(Saturday) Spend your time in Austin wisely

     

    After three nights of big acts that (for the most part) live up to their billing, Saturday night presents the first high-profile turkeys of the festival. The good news is that while the crowd inexplicably gathers for some of these acts, you can be elsewhere, watching good bands. Pointing out both the wheat and the chaff, I’ve selected thirty of the most noteworthy bands playing this evening, and have also noted the best of the best with an asterisk. Again, I also recommend taking a chance on some unknown bands, because that’s part of the fun of SXSW.

     

    The final night’s highlights (times, dates, places subject to change):

     

     

    [more:]

    Camera Obscura

    Antone’s, 12 a.m.

    213 W. 5th St. (All ages)

    Provided with both production and promotional support by Belle & Sebastian‘s Stuart Murdoch, Camera Obscura is another delightful byproduct of Glasgow, Scotland. If I were to base my opinion purely off of pop music, I’d swear the Scots are the most adorable nationality in the world, but Groundskeeper Willie balances out that perception.

    Camera Obscura Web site

     

    * The Charlatans UK

     

    Exodus, 1 a.m.

    302 E. 6th St. (21+)

     

    After seventeen years of good songs and bad luck, the Charlatans UK try to revive “Madchester” on an all-Manchester bill at Exodus. Simpatico is set to hit in April on Sanctuary, a label that helped rejuvenate Morrissey‘s and Robert Plant’s careers. While they’ve never lost favor in their homeland, the Charlatans are primed for an overdue comeback here in the states.

    The Charlatans UK Web site

     

     

    Dashboard Confessional

     

    Austin Music Hall, 12:25 a.m.

    208 Nueces St. (All Ages)

    Okay. I’m well aware that every generation looks at the next generation’s “punk” bands, and resents the association with the punk bands they grew up with and loved. That being said, what is the fucking deal with Dashboard Confessional? Whatever. Chris Carrabba and his tears don’t need my support, and that will be evidenced by the large turnout for his gig at the Austin Music Hall.

    Dashboard Confessional Web site

     

     

    The Datsuns

     

    Emo’s Main Room, 10 p.m.

    603 Red River St. (All ages)

    The Datsuns are huge in Britain and in their home of New Zealand but have received a shrug-worthy response here so far. They’ve got the rock ‘n’  roll strut down pat, and their riff-heavy pop blasts sound best when played loud. Also, they know how to sell it live; worth checking out.

    The Datsuns Web site

     

    Division of Laura Lee

     

    Red Eyed Fly, 12 a.m.

    715 Red River St. (21+)

    Sweden has the highest per capita number of kick-ass, dumb-fun rock bands of any country in the industrialized world. Division of Laura Lee is merely one. The quartet has a punk speed and attitude, but the members are a tad more complex musically. With Turbonegro bowing out of the fest, here are your Scandinavian superstars of the week.

    Division of Laura Lee Web site

     

     

    Luke Doucet

     

    The 18th Floor at Capitol Place, 12 a.m.

    500 N. IH 35 (18+)

    Broken (And Other Rogue States) is the latest release by Canadian singer/songwriter/guitarist Luke Doucet, and it’s a clever, tuneful album. His songs of cigarettes, alcohol and heartbreak are nothing if not appropriate for SXSW. If you’d like to reach the conclusion of your Austin visit on a more laid-back, introspective note, this would be a good show to catch.

    Luke Doucet Web site

     

     

     

     

    * Ghostface

    La Zona Rosa, 1 a.m.

    612 W. 4th St. (All ages)

     

    For those of you who need a little Wu on your to-do list, our good friend Ghostface Killah arrives as a last-minute addition to the Saturday repertoire. And for a festival that’s a little light on the hip-hop, it’s a welcome addition, indeed. His new album, Fishscale, is set to drop on March 28.

    Ghostface Web site

     

    * Suzanna Hoffs & Matthew Sweet

     

    The Drink, 10 p.m.

    325 E. 6th St. (21+)

    Two of my absolute favorite high-pitched pop singers collaborate for a curiosity-piquing set at the Drink. While previously working together in Austin Powers’ pseudo-band Ming Tea, Hoffs and Sweet have finished a cover album tackling some of the greatest garage rock and pop tunes of the ’60s. It stands to reason that the harmonizing duo will make quite an impression.

    Matthew Sweet Web site

     

    * Hootenanny

     

    Central Presbyterian Church, 12 a.m.

    200 E 8th St. (All ages)

    I’ve spent a fair amount of space here talking up various country acts, but if you’re only interested in seeing one, this roundup sponsored by Anti- could be the best bet. This one-time-only session will feature Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Billy Bragg, Jolie Holland, Tim Fite, Joe Henry, Busdriver and other promised special guests. To my way of thinking, this could potentially epitomize the Austin experience.

