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Maxwell Picks The Top 15 Music Performances In Austin

by Maxwell   March 21, 2014 at 10:00AM  |  Views: 2,512

Hey, y'all, Maxwell here. Yeah, after a few days in Austin, I say y'all now.

Wait, Intern Greg is telling me no one says "y'all" in Austin. That doesn't sound right.

You know what did sound right? The excellent music - see what I did there - Intern Greg and I had a chance to check out over the last few days at South By Southwest. And outside of that couple of hours where Intern Greg tried way too hard to get someone to listen to his "darkcore country" demo, the whole thing was a pretty incredible experience.


Photo Courtesy of Getty

Fact: because he's only heard "Rapture," Intern Greg thought Blondie was - his words - "that rapper lady."

Anyway, 40 years after the band got its start, they've got another studio album on the way, Ghosts of Download and they've been actively touring with a mix of old and new material. The group has gone deep electronic with their new sound, and it's thrilling to see them continuing to adapt for a new generation of fans.

Plus, Debbie Harry still knows how to rock it on stage.

Adam WarRock
Now this was more Intern Greg's speed: heading into the Adam WarRock show, my young colleague couldn't stop talking about the relatively-new-to-the-scene M.C. whose work is heavily influenced by pop culture (comic fans will recognize his name as a riff on Marvel's orange, cosmic Jesus, Adam Warlock).

According to Intern Greg, WarRock - real name Eugene Ahn - it was nerdcore without being too nerdy. And you know what? Intern Greg was right. With a mix of movie/TV/comics literacy, a very clean flow, and an instinct for great beats, WarRock keeps his audience on board for a ride that might touch on anything from broken hearts to Batman's broken back (that didn't happen, but I wouldn't have been surprised if it did).

Big Freedia
When I told Intern Greg that Big Freedia was from New Orleans, his first question was whether the bounce maven was a member of No Limit.

"Like Master P," I asked.

"Yeah, or Silkk the Shocker."

I seriously don't know how his taste in music works. But weirdly, there's a little connection there, with Freedia melding the kind of big booty bouncing beats with hyped-up party rap delivered at a consistent yell. How she can keep that energy up through an entire set is beyond me, but I was nearly worn out two songs in (interesting things about pigs: with our little legs, we have to move twice as hard to keep up with the rest of you).

Dum Dum Girls

Photo Courtesy of Getty

I'm kind of late to the party with this L.A.-based quartet, but I think they're going to be in the rotation for a while. After catching their show, Intern Greg says they sound like a Motown girl group from the future.

He's kind of right.

Their new album, Too True, came out earlier this year, but their six-year discography (I made a point of seeking out some of their older stuff back home) shows a group that's maturing their slick, girls-on-the-edge rock style.

You Made It Weird (Live Podcast Recording)
There's only so much time you can spend on your little hooves before you have to take a break, and Pete Holme's live recording of his popular podcast was a great break for this little piggy's piggies.

Holmes is a standup comedian who recently made the leap to basic cable with his talk show, and some of you may know him from his nerd humor-skewering sketches featuring characters from Street Fighter II and the X-Men, but his podcast presents a hilariously profane and wonderfully sensitive side of Holmes as he chats with other comedians about the art of comedy, life, death, and relationships.

Oh, and I should warn you guys: the show inspired Intern Greg to start his own podcast, and he's asked me to tell you all to look for "Interns on Interns" sometime this fall.

Slick Shoota
It's weird to think that we're talking about drum and bass and it's not 1999, but here it is.

Norwegian DJ Slick Shoota is helping keep the genre vital, supporting a couple of recent EP releases sporting some medium-tempo tracks that remind us why we were really into Goldie once upon a time.

Intern Greg has informed me that some people are still really into Goldie and that we should stop being weird and pretending that's not cool.

Lou Reed: A Rock & Roll Heart
It took some doing, but I was able to drag Intern Greg to this look back at the work of the rock pioneer, Lou Reed, who passed away last fall, leaving us a nearly 50 year musical legacy. Apparently, Intern Greg is terrified of anything that's remotely like learning when it comes to music.

"Take Me to the River" producer Jerry Harrison moderated this talk about Reed's legacy and storied career that somehow still feels like it ended too soon. Still, it never felt like Lou was too far from the room, and Intern Greg was so taken with what he heard about Reed that I had to talk him down from buying Lulu.

iTunes Music Festival
It's strange having a music festival in the middle of a music festival, but here we are as Apple trotted out a collection of artists - Willie Nelson! - for their inaugural show at South By. Consider it a mini-fest within the fest across five nights.

