The South by Southwest festival, in Austin, Texas, continued apace Thursday, and music-industry revelers were MMMbopping all day long. Here are the highlights.
Hanson were singing a song for you … and for Leon Russell
At the Recording Academy’s Grammy Block Party on the backyard lawn of the Four Seasons hotel, Tulsa’s finest, Hanson, honored a fellow Oklahoman, songwriting legend Leon Russell, with a special eight-song set of Russell classics. Middle brother, Taylor Hanson — who performed at “brilliant creator” Russell’s memorial last November, and whose band is celebrating an incredible 25th anniversary this year, stressed “how important it is for us as artists to not coast. Down to his last couple weeks … [Russell] was still thinking about what was next. He was working on the next thing; he was working on a new standard. He was making plans for what he was going to do. And that is really inspiring to a young guy that loves to create things. To all of us on the stage tonight, we aspire to never put it on cruise control, as long as possible.” Later, Taylor, a member of the Grammy committee, said he’d be “raising his hand” next year when it comes time to vote to give Russell a Grammy lifetime achievement award.
The Drums were these charming men
A Morrissey for the post-modern age (with some serious post-Moz dance moves), Jonny Pierce of New York shoegazers/surf-rockers/post-punkers/indie-poppers the Drums delighted and seduced the crowd at Mohawk’s House of Vans with his heart-on-thrift-store-sleeve odes of swooning, doomed romance. Of the Drums’ fourth album, Abysmal Thoughts, out this June, he said, “I believe it’s our most beautiful yet” — and judging by the earwormy brilliance of the desperately longing lead single “Blood Under My Belt,” that claim was not hyperbole. This is the song of 2017, so far.
Partygoers received Grandmaster Flash’s message, loud and clear
The pioneering hip-hop DJ was firing on all cylinders and all turntables during a post-Snoop Dogg performance at Twitch/Reddit’s 6th Street headquarters, where he played a decade-spanning, endlessly crowd-pleasing mix of music. At the previous evening’s Showtime soiree, he’d stuck to ’70s music, and he explained to Yahoo Music the art of feeling out a crowd’s vibe and keeping the dance floor packed.
“It’s an instinct,” he explained. “I’ve been trying to figure it out for decades and decades and decades, but I got to tell you like I tell my team, like, 15 minutes before I go on, ‘Leave me alone.’ Butterflies are running in my stomach, and it’s still as if I’m new at this, and I’m just first- and second-guessing myself for the first few songs … gauging the room is really important.” As for his role in the current DJ landscape, Flash said, “It’s wonderful for me to be one of the inventors of this culture and to be able to see today’s culture; I just came out of a meeting just now with a large touring company overseas that wants me to play with the EDM DJs, which is going to be a wonderful thing.” Watch this space, because Flash’s party is clearly just getting started.
Broncho helped keep Austin weird
Opening for the above-mentioned Hanson at an Oklahoman showcase, Norman, Oklahoma’s own garage-punks Broncho brought their unique brand of nervy, nerdy, itchy, twitchy agitpop to the Bungalow club on Rainey Street. These guys almost made fellow Norman heroes the Flaming Lips look normal.
Let’s East Grandma made Austin even weirder
The Shining twins-like U.K. teen duo of Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth brought their sublimely creepy/girly/minimalist chamber-electro-goth-hop (think Björk and Kate Bush at their weirdest; now multiply that weirdness times infinity and beyond), along with some impressive hairography, to their late-night show at the Blackheart. Their set was confrontational, squirm-inducingly uncomfortable… and altogether awesome. We don’t know if we will eat Grandma, per se, but we are definitely drinking this band’s Kool-Aid right now.
Bleached made a splash
These raw-rocks ragamuffins brought Cali girl-punk and all-around badassery to StubHub’s Rainey Street HQ, with a bold garage-rock sound that owed as much to the Spectorian girl groups of yesteryear as it did to the Runaways and Ramones.