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JEFF LEVEN'S SXSW 2017 PREVIEW

So it’s time, it’s time, it’s time. Before I do my usual breathless gushing about the SXSW experience, present a schedule that’s metaphysically impossible to keep and spew a zillion band names, let’s talk about this year’s ethical elephant in the room.

Juxtaposed against the glib cruelty that has marked the first months of the Trump administration, the revelation that the SXSW contract had particularly heavy immigration/deportation language touched an only-slightly-dormant nerve about the overall moral standing of the conference. As it far surpassed its once humble beginnings, the moneymaking behemoth of SXSW has occasionally found its eyes blackened by harsh enforcement of its attempted exclusivity throwing bands off official showcases should they do an off-campus event or otherwise taking forays to punish the giant penumbra of unofficial activity that, frankly, is part of what has led to such overwhelming critical mass in Austin in March. The idea that a foreign band could be deported for such extracurriculars seemed particularly demonic, especially at a moment when the artistic community is mostly looking for opportunities to be vocal and protect the vulnerable.

Thankfully, the organizers have walked that language back and disavowed that thought process as it relates to international acts, but the fact remains that SXSW is big business built on the backs of bands that play for free and often pay dearly to route their way there. Not the first collision of art and commerce, obviously, but a real one regardless. It’s been a moral quandary all along, and one that maybe I among others arguably brush over too lightly in the fun of being there. Like so many other things in American life, there’s no easy answer, but it’s a conversation we need to keep having. The positive spin I arrive at for now is somewhat as follows, though:

Throughout the years (and I’m now in my third decade of going with interruptions), first as a student/fan, as a music writer, as a music lawyer and still as a music fan, SXSW has been filled with moments of discovery and true musical positivity. I’ve had bands get signed from it, had bands find their agent/manager at it, had bands get seasoned by the throw-and-go of the experience. It’s the music business’ most frenetic spring break, for all the good and ill that carries. The early buzz this year suggests a kind of “return to form.” Less celebrity stunting, fewer overt corporate compounds, more chances for people to see new artists and possibly do something with/for/about them, all on a more human scale. The controversy of the last few weeks notwithstanding, it feels like it could end up being a very good year in Austin, and the music itself certainly has an embarrassment of riches, so let’s explore: 


 

FEATURED ARTISTS

It’s 2017 and for all that’s bizarre about the world right now, let’s stop and acknowledge that we’ve been privy to a recent slew of fantastic rock albums, including from, in no particular order: Japandroidsthe MenzingersStrand of Oaks (“Radio Kids” is a banger in my book), Son Volt (with a new album second only to Trace), Old 97s, (and let’s go ahead and claim Butch Walker’s excellent underrated Stay Gold for this year, too) and also several that are gracing us in Austin this year. Anyone who knows me knows that I get all emotional about it, but Ryan Adams is peak Ryan Adams right now, and his latest Prisoner slays from beginning to end. Having seen his new band debut it at the Apollo, I can promise those seeing him do the ACL taping at the Moody Theater will walk on air. With Summer Cannibals and the ubiquitous Cherry Glazerr (who have climbed high up in the SoCal rockpile at a startlingly young age) also on the bill, it should be a particularly great night.

Those who know me also know that Beach Slang has already punched me hard in the heart, I love Bleached, and am particularly excited about Meatbodies, whose new album Alice takes guitar hero Chad Ubovich’s pyrotechnics to dazzling new heights. Special mention in this context is also due to Bash and Pop, whose new album is utterly amazing. If there’s any way to follow a Replacements run its by rounding up an all-star band that includes Kid Joe Sirois (Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Roll the Tanks) on drums, Steve Selvidge (The Hold Steady, Lucero) on guitar and of course Tommy Stinson (Replacements, Perfect, Guns N’ Roses) hizzownself. Their Mercury Lounge show debuting the new record was amazing, and I’m personally excited to see them fresh enough on the first day of SXSW that it may make up for pouring myself into their dressing room in NYC (sorry, boys).

