The Best of SXSW Music: Thursday 3/15/2012
Nick Rallo Oh nothing, just a guy in a wolf mask playing "Happy Birthday" on the violin.
A.Dd+ - Kiss & Fly
I was at the Audible Treats showcase at Kiss & Fly to see Dallas' own A.Dd+, who had the entire crowd screaming their name by set's end. Paris Pershun and Slim Gravy facilitated that reaction somewhat by ending the set in the crowd, rapping to each other. They've got the perfect complementary flow, and when they trade verses, they actually look at each other with an intensity rarely seen in rap duos nowadays, gauging where the other might be going. They just got off tour with Detroit's Black Milk, so they've no doubt gotten a chance to refine their delivery. The energy of the set made me stick around for Brooklyn trio Flatbush Zombies, who endured some technical difficulties but thankfully got to perform their hit "Thug Waffle." Bay-area rapper Moe Green followed suit, but the surprise of the night was Georgia Anne Muldrow, an L.A. MC who's just as comfortable with rap as jazz and soul, a beat poet who eschews formal verse/chorus/verse in favor of mantra and message. Her voice is an instrument in itself. Madlib produced her upcoming album, Seeds, and I can't wait to hear the fruits of that interstellar collaboration. - Audra Schroeder
Of course, the first thing I would have to immediately walk to after a stellar and draining Bruce Springsteen show would be the current King of Dubstep and the Bizarro World Cobain that is Skrillex. I was in the badge line 30 seconds until a greasy-haired dub moppet begged me to get her into the show, thinking I had an extra badge somehow. Inside the crowd was bathing in its own juices as Skrillex held court onstage with a good two dozen friends surrounding him. The audience was screaming for the drop like it was lifeblood, as I sat in the corner taking it all in. There was no moving, only slow sweating and tiptoeing around girls in sports bras and shirtless men writhing on top of each other. You know, the usual. A lot of my peers in this business laugh Skrillex off as a dance-fad king, but there is something interesting going on that classical rock writing can't put a word to. For now, let's just wait... for... the... DROP and enjoy the ride. -- Craig Hlavaty
The Naked Cowboy Talks Politics
Earlier in the week, we looked down from the balcony of a Sixth Street bar, only to see someone dressed like the Naked Cowboy! Now, we'd seen a lot of folks working for tips looking hot and ridiculous, but this was extra special. "Great SXSW first night!" we tweeted. "Saw a naked cowboy impersonator." Low and behold, we quickly received a reply.
Tomorrow? We did him once better and commenced the interview right then, over Twitter. Of course, we only had one question: "Who are you voting for?" His answer finally arrived two days later. We read it with great anticipation, but sadly it said exactly what we'd expected: "Anybody but Obama!" -- Ben Westhoff
Bless the angel-voiced, ginger-haired Ed Sheeran. "Give Me Love" in its recorded form is a semicloying ballad that'll still stick in your head strictly on the strength of his insistence on repeating the phrase "my my." But on Thursday afternoon, the 21-year-old toast of the recent Brit Awards showed his improvisational acumen at MTV's Woodie Awards stage by turning the song into a playful game of follow the hook. He sang passionately by himself, accompanied only by some looping pedals and a bit of strumming on an acoustic guitar that looked like it was something he got for his 12th birthday. The tongue-twisting of his speedy verses in the middle of the set indicated why Yelawolf teamed up with him for this year's The Slumdon Bridge EP. Unfortunately, SXSW would've been one of their best chances to collaborate, but any hope of that was dashed by the Alabama rapper's recently ruptured spleen. (Feel better, Yela.) An insertion of some scat-sang "In Da Club" midway through "Grade 8" was one of Sheeran's several opportunities to show that he's got growth potential in our crowded hip-hop market for many years to come. -- Reed Fischer
Gary Clark Jr. - Four Seasons
Lots of people at SXSW trot out that old "I saw 'em way back when" saw, but that doesn't make it any less satisfying when you watch them legitimately becoming a star. People have talked about Austin native Gary Clark Jr.'s guitar skills since he had to wake up from his weeknight Continental Club residency to go to high school. Already regarded by the likes of Buddy Guy and Eric Clapton as the best blues guitarist of his generation, it's Clark's Levert-like crooning on ballads like "Things Are Changing" that are really turning people's heads. At dusk on the Four Seasons patio during the Grammys' private schmooze-and-booze, Clark burned Hendrix's "Midnight Lamp," making a serene and psychedelic moment among the pecan trees and glowing white orbs. Then he kept the train right on a-rollin' with some John Lee Hooker-grade boogie. -- Chris Gray
Youth Lagoon - Club De Ville
It felt like the reward for a long day of marching through trash-strewn Austin streets, hunting for exciting new things and finding relatively few of them: Long after their scheduled 1 a.m. start time, the two members of Youth Lagoon situated themselves atop the wooden stage of Club DeVille and let off a gorgeous set of melancholy bedroom pop, underpinned by ribbons of throbbing bass. The combination of warm, sad keyboard melodies, electric guitar adornments, and the low-end rumble of electronic beats made for a music you could think, feel, and move to. From the first drop, the drunker members of the audience started slowly gyrating, while a larger portion simply stood, nodding and swaying, watching principal member Trevor Powers pour his plaintive stories into the microphone. Thin, vulnerable, and a little raspy, it was striking how similar Powers' unadorned live voice sounded to the processed version heard on the band's 2011 breakout debut, The Year of Hibernation. With its laconic beats and lonely vocals, Youth Lagoon seems to have picked up where the XX's debut left off, or made a more satisfying version of what James Blake is doing, albeit with fewer overt dubstep nods. Either way, this was late-night music at its best. -- Ian S. Port
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