    Anti Web site

     

     

    Hot Chip

     

    The Parish, 10 p.m.

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

     

    Hot Chip is what happens when Prince and hip-hop infiltrate the souls of kids with engineering degrees — sort of N.E.R.D. meets nerd. This London quintet is tongue-in-cheek but proficient at the funk; think Beck‘s Midnite Vultures album and you’ll have a pretty good idea. Goofy, yet strangely compelling.

    Hot Chip Web site

     

     

    * Wanda Jackson

     

    Continental Club, 9 p.m.

    1315 S. Congress Ave. (21+)

    Ladies this old should not be this cool. Wanda Jackson is one of the most influential names in rockabilly, and she’s been playing since 1952. A killer vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, Jackson got her start in country music, a genre she would never abandon, even as she carved her niche in rock. This is one of many opportunities this week to witness a legend.

    Wanda Jackson Web site

     

    Kristy Kruger

    Hilton 406, 12 a.m.

    500 E. 4th St. (All ages)

    Full disclosure: I went to school with Kristy Kruger, but I wouldn’t give her a shout-out here if I didn’t also think she’s damn good. She has an aptitude for mining the darker side of acoustic folk-rock, and her lyrics are frank and confessional. It’s nice to see old friends doing well.

    Kristy Kruger Web site

     

    Lyle Lovett

     

    Stubb’s, 11 p.m.

    801 Red River St. (All ages)

    We may never get through a description of Lyle Lovett without someone mentioning his (to be nice) unconventional looks, but (a) he’s slept with Julia Roberts and we haven’t, and (b) his mother and the great state of Texas think he’s handsome. One of the Lone Star state’s favorite sons, Lovett’s wry country music will find an appreciative crowd at Esquire’s big showcase.

    Lyle Lovett Web site

     

    Rhett Miller

     

    Stubb’s, 9 p.m.

    801 Red River St. (All ages)

    Rhett Miller has managed to effortlessly step out of the shadow of the Old 97’s and make waves as a solo artist. With an early set at the big Esquire showcase, Miller has an opportunity to introduce music from his new release, Believer. It can be disconcerting to watch someone with model good looks sing about troubles of the heart, but Miller does have an undeniable craft as a songwriter.

    Rhett Miller Web site

     

    Morningwood

    La Zona Rosa, 9 p.m.

    612 W. 4th St. (All ages)

    Complete and utter bullshit, Morningwood is singer Chantal Claret plus former Spacehog guitarist Richard Steel plus ex-Wallflowers bass player Padro Yanowitz plus drummer Japa Keenon O minus an interesting thought in their collective skulls. Lousy to the nth degree, at least we know that Claret can spell her own band’s name.

    Morningwood Web site

     

     

    * Nine Black Alps

     

    Exodus, 12 a.m.

    302 E. 6th St. (21+)

    Exodus is a good place to be for the Austin anglophile, and Nine Black Alps, rising stars on the Manchester scene, are joining Charlatans UK and others. Already a success in the U.K., this rollicking quartet is set to introduce Texas to breakneck-paced songs off of their first U.S. LP, Everything Is. They are likely to be one of the new bands to resonate at this year’s fest.

    Nine Black Alps Web site

     

     

    * Okkervil River

    Emo’s Annex, 12:15 a.m.

    600 Red River St. (All ages)

    Another homegrown act, Okkervil River has a sound that’s hard to pin down, veering from Neutral Milk Hotel’s whimsy to Uncle Tupelo‘s barroom propulsion. The band’s one constant is a verbose Southern gothic lyrical sensibility that blankets its work. My expectations are for nothing less than a captivating performance.

    Okkervil River Web site

     

     

    Christopher O’Riley

     

    Elephant Room, 1 a.m.

    315 Congress Ave. (21+)

    Christopher O’Riley is actually the second experimental jazz pianist to gain notice for covering the works of Radiohead (after Brad Mehldau), but he’s also interpreted the work of artists from Elliott Smith to Ravel. Although his pop interpretations push him dangerously close to a novelty act, O’Riley’s distinct readings and undeniable chops transform his live shows into a jazz pianist’s “Name That Tune.”

    Christopher O’Riley Web site

     

     

    * The Pretenders

     

    Stubb’s, 12:30 a.m.

    801 Red River St. (All ages)

    As I watch Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders at Stubb’s this evening, a small part of me will grieve over the gradual castration of one of the flat-out coolest new-wave bands of all time. Then from this great sadness will come great joy, because I will forgive Hynde for her transgressions and sing out loud along to “Brass in Pocket” and “Back on the Chain Gang,” and everything will be okay.

    Chrissie Hynde Web site

     

    Rainer Maria

     

    Karma Lounge, 9:30 p.m.