Other obvious critical and crowd favorites include the excellent Big Thief, the sprightly spunky punky and fun Diet CigDelicate SteveLittle Hurricane and the band that rank among my favorite new shoegazers–Froth. I should mention a non-trivial portion of these are represented by Richard Grabel, who really should have his own dedicated wing at the festival at this point.

Of particular note this year, Austin’s own Spoon offers a quasi-residency at the Main, previewing tracks from their primo Hot Thoughts. Other artists with great new albums fresh out or soon pending include Real Estate, Nashville’s Ron GalloValerie JuneMinus the Bear (still criminally undersung) and the return of Grandaddy. Also, this year it’s Modern English who grab the “‘80s hitmakers doing the cool lap here” mantle. Not a bad one to melt with. 



In the special finds to uncover category: BeLLChain of FlowersCommunist DaughterHoops, new Red Bull Records signees the Aces (playing 8 shows!), Moon BabyChain WalletTancred (produced by Anna Waronker from That Dog and Steven McDonald (Redd Kross, OFF!!Active Bird Community, and Australia’s gift to anyone who likes The Smiths, the recent Sub Pop signee Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

While it hurts my hesher heart that there isn’t a bit more black-blooded metal on offer this year (it was at SXSW, for instance, that Power Trip first infected me), the heathen gods offered a last-minute Mastodon booking, where they will likely preview more of their forthcoming and much anticipated Emperor Of Sound. Also thrilling is a one-night appearance by Youth Code, a band very much paving the future of the industrial/metal hybrid with bracing passion and thoughtful yawp. This year you can also throw up the devil horns for TombsRingworm or, in a headier way, Pharmakon.

There’s also a bit less overt marquee hip hop this year, but I’m proud to say we at Davis Shapiro Lewit Grabel Leven Granderson & Blake, LLP (Plug plug plug!) are flying the flag with a lot of the choice cuts, be it the Quality Control crew of Migos, Lil Yachty, et.al., perennials like Rick Ross or up-and-comers like Kodak Black. As always, there’s a fair lane of more alternative hip hop offerings too–ranging from classics like De La Soul and Grandmaster Flash to more recent classics like Peanutbutter Wolf. Oh, and yeah, Wu-Tang Clan will be in Austin. For the children. 

This year marks the return of two incredible Texas bands, the first and better known of which are …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead. From my earliest experience with their power, seeing them destroy TT the Bear’s in 2001, Trail of Dead have been an ongoing theme in my South By experiences, finding myself amongst their band members on long wild nights with the likes of the Beauty Bar’s Michael Stewart or Dredg’s Dino Campanella. While they never quite turned the corner on their theoretical commercial upside as various waves of Stripes and Ferdinands and Hives took off for larger stages, they’ve kept on and now come back on the Dine Alone stage to remind us why they so very much mattered.

On a final and particularly exciting note of similar import, I’m hoping this year brings some traffic to one of the very best great lost Texas bands. Before Explosions in the SkyThis Will Destroy You or the Black Angels took flight, Lift to Experience was showing the path between the prairie and the heavens. This year they’re gifting us with a super-deluxe reissue of their lone classic The Texas Jerusalem Crossroads and, better yet, they’ll be playing this week. Having geeked out about this band at SXSW with other tastemakers like Baroness’ John Baizley, and having seen Lift to Experience’s leader Josh Pearson work his solo album years ago after a literal sojourn in the hills, the opportunity to take a fresh pilgrimage is perhaps the fan experience I’m most looking forward to over the coming days, but not for any lack of other riches….

So let’s have at it (as always, apologies if I’m missing something, but hit me up):


 

SCHEDULE

Monday, March 13

1pm–Strange Brew party featuring Meatbodies, Low Cut Connie, Girlpool, Diet Cig, Hoops (Hotel Vegas)

3pm–The Aces (Rustic Tap)

5pm–Bash & Pop (Mohawk)

550pm–Frankie Rose (Mohawk)

630pm–Big Thief (Bat Bar)

730pm–Little Hurricane (Bat Bar) 

745pm–DJ Baby Roo (Sidewinder)

8pm–Missio (Swan Dive Patio)

