And the BLURT brigade was in the house: Forty indie, rap, punk, classical, country, dance and pop acts, complete with robots, puppets and wrestlers, that you definitely needed to see. Raise your hand if you did… Check out some exclusive videos below. (Pictured above: Los Chinchillos Del Caribe)
BY JASON GROSS
After about 20 years of going to this Texas fest, you may know your way around Austin but there’s always the ever-present temptation to pig out on not just BBQ but also pig out on music and wear yourself out, which I always do. While recuperation time is in order, if you keep a good written/photo diary, you can at least remember, “Oh yeah, that was a good time!” This year, I clocked in about 70 acts, 40 miles of walking around, and enough cooked meats to clog up my arteries for years.
Sad to say, years after getting over the 2014 car chase that killed four people, Austin and SXSW were rocked by a bomber who thankfully came to justice not long after the fest, but not before another bomb threat stopped the Roots’ traditional closing night party. Good thing that, along with Austin keeping Weird, it’s also resilient.
Otherwise, along with some steady indie band stand-bys, I also found plenty of good newer acts that are worth supporting, either by going to their shows or buying their music or getting their merch (that’s a non-subtle hint, mind you). Hopefully, in this mix of forty indie, rap, punk, classical, country, dance and pop acts, complete with robots, puppets and wrestlers, you’ll discover SOMETHING that you like.
You’ll also see SX interviews coming from Robin Cook of some of the artists below soon here- Anna Burch, Fragile Rock and more.
A Place To Bury Strangers at Cheer Up Charlie’s (3/17/2018): One part My Bloody Valentine (screeching noise over sweet melodies), one part Butthole Surfers (smashed their instruments after the first song), one part Lightning Bolt (played part of the set in the middle of the crowd). Secret weapon: power drummer Lia Simone Braswell.
Abhi the Nomad at Tap Room (3/16/2018): You might not know this Indian rapper who was West Coast (and sounds it) and now an Austinite but you should- he put out one of the catchiest albums of ‘18 and tours with a good drummer and singer.
Andrew W.K. at Hotel Vegas Patio (3/14/2018): Don’t you feel a little better just knowing he’s still out there partying? Sure, there’s plenty of drunk kids ready to mosh with him but still…
Lee Bains III + The Glory Fires at Sidewinder Outside (3/13/2018): A garage version of Springsteen from Alabama, complete with progressive politics and a wild guitarist = a sweaty stage show.
Anna Burch at Valhalla (3/13/2018): Sweet voiced indie-folkie who deserves your attention. Indelible tunes and great teeth to boot (admittedly jealous).
Cadence Weapon at Swan Dive Patio (3/14/2018): Not chart competition for Drake but this impressive Canadian rapper still has a great jam in the form of “My Crew (Woo).”
Canshaker Pi at Waller Ballroom (3/14/2018): The Dutch invasion? The catchy, raw indie rockers might led the way for it.
CGBG’s Panel (3/16/2018): Featuring Tina ‘n’ Chris (Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club) and Richard Lloyd (Television) reminiscing about the golden age of punk, plus giving props to Terry Ork who (despite Hilly’s rep) was the real hero/booker of the club.
Cut Chemist at Palm Door on Sabine (3/14/2018): Well-named classic turntablist did his thing with the help of cartoon, old-school graphics screening behind him
Lucy Dacus at Scoot Inn (3/13/2018): One of the most talked about acts at SX, this sad (but not miserable) indie girl’s best song is “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore,” which should tell you something about her. And in case you’re wondering, it’s pronounced “DAY-kus.”
Davie at St. David’s Sanctuary (3/15/2018): Very appropriate that this R&B singer bared his soul in a church setting.
Jesse Dayton at Hotel San Jose (3/14/2018): A former X member and Waylon band member who kicks up some rockabilly dust is someone you’d wanna follow.
DMC at Clive Bar (3/16/2018): Still the King of Rock and bearing a Motorhead T-shirt, he trotted out the old school classics and right wondered why if no one asks Springsteen when he’s gonna retire, why should they ask him?
Doctor Octagon at Cedar Street Courtyard (3/14/2018): A real treat, not only to have the bizarre hip hop Dr. on call again but to have him perform alongside Dan the Automator and QBert.
Dual Core at Karma Lounge (3/17/2018): Nerdcore (the funny, indie backpack set) was represented well by this Austinite. Didn’t hurt that he bought shots for the whole crowd, which probably helped us with the singalongs.
Eureka California at Beerland (3/16/2018): Actually hailing from Athens, GA, this boy/girl garage duo has a better drummer than Meg White and comes on more fiercely and with less roots than Jack White, which hopefully means that they won’t get a drunk frat-boy crowd like JW.
Jad Fair at Hotel Vegas (3/13/2018): Brandishing a flexible neck guitar that led him to do some wonderfully bizarre wailing, this indie legend romped through a set of classic Half Japanese songs.
Ezra Furman at Parish (3/17/2018): This mewling wear-it-on-your-sleeve indie guy in dresses still has Jonathan Richman’s irascible side to him but with much more urgency than JoJo.
FAVX at BD Riley’s (3/15/2018): A Spanish garage rock trio with an arty, post-punk tinge to ‘em, they might offend purists but they also put out one of the best records of ‘18.
Francine Thirteen at the Hideout (3/17/2018): Technically from Dallas but definitely on another planet vibe, this chanteuse/shaman performed a ritual-laden performance with help from her sister on harp. Her motto is “Magic of sacred virgins & holy whores” and she makes you believe it.
Fragile Rock at Maggie Mae’s (3/14/2018): Calling them the best puppet emo band ever might sound great until you can’t think of other puppet emo bands but these guys & gals are a hoot- think the Muppet’s Dr. Teeth meet Spinal Tap.
