Monday, April 04, 2011

Schultz' Earful: Schultz By Southwest 2011 (Part 2)

By: David Schultz

The Antlers (The Parish, The Stage on 6th) The Antlers anchored the NPR showcase with a set consisting of their upcoming album, Burst Apart, in its entirety. On Hospice, their breakout album, The Antlers blindsided unexpected listeners with a turbulently emotional song cycle centered on the analogous elements of a hospice worker’s relationship with a terminal cancer patient and the narrators own failing relationship. Hearing a new album performed live isn’t the best forum for deciphering lyrics; it is a great opportunity to gauge its visceral impact. Peter Silberman’s achingly operatic, oftentimes wordless vocals deserve comparison with Jeff Buckley and Burst Apart’s lush and gorgeous reveries are beauties to behold. After catching a bit of another set at The Stage on 6th, which changes names each SXSW, it’s clear that The Antlers can be equally compelling in short doses.

North Mississippi Allstars (Stubbs) For four days, parking lots, garages, bars, restaurants and bike shops are populated with music fans angling for a glimpse of bands whose greatest plaudits are the word of mouth platitudes most often found on the Internet. Given the proportionately low number of established rock stars to the fledglings in training, the modest number of folks that came to see the North Mississippi Allstars on Stubbs’ indoor stage seemed to be anathema to the proceedings. Luther Dickinson has played an indispensible role in making the Black Crowes a vital and relevant entity over the past three years. An undesirable effect of his work with the Robinsons has been the absence of the Allstars over that time period. With a new album Keys To The Kingdom on shelves, the intimate Stubbs stage made for a phenomenal venue to see Dickinson ply his craft.

Screaming Females (Red 7) Marisa Paternoster may look barely big enough to pick up the guitar she’s wielding without tottering over. Once she straps it on, she takes a back seat to no axe slinger, shredding like the mightiest of guitar players. In the capable hands of bassist King Mike and drummer Jarrett Dougherty, the New Jersey power trio feed their need for speed by ramping up the tempo of each song, laying down an implicit challenge to Paternoster to match them along the way.

Obits (Beauty Bar Patio) Comprised of veteran rockers from indie bands of yore, the Brooklyn based Obits serve up serious helpings of psychedelic based guitar rock. With the capability to echo the Velvet Underground at their most locked-in groove, Obits are what happens when the garage that the band forms in also contains a couple high-precision vehicles, Focusing on their upcoming release, Moody, Standard and Poor, Rick Froberg kept his howl somewhat in check, letting his and Sohrab Habibion’s guitars speak the loudest. Commendably, they stayed true to SXSW’s ethos, braving a couple urgent requests for “Two Headed Coin” in favor of their new material.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart (Beauty Bar Patio) If pop music sounded more like this New York based group, it wouldn’t get such a bad rap. It doesn’t hurt that Kurt Feldman and Christoph Hochheim of the Depreciation Guild give the PoBPaH a nice little shoegazy twist. For the most part though, they keep the mood bright and bouncy. Focusing on Belong, the album that would land them a spot on the Late Show with David Letterman stage, the Pains were the undeniable headliners at the eMusic party.

Lia Ices (Red 7 Patio) She had the unfortunate slot after Suuns. No one heard her over the ringing in the ears. Tinnitus can be a bad bad thing.

Nico’s Gun (Belmont) An interesting mix of Disco Biscuits electronica with New Jersey attitude, Nico’s Gun definitely had the crowd at The Belmont on their feet and dancing, a sight not seen all that often at SXSW.

Colin Stetson (The Parish) Merrill Garbus may have summed up the creative saxophonist’s set quite appropriately when she commented on the difficulty of taking the stage after someone has just made the impossible possible. Playing an array of saxophones that ranged from bass to tenor, Stetson’s fifteen minutes were a remarkable display of ingenuity. Using a looping machine to help set a mood, the well-vetted touring musician offered an engrossing variety of tribal rhythms counter synched with avant-garde riffs and bleats that would make John Zorn take notice.

Khaira Arby (The Parish) The queen of Malian desert soul who’s known as the Nightingale of the North transformed the downtown Austin club hosting the NPR showcase into a genuine West African throwdown. Warbling in a high pitched voice that didn’t differ mightily from TuneYard’s Merrill Garbus’ distinctive yodel while her band contributed lilting African melodies, Arby had the crowd moving joyously in rhythm. At the end of the set, Arby separated her percussion globe into hemispheres, dropped her microphone inside one half and contributed a unique beat pattern while bobbling and juggling the modified drum.

Augustana (Rusty Spurs) It’s astounding that a band that can fail to capture your attention in the middle of March can show up on The Tonight Show just one month later. Catch them tonight to see if my inattention was unwarranted.

TV On The Radio (Mohawk Patio) When Prince envisioned a party at the end of the millennium, he had a group like TV On The Radio in mind as the house band. Populating their set with the apocalyptic funk from their prior efforts like “Dancing Choose” and “Golden Age,” they also previewed their upcoming Nine Types Of Light, which will not fail to disappoint the growing number of TVotR fans. One of the more interesting aspects of the band was on display well after their set. With Big Boi enthralling a packed house at Mohawk, Tunde Adebimpe casually emerged from the VIP porch and began filming the rapper and the crowd from a variety of different angles. Those who recognized Adebimpe began to have calm discussions with the singer and anyone who asked to take his picture also had to pose for one for him. Adebimpe seemed interested in taking in the surrounding scene just as much as anyone else, if not more.

Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears (ACL Live/Moody Theater) An Austin mainstay of SXSW, it doesn’t seem like a festival without checking on Lewis & The Honeybears. As a frontman, Lewis mixes the showmanship and soul of James Brown with the pyrotechnics and flash of Little Richard and adds a dose of Curtis Mayfield soul. As part of the Lost Highway 10th anniversary celebration, Lewis & The Honeybears opened the celebration at the new ACL Live/Moody Theater, an absolutely glorious venue that I can only imagine will look stunning on television. The first half of the set focused on the recently released Scandalous and saw Lewis & The Honeybears playing their ferocious blend of rock and soul. Using their live staple, “Sugarfoot” as a bridge, Lewis turned the stage over to The Relatives, who stole the show with their old school coordinated dance moves, matching suits an undeniable soul.

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!