830pm–The Yawpers (Bat Bar) or Frenship (Gatsby)

9pm–Matthew Logan Vasquez (Antone’s)

930pm–!!! (chk chk chk) (The Gatsby)

1045pm–Sylvan Esso (Mohawk)

1130pm­–Robert Glasper et. al. (Empire Garage)

12am–Baskery (Swan Dive)

1am–Pharmakon (Cheer Up Charlie’s) or Lonesome Heroes (Swan Dive) 

Tuesday, March 14

12pm–Diet Cig (Scoot Inn) or Aye Nako (La Cruxes) or Charly Bliss (Blackheart)

130pm–Fruit & Flowers (Side Bar)

2pm–Ben Sollee (Blackheart) or Moonray (Jackalope)

3pm–Communist Daughter (Blackheart)

4pm–Thee Oh Sees (Scoot Inn) or Ne-Hi (Blackheart) or Ryan Hemsworth (Mohawk) or Lil Yachty (Empire Garage)

440pm–Hockey Dad (BD Rileys)

5pm–Pill (Kick Butt Coffee)

515pm–Avi Buffalo (Private Property)

6pm–UTA Happy Hour (Lamberts)

7pm–Noname (Maggie Mae’s Rooftop)

715pm–Lemon Twigs (Maggie Mae’s)

730pm–Ron Gallo (Tellers) or Tancred (La Cruxes)

8pm–Quiet Company (Cheer Up Charlie’s) or Mau Mau Chaplains (Flamingo) or Lo Moon (Levi’s Outpost)

815pm–Future Thieves (Scratchouse)

830pm–Temples (Gatsby)

920am–Beard the Lion (Grizzly Hall)

930pm–Francis and the Lights (Levi’s Outpost)

10pm–Froth (Barracuda) or Let’s Eat Grandma (Latitude 30)

1025pm–Rare Essence (ACL Moody Theater)

1045pm–Spiral Stairs (Cheer Up Charlie’s)

11pm–Aztec Death (BD Rileys) or In the Valley Below (Blackheart)

1115pm–James Chance & the Contortions (Barracuda Backyard)

1120pm–Bilal (Buffalo Billiards) or Kevin Morby (Belmont)

1130pm–Thievery Corporation (ACL Moody)

12am–Creepoid (Barracuda) or Big Jesus (Blackheart) or Whitney Rose (Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room) or the Tontons (Valhalla)

1210pm–Son Little (Buffalo Billiards)

1215am–Modern English (Barracuda Backyard)

1245pm–Wu-Tang Clan (ACL Moody)

1am–Spoon (the Main)

Wednesday, March 15

830a–John Paul White (KGSR taping–W)

9am–New Pornographers (KGSR taping–W)

930am–Jimmy Eat World (KGSR taping–W)

10am–Real Estate (KUXT taping–Four Seasons)

1030am–Garland Jeffrey’s (Pledge­–Rainey)

11am–Nile Rodgers keynote (Convention Center)

1pm–Beach Slang (Waterloo Records) or Jay Som (Cheer Up Charlie’s)

155pm–Drakulas (Mohawk)

3pm–Japanese House (Radio Day Stage)

4pm–Real Estate (Radio Day Stage) or White Reaper (Blackheart)

445pm–Rocket From the Crypt (Mohawk)

5pm–Minus the Bear (Space 24 Twenty) or Merchandise (Cheer Up Charlie’s) or Girlpool (Cheer Up Charlie’s)

6pm–Lewis Del Mar (Lustre Pearl) or Bleached (Clive Bar)

620pm–Nicole Atkins (Weather Up)

730pm–PWR BTTM (Stubb’s)

8pm­–Bash and Pop (Hotel Vegas Patio) or the Mastersons (Parish)

815pm–Vagabon (Sidewinder Outside)

820pm–Hurray for the Riff Raff (Stubb’s)

825pm­–Chain of Flowers (Sidewinder Inside)

830pm–Beach Slang (Lustre Pearl)

9pm–Active Bird Community (Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room) or Mark Eitzel (ACL Moody) or Solange (Copper House)

