Snoop Dogg, Damon Albarn, Kurt Vile,Melissa Etheridge, Mobb Deep, St. Vincent, Drivin’ N’ Cryin’, Skrillex, Wiz Khalifa,Young the Giant, Rick Ross, ZEDD, Spandau Ballet (this much is troooo!!!!!) and a couple other acts you’ve heard of…


The Schedule: This week’s perpetual motion machine as long as the fluxcapacitor lasts:

Tuesday, March 11


(afternoon arrival and meetings)

8 pm The Colourist (Hype Hotel) or Son of Stan (BD Riley’s)

9 pm Windhand (Mohawk Outdoor) or Gentlemen Hall (512)

9:30 pm Glass Animals (Haven) or Ramesh (Main II)

10 pm Autumn Defense (Red 7) or Coldplay (Moody) or Panama Wedding (Hype Hotel)

10:30 pm 50 Cent (1100 Warehouse)

11 pm Preatures (Haven)

11:30 pm Whiskey Myers (Saxon Pub)

12 am Banks (Haven) or Kylesa (Mohawk Outdoor) or MS MR (Empire Garage) or Outernational (Soho Lounge)

1 am together PANGEA (Haven)


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Wednesday, March 12

11 am Man vs. Machine Curation Panel (Ian Rogers, Tim Quirk,etc.) Room 12AB

12:30 pm Cathedrals DJ set (Blackheart)

1 pm Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas (Rusty’s)

1:40 pm HOLYCHILD (Lamberts) or Royal Canoe (Friends)

2 pm Lydia Loveless (Mohawk) or Avid Dancer (Red Eyed Fly)

2:20 pm Drowners (Holy Mountain 617 E. 7th)
Caroline Party

3 pm Lovely Bad Things (Trailer Space Burger Kick-Off -1401 RosewoodAve.) or Earthless (Scoot Inn) or In the Valley Below (Convention Center)

In the Valley Below


4 pm Thumpers, Pure Bathing Culture at Paste Party (SwanDive)

4:30 pm Last Internationale (Rusty’s) or HOLYCHILD (Blackheart)

5:10 pm together PANGEA (Red 7 outside)

6 pm Magic Numbers (Hilton Austin Downtown)

7:45 pm Cerebral Ballzy (Mohawk Outdoor)

7:50 pm Perfect Pussy (Stubb’s)

8 pm Dear Boy (Blackheart BMI showcase) or Avid Dancer (HalfStep) or Nightmare and the Cat (Elysium)

8:45 pm Les Claypool’s Duo De Twang (Mohawk) or Schoolboy Q (Moody)

9 pm Silent Comedy (Rusty’s) or Family Crest (Palm Door) or In the Valley Below (Swan Dive)

9:30 pm together PANGEA (Mohawk Indoor)

9:45 pm +++ (Crosses) (Mohawk Outdoor)

10 pm Hozier (Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room) or Kendrick Lamar (Moody) or St. Paul and the Broken Bones (Tap Room)

10:30 pm Gap Dream (Mohawk Indoor)

10:45 pm Black Angels (Mohawk Outdoor)

11 pm Lovely Bad Things (Javelina)

11:30 pm Rusty Anderson Afternoon (Rowdy’s)

12 am Iration (Flamingo) or Blondfire (Velveeta Room) or Aloe Blacc (Clive Bar) or Highly Suspect (Bar 96)

12:30 am Johnny Winter (Rowdy’s)

1 am HOLYCHILD (Central Presbyterian)

 

Thursday, March 13

10:40 am Mozes and the Firstborn (Cedar St.)

12:30 pm Warehouse Songs and Stories Panel (Karen Glauber, Bob Mould, Matthew Caws,Steve Wynn)

1 pm A Great Big World (Waterloo) or Chet Faker (Hype Hotel)

2 pm Mary Lambert (Waterloo)

2:45 pm TEEN (Hotel Vegas) or Roman Remains (Buffalo Billiards)

3 pm Steven Gunn (Third Man Museum of Human Achievement) or Ratking (Scoot Inn)
Secret Road Party

4 pm Real Estate (Day Stage) or Thumpers (400 Nueces)

5 pm Ghetto Ghouls (Trailer Space)

5:15 pm Beautiful Bodies (Shangri-La)

5:30 pm Silent Comedy (Rusty’s) or together PANGEA (Scoot Inn)

5:45 pm Temples (Hotel Vegas)

6 pm Los Misterios (Charlie Sexton, David Garza, BradyBlades, Brad Hauser) (Hotel San Jose, 1316 S. Congress)

7:25 pm Tor Miller (Elephant Room)

8 pm Divers (Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room) or Thumpers (Latitude 30)

8:40 pm Vic Mensa (Austin Music Hall)

9 pm Jetta (Clive Bar) or People Under the Stairs (Gatsby) or Touche Amore (Red 7 Patio)

9:40 pm GRMLN (Parish Underground)

10 pm Lovely Bad Things (Gypsy Lounge) or Kurt Vile (Cliver Bar) or Matisyahu (Gatbsy) or Matrimony (Lamberts) or Soundgarden (Moody) or Tinashe (Hype Hotel)

Tinashe

11 pm Gavin Turek (Speakeasy Kabaret) or Roadkill Ghost Choir (Blackheart) or SOHN (Cheer Up Charlie’s)

11:15 pm Forest Swords (Hotel Vegas Patio)

11:30 pm Parquet Courts (Bar 96)

12 am Iration (Tap Room)