Gold Casio at Friends (3/17/2018): I feel bad for anyone who doesn’t have a soft-spot for a glammed-out dance pop band with good tunes and that’s what this Portland quartet serves up.
Great Good Fine OK at Sidewinder Outside (3/14/2018): With such a casual name, you’d think that they’re blasé but this rainbow-clad dance act had strong enough tunes to have the crowd sing along so they’re doing something right.
Steve Hauschildt at Central Presbyterian Church (3/17/2018): Ambient night in a religious setting is worth attending but most of the bill was kind of snoozy except for this dynamic composer who’s not afraid of beats or melodies.
Idles at Latitude 30 (3/14/2018): They’re jokers for sure but also deadly serious and rabid punks, just this side short of hardcore but barely less intense, with one of 2017’s finest platters too.
Durand Jones at Scoot Inn (3/13/2018): Ran across him while waiting for another act but it was some good serendipity there as he’s a soul man who deserves the press/credit that fellow SX act Lee Fields gets, not to mention Nathaniel Rateliff (also at SX).
Topaz Jones at 800 Congress (3/15/2018): A NJ native who was pleasantly surprised to find many Jersey peeps at the show. Disappointing not to hear this R&B/rap act’s wonderful “Toothache” single but he was plenty of other sensuous grooves to spare (plus a cool Miles T-shirt).
Khalid at Trinity Warehouse (3/15/2018): Wasn’t totally sold on his R&B star but this packed-house show proved that he not only had the songs but also the stage presence (love that pink suit) to pull it off.
Kino Kimino at Sidewinder Outside (3/16/2018): Kim Talon is a musical threat for sure- not just film making but also Sonic Youth connections and a lively stage presence.
Life at Latitude 30 (3/15/2018): Like Oasis, they’re led by a pair of bro’s but they’re much more bloke-ish than big-headed jerks, which is how you’d want a UK punk combo to be. Singer Mex is a hoot with weird stage moves, including bar walks and speaker crawls.
Living Museum at Waller Ballroom (3/13/2018): Think of it more as a strange NC-17 performance art series than a music act per se. Let’s just say that these Dutch artists weren’t afraid to bare it all in action painting, tech-controlled music, laser light performing and some completely hairless writhing woman lying on a bar.
Los Chinchillos Del Caribe at the Speakeasy (3/16/2018): They call themselves a Cumbia (Spanish dance) act but it’s more spot on to say that they’re a Puerto Rican luchador (wrestling mask) rap act that’s as fun as a ring match.
Lung at Swan Dive (3/17/2018): A power duo of a cellist and drummer mixes prog rock, metal and classical the way that King Crimson did in the good ol’ days, even without Uncle Bobby’s guitar.
Tunde Olaniran at Side Bar (3/14/2018): The pride of Flint Michigan (which he reminds us is still under a govt-induced health threat), this Afro-Futurist is always a snappy dresser and has a dancer duo that are his version of the SW1’s.
Ponytrap at the Hideout (3/16/2018): A string duo with a trio of giant robot drummers sounds like a novelty but they pull it off well enough that they should earn a spot on a Bang on a Can marathon (hint, hint).
Pussy Riot at the Main (3/13/2018): I preferred the stirring theatre piece that they did at SX last year but to see this harassed Russian punk-dance group persist was inspirational enough.
Shame at Barracuda (3/15/2018): In the new Punk-Brit sweepstakes, they also have a stand-out, acrobatic frontman like the others but are much more active on stage than their most trad-Brit-pop album would make you think.
Shamir at Sidewinder Outside (3/13/2018): First R&B, now kind of rock, he proved his credentials with his own guitar/bass/drums trio and a homemade Velvet Underground jacket to boot.
Shopping at Volcom (3/15/2018): For my money, the best post-punk revival group around now, especially with Rachel Aggs’ dance moves and the way that they trade off shouted vocals that boosts all their songs.
Superchunk at the Main (3/13/2018): The ol’ indie rock standby happened to be put out not just their best album of their career but one of the best of ‘18 and celebrated with a blazing show, featuring Sabrina Ellis (Sweet Spirit/A Giant Dog) who is headed for stardom herself.
Superorganism at Stubb’s (3/14/2018): One of the fest’s buzz bands for sure, this weird little UK dance-pop troupe provided some danceable fun.
Thick at Side Bar (3/16/2018): Brooklyn punk grrls make good noise.
Trail of Dead at Swan Dive Patio (3/14/2018): Now a quartet but with extra members in tow to bring them up to a sextet, they did a set of songs they only performed once before. You’d never know it- it sounded like well-thrashed out material they harnessed over years.
Touts at Latitude 30 (3/13/2018): Irish punk lads (and Clash/Jam fans) who sound it, especially when they address the crowd in a thick brogue and feature a song like “Bombscare.” Nice mod haircuts too.
Waco Brothers at Shangri-La (3/15/2018): It just wouldn’t be SXSW without these alt-country cut-ups, who provided bits of Hawkwind and George Michael covers along with a full version of the Small Faces’ “All or Nothing” in tribute to raconteur and Austin homie Ian McLagan. (Ed. note: As Jon Langford is essentially the Patron Saint of Blurt SXSW Past, having designed posters and curated an annual day party during SXSW for us for a number of years, we would like to take this space to extend a hearty “two pints up!” in Jonboy’s direction.)
Kelly Willis at Hotel San Jose (3/14/2018): Now finishing the 3rd decade of her career, this new traditionalist (think George Strait, not Devo) still has that great, booming voice that makes her a country legend.
Longtime BLURT contributor Jason Gross is also publisher of the most excellent Perfect Sound Forever online music magazine.