Welcome to Artcetera. Arts-and-entertainment writers and critics post movie news, concert updates, people items, video, photos and more. Share your views. Check it daily. Remain in the know. Contributors: Mary Abbe, Jon Bream, Tim Campbell, Colin Covert, Laurie Hertzel, Tom Horgen, Neal Justin, Claude Peck, Rohan Preston, Chris Riemenschneider, Graydon Royce, Randy Salas and Kristin Tillotson.
The rumor mill is still grinding away on the big names – Prince and Justin Timberlake, in particular, are still not confirmed – but the lesser-knowns have been lined up for weeks and (in some cases) building momentum toward the South by Southwest Music Conference, which officially kicks off with showcases tonight. I’m headed down there this afternoon, and here are five new acts on my list that I don't want to miss.
*HAIM: Sort of the Los Angeles hipster version of Hanson, these three sisters just came off tours with Mumford & Sons and Florence & the Machine and have charted in the U.K. with their Polydor-issued EP, featuring harmonious, Feist-like mmm-bop. So pretty much a shoo-in for SXSW attention this year.
*COMO MAMAS: And here’s one the unlikeliest of buzz acts this year. These three upper-middle-age women (two are also sisters) came straight out of singing in the church to recording for the Daptones label (of Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings fame).
*SAMANTHA CRAIN: SXSW used to be dominated by Americana/alt-country acts way back in the days before music blogs and Doritos sponsorship. This young Oklahoma songstress is coming in with that kind of old-school buzz for her new album, “Kid Face,” a dusty and dramatic collection of songs wrapped relatively raw in fiddle and banjo.
*BAJOFONDO: This eclectic tango-electronic-orchestral-rock ensemble, made up of musicians from Argentina and Uruguay, have already won a Latin Grammy and loads of respect throughout South and Central America, and they’re making an aggressive U.S. push this year (including an upcoming gig at the Cedar Cultural Center).
*DIARRHEA PLANET: You pretty much know you’re not getting another Radiohead copycat band from the get-go here with this scruffy, young Nashville quartet, and their rowdy, Japandroids-meets-Andrew W.K. noise-rock should do the trick getting the many day parties started.
Read daily reports from South by Southwest all this week at www.startribune.com/sxsw.
The typically heavy Minnesota presence at the South by Southwest Music Conference looked to be lighter than normal this year. Now this.
The big buzz going around the Austin, Texas, rumor mill today – even bigger than ongoing Justin Timberlake murmuring -- is that Prince is going to perform there this week for the music industry’s biggest annual buzz fest. Some ever-Princely “unnamed sources” are reporting that the Purple Yoda will use the SXSW forces to line up a showcase Saturday night at La Zona Rosa, a 1,300-capacity venue with one of the city’s best light and sound systems (unlike the myriad bars that try to pass for music venues during SXSW).
Spin magazine cites one source that says he will have a 22-piece band with him, which would suggest an amalgamation of the different lineups he performed with over three nights at the Dakota in January. At the least, SXSW goers could expect to see him with his new all-female backing trio, 3rd Eye Girl, with whom he played Jimmy Fallon’s show two weeks ago. Another, less feasible rumor also has him scheduled to show up at the Austin Music Awards, where his longtime Latin rock cohorts Grupo Fantasma are already on the bill. And then there’s always the chance he just shows up in a limo but never once takes the stage, as happened at First Avenue this past weekend.
However, given all his other hints at a comeback so far this year, a SXSW performance actually does make sense even for our own Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, assuming he will soon have a record or two to promote. He doesn’t need help selling concert tickets, but his albums could use more respect and interest for radio professionals and music critics, who will be in abundance in Austin this week.
The members all hail from various points around the country -- New York to Seattle -- but Carroll’s appearance Friday night at Mill City Nights officially answered the question: Yes, they are local. “Minneapolis is really incredible,” singer/keyboardist/guitarist Brian Hurlow gushed, talking about the warm reception for his synth-enshrouded ambient pop-rock quartet in its first year together. Things really heated up this weekend when Carroll beat out the already-popping hip-hop crew Audio Perm and fellow Macalester classmates Bad Bad Hats in Vita.mn’s fourth annual “Are You Local?” contest.