905pm–Denzel Curry (Mohawk Outdoor)

920pm–Kasey Chambers (Cooper’s BBQ)

930pm–Bleached (Lustre Pearl)

10pm–Marian Hill (Antone’s) or Chastity Belt (Barracuda Backyard) or Jimmy Eat World (Bungalow) or BNQT (Easy Tiger) or Elijah Ford (Maggie Mae’s) or River Whyless (Maggie Mae’s)

1030pm–Valerie June (Cooper’s BBQ)

11pm–Avett Brothers (ACL Moody) or Grandmaster Flash (Clive Bar) or Cotton Mather (Main)

1120pm–Wifisfuneral (Palm Door)

1130pm–Bishop Briggs (Lustre Pearl) or Moon Honey (The Liberty)

12am–Tinashe (800 Congress) or Sleigh Bells (Bangers) or Tokyo Police Club (Bungalow) or Warm Brew (Cheer Up Charlie’s) or Cherry Glazerr (Elysium)

1am –Night Beats (Barracuda) or …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead (Bungalow) or Waco Brothers (Continental) or Spoon (Main)

115am–Meatbodies (Mohawk)

Thursday, March 16

930am–Third Eye Blind (KGSR taping–W)

10am–Spoon (KGSR taping–W)

11am–Stevie Moore and Jason Falkner (GSD&M)

12pm–Minus the Bear (Waterloo Records) or Downtown Boys (French Legation)

1pm–Mondo Cozmo (Cedar St. Courtyard) or Priests (French Legation)

2pm–Meat Wave (Barracuda) or Death Valley Girls (Spiderhouse) or Sammy Hagar at Convention

230pm–Vagabon (French Legation)

3pm–Alexandra Savior (Clive Bar)

330pm–the Drums (Mohawk)

345pm–Mark Eitzel (Barracuda)

350pm–Chain of Flowers (British Music Embassy–Latitude 30)

 4pm–Mothers (Barracuda) or Talib Kweli (Empire Control Room)

415pm–AJ Davila (Spiderhouse)

430pm–Hippo Campus (Mohawk)

445pm–Allison Crutchfield & the Fizz (Barracuda)

515pm–MUNA (Container Bar)

530pm–The Black Angels (Moody)

6pm–Royal Trux (Hotel Vegas) or Meatbodies (Hotel Vegas)

635pm–Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever (Brush Sq Park East Tent)

650pm–Rag’n Bone Man (Copper Tank)

7pm–Froth (El Sapo) or D.R.A.M. (Space 24 Twenty)

8pm–Jealous of the Birds (St. David’s) or Holly Macve (Latitude 30) or Chain Wallet (Lucille)

830pm–Warm Brew (Easy Tiger)

9pm–Manatee Commune (Iron Bear) or Tancred (Cheer Up Charlie’s) or Bleached (Bangers)

915pm–Heat (Cheer Up Charlie’s)

930pm–All Our Exes Live in Texas (Cooper’s BBQ) or Ecstatic Vision (Grizzly Hall)

945pm–Joey Purp (Mohawk Outdoor)

10pm–Delicate Steve (Elysium) or Le Butcherettes (Buffalo Billiards)

1030pm–Chicano Batman (Cedar Street Courtyard)

1040pm­–Kate Nash (Central Presbyterian)

1050pm–Cherry Glazerr (Barracuda)

11pm–Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever (Parish) or the Unlikely Candidates (Javelina) or Tombs (Grizzly Hall) or Real Estate (Clive Bar)

12am–Low Cut Connie (Tellers) or Third Eye Blind (the Belmont)

1215am–Future Islands (Gatsby)

1220am–Aye Nako (Valhalla)

1235pm–Rick Ross (Empire Garage)

1am–Lift To Experience (Parish)

Friday, March 17

9am–Ray Wylie Hubbard (KUXT 4 Seasons)

10am–Black Angels (KUXT 4 Seasons)

1030am–BMI brunch

1130am–Middle Kids (Blackheart Indoor)

12pm–Vagabon (Valhalla)