The first night was great for the skinny jeans and or beards and or swaying moodily set with Coldplay dominating a show supported by Imagine Dragons and London Grammar. Schoolboy Q didn't disappoint, nor did headliner Kendrick Lamar. I will say it's weird that it's 2014 and we're talking about a Soundgarden show at South by Southwest (yeah, I know they've been keeping busy for the last four years, but the "Fell on Black Days" moment seems like a very specific point in time for some of us).

Intern Greg suggested that the mini-fest would have done well to vary up the lineups - Pitbull the same night as Keith Urban, Schoolboy Q alongside Coldplay.

He gets some strange ideas, that one.

The Pharcyde
Things that turn 25 this year: Michael Keaton's Batman. Intern Greg. Consciousness rappers The Pharcyde.

After a quarter century of touring, parting ways, and getting back together again, this sometimes quartet from the West Coast still feels as vibrant and alive as ever. Coming off of 2013's Plain Rap II with another album on the way, The Pharcyde are a constant reminder of arguably hip hop's most creatively fertile era.

And Austin, home of the crossover hit, seems to be the right venue for them, allowing Imani, Bootie Brown, Slimkid3 (AKA Tre), and Fatlip to do their thing in front of a crowd which is probably, at this point, only familiar with them by their legendary rep.

From punk-inspired hip hop to actual punk rock music, X didn't offer the pyrotechnics of some of the other shows, it was still a chance for us to "thrash out with our hats off" according to Intern Greg.

(He's taking a creative writing course and I'm starting to think that's only making things worse.)

While X's show didn't tear the roof off or anything so hyperbolic, the L.A.-based punk quartet can, like their contemporaries, Blondie, still put on a show. Unlike Blondie, which has morphed and changed over the decades, X is still committed to a mild tweaking of their original, rough-hewn, hard-charging sound, really getting the mix of younger and middle-aged fans in the crowd moving.

St. Vincent
It's just as interesting looking at the crowd at a St. Vincent show as it is watching the talented singer-songwriter herself. Intern Greg noticed there were a lot of "high-waisted mom jeans" in the crowd while I picked out a lot of actual moms and dads.

Thanks to her tour last year with David Byrne, St. Vincent seems to have picked up a kind of ready-made audience of people who came to hear the Talking Heads front man and fell for the woman named Annie Clark alongside her regular hipster kid fans - and I don't mean that last bit in a bad way.

Oh, and there's a very good chance that based on this show, Intern Greg will be dyeing his hair pink. So... yeah.

Intern Greg and I didn't hit too many DJ sets at South By Southwest, but I think he would have flipped out if we didn't see Flosstradamus, since the duo come from his hometown of Chicago.

"312 represent," indeed, Greg.

Last year, they DJs Josh Young and Curt Camaruci released their Nomads EP, and like their previous albums, the tracks tend toward the soaring and anthem-like, and really get a crowd moving live.

The kid went a little jelly-limbed out on the floor - I don't think I've ever seen him go this crazy for any act before - but in his defense, duo J2K and Autobot spun a good set.

Urge Overkill
While I'm personally disappointed that they didn't play the only rock and roll anthem to a soap opera character - that would be Erica Kane from their breakthrough album, Saturation - the four-man group who made it big thanks to the one-two hit of "Sister Havana" and their cover of "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon" still killed it onstage.

By this point, Intern Greg may have been a little too overstimulated: he tried to get a stage diving situation going at the mellow R&B-tinged show from singer Res.

Some of you might remember her for the alt-radio hit "They Say" which was a blend of R&B and indie rock back in the mid-90's, back when it felt like she was being marketed as an alt-girl Lenny Kravitz.

Since then, she's refined her sound, channeling that unique vision into... a bunch of Fleetwood covers? It works a lot better than you think. While Res isn't quite Stevie Nicks in the pipes department, she's able to belt in a way that makes you wonder if she was possibly born in the wrong decade.

Les Claypool's Duo De Twang

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It's fitting that Intern Greg and I would bond over a country set from Primus frontman Les Claypool. Duo de Twang is Claypool and his buddy Bryan Kehoe and they've been touring in support of their debut album, Four Foot Shark.

Claypool makes for an odd country-western singer, what with his reedy, nasally voice, but it clicks somehow with mournful tunes like "Rumble of the Diesel." Intern Greg says that it's ironically unironic country music, and I think that means that Claypool and Keyhoe are very serious about having a good time on stage, without the kind of overt jokiness of Primus.

Oh, I said Intern Greg and I bonded: well, apparently, Pork Soda was a big deal for both of us (it was his first music he bought with his own money and I was mildly traumatized by the Album Art.