     

    118 W. 8th St. (21+)

    Plugging away for more than a decade, Rainer Maria returns with a new album, Catastrophe Keeps Us Together, an interesting title for a band that, as far as I can tell, has done just fine for itself. Led by the slightly throaty yet warm vocals of Caithlin De Marrais, this New York by way of Madison trio crafts hummable indie rock.

    Rainer Maria Web site

     

    Saves the Day

     

    Austin Music Hall, 11:30 p.m.

    208 Nueces St. (All Ages)

     

    Saves the Day bridges the gap between Weezer and the Offspring. God help us all.

     

    Saves the Day Web site

     

    She Wants Revenge

    Fox and Hound, 12 a.m.

    401 Guadalupe St. (21+)

    Every once in a while a band comes along that breaks the mold — a band so startlingly fresh and original that you can’t help but stand up and take notice. She Wants Revenge is nowhere close to being that band. Justin Warfield and Adam Bravin deserve kudos for being one step beyond an Interpol cover band but otherwise join Dashboard Confessional as Austin’s representatives of the “mediocre yet hopelessly popular” genre.

    She Wants Revenge Web site

     

    Sia

     

    The Parish, 8 p.m.

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

    Note to young aspiring female singer-songwriters: if you want to make it big, try putting the word “Breathe” in your song title. It worked for Sia, who at the very least will be the answer to the trivia question: “Who sang the song that played in the final scene of HBO’s ‘Six Feet Under’?” Her performance here could go a long way towards advancing her beyond footnote status.

    Sia Web site

     

     

    Special Guest

     

    Stubb’s, 10 p.m.

    801 Red River St. (All ages)

    Who is this special guest snuggled in between Rhett Miller and Lyle Lovett during Esquire’s big-bill Saturday showcase? We know Neil Young’s in town. Could it be him? How about K.D. Lang? Maybe it’s someone completely unexpected who we’ll hear about after the fact and then until the day we die we’ll regret our absence while we were instead confirming how crummy Morningwood is. Who is it? Tell us, Esquire, you damn tease.

     

     

    Speech

     

    Club One 15, 9 p.m.

    115 San Jacinto St. (21+)

    There was a time when Arrested Development’s hippie-hop collective was the freshest breath of air, and now its brainchild returns with a new solo album, The Vagabond, and more celebratory, socially conscious rap.

    Speech Web site

     

    * The Stills

    La Zona Rosa, 10 p.m.

    612 W. 4th St. (All ages)

     

    There were a few hiccups for the Stills following the release of its stirring 2003 Vice release, Logic Will Break Your Heart, and I hope the musical-chairs game involving the band’s lineup will be decided by the time the members take the stage. One of the best — if not the best — in the crop of recent bands inspired by Joy Division, a good Stills song will also break your heart.

     

    The Stills Web site

     

     

    Straylight Run

     

    Austin Music Hall, 8:40 p.m.

    208 Nueces St. (All Ages)

    Not my cup of tea, but Straylight Run’s “Hands in the Sky,” featured on the new EP Prepare to be Wrong, is admittedly a strong, propulsive single. These fellas serve up a healthy helping of angst, torture and more angst. It’s what the kids are listening to these days — now you know.

    Straylight Run Web site

     

     

    Superchunk

    Antone’s, 11 p.m.

    213 W. 5th St. (All ages)

    Superchunk has the distinction of being one of the louder bands I’ve seen live (seriously, I thought my eardrums had ruptured), which certainly helped me separate it from the dozen other Super-bands breaking around the same time. The indie pride of Chapel Hill, Mac McCaughan’s band has been going strong for seventeen years on the same record label, Merge, which McCaughan co-owns with ‘Chunk bassist Laura Ballance.

    Superchunk Web site

     

    Martha Wainwright

     

    Eternal, 11 p.m.

    418 E. 6th St. (All ages)

    Martha Wainwright, or she of the far less keening voice than brother Rufus, joins SXSW as an eleventh-hour announcement. After backing up Rufus for years, she has finally recorded a self-titled debut album. The Wainwright family seems to inspire a near-fanatical reverence, so expect a crowd.

    Martha Wainwright Web site

     

    We Are Scientists

    Fox and Hound, 1 a.m.

    401 Guadalupe St. (21+)

    It’s difficult at this point to gauge the potential of We Are Scientists, a New York-based rock trio that is getting buzz thanks to a push by Virgin Records and a couple of strong, Strokes(http://www.prefixmag.com/reviews/cds/S/The-Strokes/First-Impressions-of-Earth/1864)-y singles. Guitarist/singer Keith Murray, bassist Chris Cain and drummer Michael Tapper, to paraphrase American Idol‘s Randy Jackson, are doing their thing, but I’m not sure if We Are Scientists are my dogs yet.

    We Are Scientists Web site

     

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