By a good coincidence or wise guessing, the folks behind “The Local Show” at 89.3 the Current also welcomed the band onto Sunday night’s show -- predetermined well before the AYL? contest took place. In fact, Carroll had about 15 minutes between being voted winners by the AYL? judging crew and having to take the big stage upstairs at Mill City Nights for its victory-lap performance.
All three of the contestants competed downstairs in MCN’s Nether Bar, which has a narrower stage and more challenging acoustics than a lot of basement rehearsal spaces I’ve visited. The cramped stage certainly did Audio Perm no favors. Their otherwise booming bass parts sounded like they were coming out of a small boom box, and the crew’s seven rappers looked like a bunch of koi fish crammed into a tiny garden pool clamoring to get to the water’s edge to be fed. AP’s rowdy charm wasn’t lost on the crowd, though, which got into them more than the other acts.
In the end, though, Carroll impressed with plain old razor-tightness. Hurlow’s lackadaisically dramatic vocals shone through even in the dingy downstairs space, and his and guitarist Max Kulicke’s ethereal parts shimmered on both the big and puny stage. Click here for Leslie Plesser's photo gallery from AYL? 2013.
Along with its appearance upstairs -- opening for Sims and Solid Gold -- Carroll won a little money to head to next week’s South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas, where they will perform at the Vita.mn/McNally Smith College of Music-sponsored MN Nice day party on Friday, March 15, with Haley Bonar, BNLX, the Chalice and Wiping Out Thousands, which also played Friday night, delivering a hard blast of grinding guitar bursts and roaring electro-noise. The best part of Carroll's win might simply be the excuse to escape the weather in this city the guys now think is so awesome.
You’ve read how Minnesota bands fared at South by Southwest last week in the local press, but what about the national media?
Doomtree got an awesomely meaty write-up at RollingStone.com, where the writer brought up the collective writing that went into the “No Kings” album: “The unified nature of those songs help them get blown up and turned into a pummeling force in concert.” Esteemed New York Times critic Jon Pareles also sang Doomtree's praises, saying the group "put the crunch of rock samples behind forthright messages of defiance and self-confidence."
Spin magazine’s writers listed Howler right below Springsteen among their Thursday highlights, riffing on their young age and their “delightful, surfy racket.” The Toronto Sun's music critic also named Howler one of his top 5 of the week: "Believe the hype," he wrote. Both Howler and Night Moves made the MTV Buzzworthy list of 15 favorites from the whole fest, saying Night Movies “occupies that space between psych-rock, dance and country.”
Poliça was outright named “band of the festival” by the music blog Drowned in Sound, while the IFC’s blogger said they “create beautifully fuzzy songs that bore into you.” Maybe the most significant thing about the latter write-up was the use of "arresting" in the headline, officially pushing that pun into the moratorium phase.
After Jay-Z, Snoop, 50 Cent (with guest Eminem), Lil Wayne and T.I. all made appearances at this year’s South by Southwest, I figured by Saturday night I needed to catch at least one famous rap star or else my coverage would not properly reflect this year’s festival. I’m glad the one I caught also happened to be the best one here.
Nas took over the Moody Theater/“Austin City Limits” studio and reiterated his place atop the heap on closing night of the music conference, a showcase sponsored by Vevo. Unlike last year’s Vevo-funded mega-finale with Kanye West, this one was a sanctioned SXSW showcase in a real venue (the best venue in town, actually). It was also the kickoff to Nas’ “Illmatic” 20th anniversary.
Backed by a full-scale stage production with a giant video screen and faux Brooklyn street-scene props (streetlights, subway stalls), Nasir Jones played up how young and broke he was when he made his debut album. His DJ and hype man, Premier, recounted hearing him perform when the rapper was only 16. Photos and videos from those days scrolled across the video screen. It was a rare case of nostalgia actually freshening up the record and putting it into better context.
