AUSTIN, TEXAS – As much as it's about pushing brand new talent through the hype pipeline, the South by Southwest Music Conference has also long been a place for older indie faves and critics' darlings to push the envelope. There was a lot of that as the mega-fest took over Texas' capital and bulged toward its full attendance late Wednesday into Thursday.
"I hope you get to see all the bands you want to see," TV on the Radio guitarist/co-vocalist Kyp Malone — whose band was at the top of many attendees' list — told the crowd near the end of Wednesday night's NPR Music showcase at Stubb's BBQ. The New York art-punk heroes impressively stretched out the jagged rhythms and soulful harmonies heard on their new album "Seeds" with riveting impact.
Earlier Wednesday night at a patio party in East Austin, British indie-folk maven Laura Marling debuted a new electric band that defied her Joni Mitchell-soundalike stereotype but didn't sacrifice her raw power. Australian buzz-saw rocker Courtney Barnett — who's lined up to play Rock the Garden in Minneapolis on June 20 — also showed off a bold new side at the Tumblr day party Thursday in a dark club off Sixth Street, sounding more bombastic and even Nirvana-like at times.
Samsung flew in pop starlet Iggy Azalea as a surprise headliner for its party Wednesday, but not many attendees seemed to notice. McDonald's first-ever foray into the SXSW marketing ring did get noticed: The fast-food giant took sharp criticism for asking bands to perform for free at its event, a misstep corrected as it instead offered to donate heavily to Austin's music nonprofit the SIMS Foundation.
Minnelli makes progress in rehab
Liza Minnelli has checked herself in rehab and is making "excellent progress," her rep says. Spokesman Scott Gorenstein said, "She is currently making excellent progress at an undisclosed facility." Minnelli, 69, is one of the few artists to win an Oscar, a Tony, an Emmy and a Grammy.
Haggard at fair: The Minnesota State Fair announced Thursday that country music legend Merle Haggard has been added to its musical lineup for 2015. Haggard will take the stage on Labor Day Sept. 7. Showtime is 7:30 p.m., and tickets cost $35 (not including entry to the fair), plus fees. All seats are reserved. For tickets information, visit etix.com or call 651-288-4427. The 77-year-old Haggard last performed in the Twin Cities in October, playing to a packed house at Mystic Lake Casino.