The Best of SXSW Music: Saturday 3/17/2012
Justin Townes Earle at Stubb's BBQ
So, we come to it: the end of all things. Four days of madness, Doritos, Skrillex and finally, St. Patrick's Day. Before we bid SXSW 2012 farewell, allow us to share our favorite moments from SXSW day four. Later, we'll let you know which shows weren't so hot. Find our favorites below, and if there was a show that blew your hair back--let us know in the comments. To quote Raymond Chandler: "I went to brush something off my cheek, and it was the floor."
Grupo Fantasma - The Stage on Sixth Anytime Grupo Fantasma plays, one has to fight the feeling that this might be the best band in the world, or at least the most fun. On Saturday the Grammy-winning Austin Latin funk-rock ensemble crammed nine musicians onto a small stage under a backyard tent, and put on the kind of party-rocking perfomance that can only be achieved with Latin rhythms, a three-piece horn section, and some seriously whammy'd-out guitar solos. Yes, the lyrics are in Spanish. But this group's endless energy and sunglassed cool spoke more than words ever could. When Grupo Fantasma plays, casual observers become blissed-out converts, and even the older ladies in the crowd get up to shake it. Having seen them twice now - both times in front of hometown crowds - I've learned to never underestimate this group's powers of seduction. The only thing this writer doesn't understand is why Grupo Fantasma isn't better known. -- Ian S. Port
Kreayshawn - Scoot Inn Though her hype cycle seems to have ebbed, Kreayshawn maintains a widely-diverse, super-devoted base, who coalesced yesterday at Scoot Inn. Hundreds didn't get in, but many were content to peer through barbed wire next to a dumpster of rotting, reeking produce, while a fully-submerged scavenger rummaged through it. Though her performances have often been listless -- and her brash crewmate V-Nasty came off shrill -- Kreayshawn showed she has finally developed a compelling stage presence, owning her songs and bantering with the "Austin, Flexus" crowd. (Her words.) Who knows? At this rate, we might still remember who she is by this time next year. -- Ben Westhoff
Father John Misty
Father John Misty, Hotel Vegas/Nas, ACL Live Well, I already had Father John Misty, former drummer for Fleet Foxes, aka J. Tillman, picked out as my best set of the day, when he played one of those hazy, early afternoon Saturday SXSW sets. He's been on a sort of one-man anti-SXSW comedy tour over the last few days, and at Hotel Vegas' outside stage yesterday, he looked and sounded on the verge of breaking. There was his Doritos tirade from Friday, which he apologized for, but didn't have to, then this: "This fest is like the singing Olympics," he said between singing some awfully pretty acoustic songs. "And I have failed you. I've played five sets and each had a hurdle. Today, that hurdle is a truck full of generators... Can you all hear that truck OK?"
But then Nas stepped on stage Saturday night at ACL Live and performed the entirety of 1994's Illamatic -- plus a new single -- and I've never seen that venue used to better effect. The setting for Queensbridge, New York was there behind him, and from "N.Y. State of Mind," the crowd was lit up. His set, soundtracked by DJs AZ and Pete Rock, made me remember just how singular the album was at the time. I guess what I'm saying is: Can someone please get these two on a summer tour together? -- Audra Schroeder
Mikal Cronin - Mohawk Patio The sheer fact that there was elbow room during Mikal Cronin's set Saturday evening at Mohawk Patio proved to be as much a coup as the music itself. With fellow San Francisco garage rock specialist Ty Segall doubling the fuzzy crunch of Cronin's infectious songs, the sweet-strumming, shaggy-haired frontman could be left to splay himself all over the stage with little regard for his body, but high regard for his tightly constructed pop. An answer to the sunny beach bliss question "Is it Alright" proved to be a resounding yes. -- Reed Fischer
Glossary - Jovita's Glossary is a five-piece band from a small city outside of Nashville that goes well with Drive-By Truckers and Lucero, in which one of the guitarists plays steel. They played Lucero's Family Picnic showcase late Saturday, warming up earlier that afternoon at St. Louis public-radio station KDHX's annual SXSW Twangfest party at South Austin creekside Tex-Mex music venue Jovita's. Glossary turned out to be a good band for St. Patrick's Day, very Thin Lizzy with a twin-guitar attack, choppy riffs and a bluesy heart. (It's always a twin-guitar "attack.") Singer Joey Kneiser introduced "Save Your Money for the Weekend" with "this is about trying to sleep with a Christian girl" and a gleam in his eye, but his wife Kelly was not far away on vocals and maracas. One song nipped a bit of Sheila E.'s "A Love Bizarre," but that could have been an accident. And they had a skeleton selling merch. -- Chris Gray
Donovan at The Palm Door My SXSW was one of memories I will treasure forever, and Donovan's last minute addition to the Palm Door bill on Saturday night was one that will live for like, forever. The '60s bard, the precursor to Bowie, the guy in the car with Dylan in Don't Look Back, the guy whose influence gets lost on this side of the pond, turned in a great solo set with complete candor and style. His voice, still impeccable. He sounds the same live as he does on those dusty albums at the record store. Hit after curio box hit came out of the man. I was standing next to the bar only to notice Eric Burdon drinking wine ("spill the wine...") listening to Donovan on his iPod, learning "Season Of The Witch" so Donovan could summon him to duet on the darkly magical wonder. At one point, I was standing next to the Animals frontman as Donovan was covering "Sunny Afternoon" by the Kinks, and had Burdon bellowing along. I was in a wondrous garage-rock K-hole I never wanted to leave, and might not for a weeks. -- Craig Hlavaty
Thre3Style feat. Z-Trip, Nas, & Erykah Badu - Red Bull Energy Station Red Bull may not have been able to outshine last year's epic Thre3Style SXSW showcase, but they sure as hell tried their best! The all-star line-up of talent this year included DJ Jazzy Jeff, Erykah Badu & The Cannabinoids, The Crystal Method, and of course, the master mash-up artist DJ Z-Trip. A full city block of downtown Austin was transformed into the largest dance party SXSW has ever seen, hosting nearly ten thousand fans of Hip-Hop and Electronic Dance Music. Two "very special guests" were also set to join in on the fun, but their identity remained a secret until the very end.
Jazzy Jeff has taken the concept of "The Mix" to a state of perfection that has been achieved by only a handful of DJs, playing everything from jazz to soul and even some rock. The Crystal Method followed with their brand of movie soundtrack worthy techno music, including their track from the Re:Generation Music Project Movie that they created with Martha Reeves. Erykah Badu & the Cannabinoids hit the stage with their brand of jazzy R&B, neo-soul flavor.
The headliner Z-Trip began his set with tracks by House Of Pain, appropriate for this Saint Patrick's day. His mixing style also jumps from genre to genre, from country to rock to rap, but it is taken a step further by overlapping the beats of one piece over the lyrics of the other. In that respect, he may offer a Johnny Cash song over a Dr. Dre sample. His special invited guest was none other than Mr. Made-You-Look himself, the legendary rapper Nas. "Hip Hop Is Dead", the rock guitar laced track that Nas offered up a few years ago as a call to arms to the rap game, sent the crowd to the tipping point. The Queensbridge rapper had just finished performing his classic album "Illmatic" in it's entirety at the ACL Live theater, and was still gracious enough to give the Red Bull fueled crowd a steller, albeit truncated performance. What a perfect way to end this year's SXSW. -- Marco Torres
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