1230pm–Brent Cobb (Blackheart Indoor) or Spiral Stairs (Mohawk)

1pm–River Whyless (Blackheart Outdoor)

130pm–Teen Daze (Weather Up) or Downtown Boys (Mohawk Outdoor)

2pm–Yawpers (Yard Dog) or Dear Boy (Bar 96) or Chicano Batman (Radio Day Stage)

250pm–Cian Lavery (Latitude 30)

3pm–White Reaper (Little Woodrow’s) or Heat (Container Bar)

330pm–Big Thief (Weather Up)

415pm–Ecastatic Vision (Hotel Vegas)

4pm–…..And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead (Brooklyn Vegan at Cheer Up Charlie’s)

5pm–Chicano Batman (Blackheart Outdoor) or Black Joe Lewis (Day Stage) or Minus the Bear (Cheer Up Charlie’s)

545pm­–The Bolos (Volstead)

6pm–Cherry Glazerr (Bangers)

730pm–Mystery Lights (Levi’s Outpost) or Flor (Bungalow)

755pm­­–Richard Barone (Victorian Room at Driskill)

8pm–BeLL (Tap Room at The Market)

820pm–The Aces (Bungalow)

855pm–Chain Wallet (Sidewinder)

9pm–Quality Control w Migos, Lil Yachty & Kodie Shane (Copper Tank) and Cherry Glazerr (ACL Moody) or Tancred (Barracuda)

930pm–Meatbodies (Hotel Vegas Patio)

10pm–M. Ward (Clive Bar) or Hoops (Cheer Up Charlie’s)

1010pm–Summer Cannibals (ACL Moody)

1030pm–Big Star’s Third (Central Presbyterian)

11pm–Ryan Adams (ACL Moody) or MUNA (Bar 96) or Neko Case (Clive Bar)

1130pm–Dead Meadow (Grizzly Hall)

1140pm–Sundara Karma (Buffalo Billiards)

1145pm–Royal Trux (Hotel Vegas Patio)

12am–Mastodon (Empire Garage)

1230–Grandaddy (Stubb’s)

1am–Illenium (Monster Energy Outbreak House) or Active Bird Community (Parish)

1:15am–Minus the Bear (Barracuda)

Saturday, March 18

1030am–Bright Light Social Hour (KGSR – W)

11am–Brooklyn Country Cantina (Licha’s)

12pm–Guy Forsyth (Threadgill’s) or Ex-Girlfriends (Dozen Street)

130pm–Ne-Hi (Barracuda Inside)

2pm–Japanese House (Space 24 Twenty) or All Our Exes Live in Texas (BD Riley’s) or Ho99o9 (Radio Day Stage)

3pm–Weezer (Rachel Ray –Stubbs)

330pm–Crocodiles (Hotel Vegas)

4pm–Cherry Glazerr (Cheer Up Charlie’s)

5pm–Lee Bains III and Glory Fires (Sidebar) or Alex Cameron (Javelina) or Meatbodies (Hotel Vegas)

6pm–Run River North (Little Woodrow’s West 6th)

7pm–The Internet (Space 24 Twenty)

750pm–DJ Black Moses (Belmont)

8pm–Morgxn (Iron Bear)

835pm–High Waisted (Cheer Up Charlie’s Inside) or Kevlar (Dirty Dog)

850–Wifisfuneral (Mohawk Outdoor)

9pm–John Dee Graham (Continental) or Cosmonauts (Vegas Annex)

10pm–White Mystery (Vegas Volstead)

1020pm–Modern Vices (Cheer Up Charlie’s Inside)

1055pm–Shelters (Sidewinder Outside)

11pm–Death Valley Girls (Vegas Patio) or Emily Wolfe (Lucille) or Alex Cuba (Russian House) or Amplified Heat (Bar 96)

1115pm–Charlotte Cardin (Sidewinder Inside)

12am–Youth Code (Elysium)

1240am – Peanutbutter Wolf (the Main)

1245am–White Fang (Hotel Vegas Annex)

1am–Tombs (Elysium) or end of Lift to Experience (Central Presbyterian)

 

 

 

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