(Friday) Spend your time in Austin wisely


    Here’s what you need to know: Go see Neko Case. Beyond that, I’ve selected thirty of the most noteworthy bands playing this evening, and I’ve noted the best with an asterisk. As always, I recommend taking a chance on some unknown bands, because that’s part of the fun of SXSW.


    Highlights aplenty:



    Action Action

    Redrum, 12 a.m.

    401 Sabine St. (All ages)

    Emo emo. The New York quartet Action Action is a solid young band with a new album on Victory, An Army of Shapes Between Wars, that has its fair share of smart pop hooks. The band seems to have many of the same likes and influences as Weezer or Rooney, and it’s one to keep an eye on.

    Action Action Web site


    Animal Collective

    Fox and Hound, 12:40 a.m.

    401 Guadalupe St. (21+)

    If by the end of Friday evening you’re completely burned out on the singer-songwriters and hundredth Modest Mouse sound-alike band, Animal Collective should prove to be an effective palette-cleanser. The group’s “anything goes” craft can swing from folk to psychedelica to lord knows what. A mixed bag, but often fascinating.

    Animal Collective Web site


    * Arctic Monkeys

    La Zona Rosa, 12 a.m.

    612 W. 4th St. (All ages)

    Two years ago it was Franz Ferdinand. Last year it was Bloc Party. This year, the Arctic Monkeys are the British import “it” band of the festival.  Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not has already been met with euphoria in Britain, and if these cheeky little rockers can make a splash here in Austin, they’ve a good shot of following the “it” bands before them to stateside stardom.

    The Arctic Monkeys Web site



    Emo’s Main Room, 12:30 a.m.

    603 Red River St. (All ages)

    Ever so gradually, the members of Atmosphere have become key players in the underground rap world and are unquestionably the center of Minneapolis’s current hip-hop scene. Slug’s rhymes are angry but they avoid gangsta clichés, and the group’s sound is minimal but effective. Atmosphere returns to promote You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having following a trip to SXSW in 2004.

    Rhymesayers Records Web site




    Redrum, 1 a.m.

    401 Sabine St. (All ages)


    While many bands release a live acoustic album as a tossed-off stopgap between studio albums, for Anthony Raneri and Andrew Elderbaum, the move was a cathartic necessity after an auto accident on Halloween claimed the life of drummer John Holohan. No word yet on whether they’ll be unplugged or electrified for this late-night set.

    Bayside Web site



    Blue October


    Austin Music Hall, 11 p.m.

    208 Nueces St. (All ages)

    I can see Blue October getting a big radio push before the year is through. The band’s lead single, “Hate Me,” is sensitive enough for the ladies yet angry enough for the frat boys. If bands attempting to become the next Coldplay turn you off, stay away like the plague. If you don’t mind the sensitive boys, check them out.

    Blue October Web site





    * Billy Bragg


    Cedar Street Courtyard, 9:30 p.m.


    208 W. 4th St. (21+)

    Billy Bragg gained a fair amount of notice in the U.S. for his Mermaid Avenue pairings with Wilco, he’s certainly an accomplished folk artist in his own right — and damn near a legend in his hometown of London. With a new box set from Yep Roc, Bragg’s extensive back catalog of socially and politically radical music will be on display at the Cedar Street Courtyard tonight.

    Billy Bragg Web site



    The Brian Jonestown Massacre


    Bourbon Rocks, 12 a.m.


    508 E. 6th St. (21+)


    Anyone who has seen the 2004 documentary Dig!  understands why there’s such a high curiosity factor surrounding the Brian Jonestown Massacre playing SXSW. How will Anton Newcombe present himself in a forum this high-profile? What kind of set are they going to play? Will Courtney Taylor be in the audience, by any chance? So many questions surround this show.

    Brian Jonestown Massacre Web site


    Burning Brides

    Emo’s Jr., 12:15 a.m.

    603 Red River St. (All ages)

    I wish I could say Burning Brides were too close to Fiery Furnaces, because that would be funny. Sadly, it would not be entirely accurate. Dimitri Coats, Melanie Campbell, and Mike Ambs are more reminiscent of Monster Magnet and other stoner metal bands that dig putting skulls on their album covers.

    Burning Brides Web site



    Isobel Campbell


    Dirty Dog Bar, 9 p.m.

    505 E. 6th St. (21+)

    Formerly of Belle & Sebastian, Isobel Campbell‘s album with Screaming Tree’s Mark Lanegan, Ballad of the Broken Seas has received some rave reviews. This could be a great show, but I’m curious as to how the music will translate sans Lanegan.

    Isobel Campbell Web site




    * Neko Case


    Antone’s, 1 a.m.