Unlike Nas’ obvious abilities, though – “Life’s a Bitch” with AZ and “The World Is Yours” were especially on fire -- the show lacked a steady flow. He stopped between every song to talk, dropped the Firm track “Phone Tap” in the middle, and then he let Premier and old cohort Pete Rock spin off into a lengthy DJ battle. During one of those stops, Nas became the only one of these multi-platinum rappers to admit that SXSW is an odd place for them to be. “I never thought I’d be here,” he said. In his case, I’m glad he made it.
Other highlights from Saturday:
HELLISH BELLS : Coolly scheduled before Nas at the “ACL” studio, this month’s Spin cover story Sleigh Bells also made the most of the hi-fi space. The theater’s TV-geared lighting system was turned up as hyperactively as singer Alexis Krauss, who surfed over the crowd twice with microphone in hand and worked the large stage like a master showwoman. In fact, she ran around so much (without sounding breathless) it sure did raise suspicion about there being some vocal augmentation going on along with all the pre-recorded drums and keyboards.
New York’s electro-metal pop duo – which includes a second male guitarist on stage – could add all the live musicians in the world and still not make musical sense of such overcooked, sonically grating tunes “Riot Rhythm” and “Comeback Kid.” When the group got to its slowest, best-known (and best) song, “Rill Rill,” the two fellas left the stage, rather fittingly. Krauss is a star, but her band is pretty much a joke.
FEEDBACK: Hearing Jamaican superstar Jimmy Cliff playing acoustic versions of “The Harder They Come” and "I Can See Clearly Now" was the sort of beautiful, cleansing performance you want to hear on the last day of SXSW. That had to suffice for a lot of the partygoers at Ms. Ray’s annual bash at Stubb’s, though since the line to her famous free food stretched all the way to the back of the Stubb’s yard like some sort of desperate bread line. So it goes when everyone has been eating from greasy food trucks all week. I also caught electronic R&B/hip-hop up-and-comer Theophilus London’s set there and thought it better live than on record, with a sexy energy and London’s fun, cocky charm.
COVER BAND: Winning Rolling Stone’s “Choose the Cover” contest last year was a blessing and a curse for the Sheepdogs, who were cursed to wear clothes in a subsequent, hilarious “Project Runway” episode but showed great style on stage in the upstairs ballroom space Trinity Hall. You would never know the quartet is from Saskatoon, Ontario, as they sounded like a mighty Southern band with its bleeding two-guitar boogie and boisterous, singalong tunes. I could see these guys going over well at the Cabooze back home, and I’d want to be there.
CHINESE ROCKS: After first hitting Beach Fossils’ 1 a.m. closing set and realizing I had seen them in Austin last year (and tellingly forgot all about them), I crossed over to the all-China showcase at the bar 512. One of the best moves I made all week. Beijing power trio Carsick Cars – not sure if their name makes more or less sense in Chinese – blew me away with their wall-of-whir guitarwork and the singer’s Mark E. Smith-like repetitious, rhythmic spattering. A fitting way to end the fest: A band I had never heard of and will probably never see again, and all the Doritos logos or puking frat boys oh-so temporarily out of sight.
Look for SXSW recap pieces in Tuesday's and Friday's newspaper and all of last week's coverage at www.startribune.com/sxsw.
|Books (191)||Architecture (55)|
|Movies (187)||Music (2542)|
|Classical (237)||Theater (607)|
|Culture (291)||Minnesota History (30)|
|Tickets (364)||People (683)|
|Style (11)||Holidays (17)|
|Openings + closings (52)||Awards (230)|
|Behind the scenes (795)||Book news (107)|
|Casting news (68)||Celebrities (330)|
|Clubs (94)||Concert news (849)|
|Dance (126)||Design + Architechture (53)|
|Funding and grants (53)||Galleries (76)|
|Late-night TV (35)||Local TV and radio (185)|
|Minnesota artists (265)||Minnesota authors (86)|
|Minnesota musicians (963)||Museums (139)|
|Orchestras (108)||Red hot (60)|
|Seen elsewhere: Neat stuff (117)||Theaters (120)|
|Culture wars (28)||Entertainment (4)|
|Movies (238)||Television (455)|
|Art (265)||Photography (65)|
|Nightlife (237)||Comedy (1)|
|SXSW music festival (56)||Author events (2)|