(Charlie Sexton and the Barton Hills Choir cover David Bowie. Photo: YouTube)
Austin’s South by Southwest music fest continued apace Friday, and while inclement weather marred some of the events, it ultimately could not dampen concertgoers’ spirits. Here’s what reigned on this rainy fourth day:
Young Americans Honored David Bowie
David Bowie’s presence was, unsurprisingly, deeply felt in Austin this year, whether at longtime producer Tony Visconti’s keynote address, Argentinian garage-rockers’ live recreation of the entire Ziggy Stardust album, a special visual collaborators panel discussion featuring Blackstar album art designer Jonathan Barnbrook, or when Iggy Pop performed his Bowie-popularized The Idiot classic “China Girl.” But there was certainly no cuter Thin White Duke homage at SXSW 2016 than the “All the Children Boogie: A Tribute to David Bowie” concert, hosted by KUTX 98.9’s “Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child” family radio show.
There, at the Austin Scottish Rite Theater, local musical heroes like guitar god Charlie Sexton and bluesy The Voice Season 1 finalist Nakia joined the rebel rebels of Barton Hills Children’s Choir for adorable, all-ages renditions of Bowie’s greatest hits. Talk about some little wonders! (Incidentally, the Barton Hills Choir appeared earlier this week in Austin, performing Judas Priest’s “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” with Dangerous Toys’ Jason McMaster at a 30th anniversary celebration of the viral film Heavy Metal Parking Lot, and covering Smashing Pumpkins at a screening of Butch Vig’s Smart Studios Story documentary. These 5th- and 6th-graders were the real cool kids at SXSW.)
The Struts Showered Fans With Attention
When torrential downpours started to flood Austin on Friday night, we quickly took shelter in the Presidential Suite of the fancy new JW Marriott hotel – where rising young U.K. glam-rockers the Struts played a special, Tesla-style, awesome unplugged set for a handful of lucky contest winners, Marriott Rewards members, and Struts superfans.
This kept us dry for a while, but we couldn’t escape the showers forever – because, during a tour of the suite, we somehow ended up in the shower stall, posing for the Best. Photo. Opp. Ever. This was some good clean fun.
Beach Slang and Oscar Were in the House
Meanwhile, earlier in the day, we hung out in another rockin’ living room, at Yahoo Music’s suburban HQ, shooting low-key, house-party performances with some of SXSW 2016’s coolest acts. Among them: James Alex of ‘Mats-inspired garage-punks Beach Slang and singularly named, singularly talented British bedroom songsmith Oscar. Seriously, why even leave the house and brave the Austin elements/6th Street insanity, when you’ve got in-home entertainment like this?
Bleachers Brought New Jersey to Texas
Proud Jersey boy Jack Antonoff of fun./Bleachers launched his own Asbury Park music festival, Shadow of the City, last year – and he brought that fist-pumping vibe to Bleachers’ first show of 2016, when the band headlined SXSW’s Bud Light Factory. Antonoff was serving Springsteenian realness in his born-in-the-USA, denim-on-denim ensemble as he cranked out life-affirming anthem after life-affirming anthem, sometimes even accompanied by Clemons-esque saxophone solos. The guy was clearly born to run – he literally rushed off to the airport the moment the gig was over, telling the crowd, “This is my favorite version of Bleachers, when we haven’t played in months and it feels like we’re in a practice space… I wish every show was like this.” Bleachers wrapped with “I Wanna Get Better,” but really, it doesn’t get any better than this.
So SXSW 2016 wraps Saturday with a Roots jam featuring Big Grams (Big Boi + Phantogram); celebrity chef Rachael Ray’s annual Feedback bash with sets by George Clinton and Jenny Lewis; and a musicians’ workshop with the Dawg himself, Randy Jackson. Can we survive one more day of beer-swilling, BBQ-bingeing, and bands, bands, bands? We will do our best…