    213 W. 5th St. (All ages)

    I’ll make this really simple: If you haven’t seen Neko Case live yet, this is where you should be tonight at 1 a.m. Case’s latest album, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood(http://www.prefixmag.com/reviews/cds/N/Neko-Case/Fox-Confessor-Brings-the-Flood/2026) is the fourth in a string of fantastic albums, and her disarming humor onstage provides a charming counterpoint to her bleak, gorgeous songs. Of course, she also has the best country pipes since Tammy Wynette. This is the only performance of the week that I’m completely not conflicted about seeing.

    Neko Case Web site


    * Rosanne Cash


    Town Lake Stage, 8 p.m.

    Auditorium Shores (All ages)

    Rosanne Cash has been in the interesting position lately of garnering significant attention due to the cultural resurrection of her father, Johnny, and ironically stepping out of his shadow with another album that merits listening on its own terms. Her new Black Cadillac continues in her vein of dark, confessional country that has a kindred spirit in Lucinda Williams.

    Roseanne Cash Web site


    Rodney Crowell


    The Parish, 12 a.m.

    214B E. 6th St. (All ages)

    SXSW is always a great place to catch old-guard country heroes, and Rodney Crowell has earned his stripes. He’s a guitarist for Emmylou Harris; a record producer for and ex-husband of Rosanne Cash; a number-one-hit songwriter for Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, among others; and finally, a successful country artist in his own right.

    Rodney Crowell Web site


    Jamie Cullum

    Eternal, 12 a.m.

    418 E. 6th St. (21+)


    I’ll admit it: I’m not sold on this guy. Jamie Cullum clearly attempts to be Britain’s answer to Harry Connick Jr., which raised this question: Does Britain really need an answer to Harry Connick Jr.? Nevertheless, Cullum has the right publicists behind him and, I suppose, could charm the crowd at Eternal just as easily as he might the ladies on The View. If you go see this set, you’ll have to tell me what I missed.

    Jamie Cullum Web site





    Buffalo Billiards, 12 a.m.

    201 E. 6th St. (21+)

    Justified or not, Elefant could be best known for singer Diego Garcia’s brief hookup with Lindsay Lohan. Those who don’t read US Weekly may remember Elefant’s catchy single, “Misfit.” Now that the band’s new album, The Black Magic Show, is on its way to stores, Elefant brings its hard-edged pop into Austin and hopes Garcia can get as much attention for his music as he does for his dating life.

    Elefant Web site



    Giant Drag

    Emo’s Jr., 8:30 p.m.

    603 Red River St. (All ages)

    Annie Hardy’s slowcore band Giant Drag, whose 2005 debut, Hearts and Unicorns, is getting a major reissue push, is strongly reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine, but the duo certainly could have picked worse bands to sound like. Giant Drag has an early set at Emo’s Jr., so it could fit nicely on your schedule.

    Giant Drag Web site


    Gemma Hayes

    Soho Lounge, 10:15 p.m.

    217 E. 6th St. (21+)

    Gemma Hayes is probably the most recognizable artist in Soho Lounge’s Music from Ireland showcase, and after recording an album last fall, she’ll have plenty of new music to try out. Hayes has a nice, simple voice and plays an agreeable brand of folk-rock. And, perhaps coolest of all, her name sounds like a Ramone’s chant.

    Gemma Hayes Web site



    Redrum Annex, Time TBD

    401 Sabine St. (All ages)


    One of the first metal bands to hit big after the advent of grunge, Helmet was a key ’90s act, with Meantime and Betty capturing the hearts and minds of headbangers and eggheads alike. Helmet is perhaps partially responsible for the nu-metal movement, but let’s not judge the band too harshly. Page Hamilton’s newly reformed band comes to the Redrum Annex to kick your ass.

    Helmet Web site


    Bettye LaVette

    La Zona Rosa, 7:30 p.m.

    612 W. 4th St. (All ages)

    This year’s belated soul-singer appreciation candidate would have to be Bettye LaVette, Anti’s admirable revival project of recent. LaVette has more than forty years of R&B under her belt, but fame has proven elusive — even her current release, I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise, hasn’t been able to fully capitalize on great reviews. Still, LaVette has a very cool, distinctive voice, and this could be a good place to start the evening.

    Bettye LaVette Web site





    * Ted Leo & the Pharmacists

    Red 7, 12:30 a.m.

    611 E. 7th St. (21+)

    I loves me some Ted Leo & the Pharmacists. Over several releases, including 2004’s excellent Shake the Sheets, Leo and his band have crafted a succession of smart, hook-filled guitar rave-ups that recall in spirit, if not in sound, Elvis & the Attractions. While there doesn’t appear to be any new album to promote, Leo should still definitely satisfy with old favorites.