12:30 am Royal Canoe (Friends)

1 am Silent Comedy (Tap Room)


Friday March 14

10:30 am M Theory Tacos

11 am BMI Brunch (Four Seasons)

12 pm Lucius (Day Stage)

12:30 pm (Meeting Spotify House)

1 pm HOLYCHILD (Hype Hotel)

1:30 pm The 1975 (401 Sabine) or Gavin Turek (Lounge at Malverde)

2 pm Nothing (Beerland) or Twin Peaks (Buffalo Billiards)

2:20 pm Itch (Blind Pig)

2:30 pm Schoolboy Q (Stubb’s)

3:30 pm Night Riots (Blind Pig) or Against Me! (Stubb’s)

4 pm B’last (Scoot Inn) or Lily and the Parlour Tricks (Blind Pig) or together PANGEA (Bar 96)

4:30 pm Iron Reagan (Scoot Inn)

5 pm Phantogram (Mohawk) or the 1975 (Hype Hotel)

6 pm Banks (Tumblr House Rainey St.)

6:40 pm Royal Canoe (IFC Day Party @ Palm Park)

8 pm Lovely Bad Things (Nong) or Tourist (Hype Hotel) or Wild Cub (Stubb’s) or Howie Gelb (Continental)

9 pm American Authors (Stubb’s) or FMLYBND (Karma) or Urge Overkill (Maggie Mae’s)

9:20 pm Run River North (Victorian Room at Driskill)

9:30 pm Trinidad Jame$ (Scoot Inn) or Quilt (Swan Dive) or Speedy Ortiz (Hotel Vegas)

10 pm Foxboro Hot Tubs (Yahoo’s Brazos Hall) or Particle (Cosmos) or Tinariwen(Speakeasy)

10:15 pm Ringo Deathstarr (Swan Dive Patio)

10:45 pm Forest Swords (Central Presbyterian)

11 pm Blue Sky Black Death (Holy Mountain) or Deap Vally (Trinity Hall) or Kooks (Stubb’s)

11:20 pm Perfect Pussy (Red 7 Patio)

11:45 pm Mark Kozelek (Central Presbyterian)

12 am Jon Langford (Rowdy’s) or Lemaitre (Lustre Pearl) or PUJOL (Parish Underground)

12:30 am 7 Days of Funk (Clive Bar) or Washed Out (Bar 96)

1 am Joywave (Maggie Mae’s Rooftop) or Allen Stone (Palm Door) or Diarrhea Planet (Parish Underground) or Low Pros A-Trak, Migos, etc. (Empire Garage)

Cerebral Ballzy

Saturday, March 15

11 am Rachael Ray Party Wild Feathers, Last Internationale, Foxboro Hot Tubs (Stubb’s)

11:30 am Ingrid Michaelson (KGSR)

12:10 pm Avi Buffalo (HomeSlice Pizza)

1 pm Highly Suspect (Yard Dog) or Gavin Turek (Empire Auto)

2 pm Agency Group (Lambert’s)

3 pm Nightmare and the Cat (Yard Dog)

3:30 pm Cheetah Chrome (1504 E. 6th Sailor Jerry House)

4 pm Audacity (Hotel Vegas) or Wye Oak (Red 7)

5 pm Lovely Bad Things (Pearl St. Co-Op) or Marijuana Deathsquads (The Liberty 1618 ½ E. 6th) or Jon Langford (Yard Dog)

5:30 pm Melt Yourself Down (Latitude 30)

6 pm Ty Segall (10 w. 29th Spiderhouse)

7 pm Christopher Denny (St. David’s) or Los Rakas (MACC)

8 pm Beautiful Bodies (Soho Lounge) or Night Riots (Buffalo Billiards)

9 pm Elijah Ford and the Bloom (Lamberts)

10 pm Chrome Canyon (Swan Dive)

10:30 pm  together PANGEA (Hotel Vegas)

10:40 pm A Great Big World (Austin Music Hall) or Rich Homie Quan (Yahoo’s Brazos)

11 pm Silent Comedy (Wahoo’s) or Sturgill Simpson (St. David’s)

11:30 pm Bear Hands (Stubb’s)

12 am Classixx (Empire Control Room) or Melt Yourself Down (Icenhauer’s) or Iron Reagan (Red-Eyed Fly)

12:30 am Stanley Jordan (Elephant Room)

1 am Cerebral Ballzy (Bar 96) or Goldroom (Swan Dive) or Japanther (Parish Underground) or Spirit Caravan (Red-Eyed Fly)

After-party until 4am Autre Ne Veut, etc. (Scholz Garden 1607 San Jacinto)

 

Sunday, March 16
(deep deep exhale)….

SURF’S UP
FOR HITS LIST
Good vibrations (3/8a)
SPEAKING OF BESPOKE: THE BEN WINSTON INTERVIEW
Carpool Karaoke dude's in the driver's seat. (3/8a)
BHASKAR MENON,
1934-2021
EMI architect had a remarkable career. (3/8a)
GRAMMY PERFORMER LINEUP REVEALED
Is there more to come? You better believe it. (3/8a)
GRAMMY WEEK KICKS OFF
Hear we go again... but virtually this time. (3/8a)
BLACK HISTORY MONTH
A jazz chronicle of fighting the power.
GRAMMYS: WHERE TO FROM HERE?
After the snubs, the show.
ACQUITTED
In a phenomenal display of cowardice.
MOVING THE NEEDLE
When vaccination schedules and touring schedules meet.
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