    Ted Leo Web site



    The Magic Numbers


    Stubb’s, 12 a.m.

    801 Red River St. (All ages)

    With the sound and style of (and unfortunate resemblance to) the Mamas & the Papas, the Magic Numbers are not the prototypical Britpop band of late. This family band specializes in bright, sunny sing-alongs and chiming guitars that contrast with much of what’s coming out of London.

    The Magic Numbers Web site




    Antone’s, 11 p.m.

    213 W. 5th St. (All ages)

    Marah has been bubbling under the alternative-country scene for quite some time now, with Bruce Springsteen and Steve Earle among those considered fans. The band’s new album, If You Didn’t Laugh, You’d Cry, was recorded live in the studio and has the loose, easygoing charm of the Jayhawks’ better records.

    Marah Web site




    Stubb’s, 11 p.m.

    801 Red River St. (All ages)

    Oh, to be the only Canadians on a bill of Brits. Sharing Stubb’s with the likes of Snow Patrol and the Magic Numbers, Emily Haines and James Shaw of Toronto’s Metric should still fit right in. Their songs have killer melodies with rough edges, shifting between straightforward rockers and trippy experiments.

    Metric Web site


    The Motels


    Elysium, 12 a.m.

    705 Red River St., (21+)

    The Motels have been around for almost thirty-five years, but they are best known for their output in the early ’80s, including hit songs such as “Only the Lonely” and “Suddenly Last Summer.” Martha Davis has been unable to replicate the success of those halcyon days, but her group has left an imprint on the pop-music scene and her voice is still instantly recognizable.

    The Motels Web site


    * Rogue Wave


    Red Eyed Fly, 1 a.m.

    715 Red River St. (18+)

    Sub Pop’s Rogue Wave has a sound that’s both loud and sunny. Powered by the lyrics of Zach Rogue (get it — Rogue?) and slightly off-kilter melodies, this Oakland, California band could get a lot of buzz this week. The group’s latest album, Descended Like Vultures, is quite good, and I have it on good authority that they’re even better live.

    Rogue Wave Web site



    * Snow Patrol


    Stubb’s, 1 a.m.

    801 Red River St. (All ages)

    Brit-rockers Snow Patrol played SXSW two years ago just before Final Straw was released in the U.S. The band has since enjoyed several hit singles, including my favorite, “Spitting Games.” The painfully earnest Gary Lightbody, Mark McClelland and John Quinn know how to craft a fine pop song, and if it weren’t for that Case gal, I’d probably be here checking out their new material.

    Snow Patrol Web site



    The Subways


    Stubb’s, 10 p.m.

    801 Red River St. (All ages)

    Propelled by the derivative yet undeniably compelling single, “Rock & Roll Queen,” the Subways’ Young for Eternity shows the members have done their British-rock homework. There’s plenty to suggest that Billy Lunn, Charlotte Cooper and Josh Morgan should cultivate a high-energy, swaggeriffic live show that will help compensate for their lack of a distinctive persona thus far.

    The Subways Web site


    Susan Tedeschi

    Eternal, 9 p.m.

    418 E. 6th St. (21+)

    Quite possibly the next Bonnie Raitt, the Verve label’s Susan Tedeschi sings, writes and picks that white-bread, homogenized blues the Starbucks/PBS crowd eats up, and she does it quite well, thank you very much. If you’re looking for something more adventurous in Austin, be elsewhere. However, Tedeschi and her band are exemplary musicians, and that often leads to memorable shows at SXSW.

    Susan Tedeschi Web site


    * Teddy Thompson

    Eternal, 10 p.m.

    418 E. 6th St. (21+)

    More fun with nepotism, Teddy Thompson seems to have inherited the better traits of his parents, folk heroes Richard and Linda. In his young career, he’s already shown a maturity in his songwriting and a supple quality to his voice. His latest release, Separate Ways, has garnered critical acclaim and makes this showcase one to consider.

    Teddy Thompson Web site



    Dirty Dog Bar, 1 a.m.

    505 E. 6th St. (21+)

    New band featuring J. Mascis! New band featuring J. Mascis! New band featuring J. Mascis! Oh, wait, he’s their drummer. So, hmm new band featuring J. Mascis. They play Sabbath-y gloom-and-doom metal and would seem to fit well on a double bill with Wolfmother. Could be pretty fun all the same.

    Teepee Records Web site


    * * *

    A rundown of Saturday’s highlights will be published tomorrow.

    Discuss this feature at the Prefix Message Board