It's the week before the South by Southwest music conference and festival in Austin, and we all know what that means: It's time once again for our own West by Southwest music festival (WXSW), which, though utterly confusing, is also massively awesome.
For newbies and the generally clueless, here's the deal: WXSW shows take place at three venues--Plush, Club Congress and Solar Culture Gallery--in two separate stretches: Sunday, March 15, through Tuesday, March 17, then again Sunday, March, 22, through Wednesday, March 25. (Note: Solar Culture is participating only in Week 2 of the event.) You can get into any single show for $8; you can pay by the week--the 15th through the 17th or the 22nd through the 25th--for $10; or you can get access to the entire schedule, at all three venues, for $15. It's a screamin' bargain, especially if you take advantage of the whole multiple-show-entry thing.
You may know some of the bands playing WXSW, and you probably have never heard of others. I would urge attendees to see some of the former, sure, but also to check out some of the latter: You never know what you might discover along the way. (Bon Iver, the indie darling who made just about every critic's Top 10 list for 2008, played second on a four-act bill at last's year's fest.)
Week 2's schedule will appear next week, but for now, here's a rundown of Week One of WXSW:
Week 1, Day 1: Sunday, March 15 (all acts in ascending order of appearance):
Plush: Seattle-based Telekinesis, who are about to release their fantastic debut album on Merge, play infectious, breezy, hook-laden indie pop-rock (8:30 p.m.); formerly known as Say Hi to Your Mom, Seattle's Say Hi (aka Eric Elbogen and whatever pals he's got on tour with him) should appeal to Tucsonans, as last year, they released an album of ruminative indie pop songs, each one about vampires (9:30 p.m.); San Diego's Rafter Roberts, who records for Barsuk as just plain Rafter, tinkers with instruments and gadgets to arrive at a constantly shifting sound that ranges from thoughtful electronic pop to dance-funk jams (10:30 p.m.); you can read all about Viva Voce in Annie Holub's feature article this week (11:30 p.m.).
Week 1, Day 2: Monday, March 16:
Club Congress: In a recent Weekly review of her latest album, To Be Still (2009, Rough Trade), Sean Bottai wrote that Alela Diane "trades in warm, cascading ballads that resonate more as anachronisms than innovations, transporting you back to early 20th-century Americana rather than forward to some distorted moment where folk bleeds into other genres" (7:30 p.m.); slated to appear on Last Call With Carson Daly tonight, Thursday, March 12, San Diego's Delta Spirit play an uplifiting, ebullient, gospel-inspired brand of indie-rock accompanied by a frenzied live show (8:30 p.m.); Elvis Perkins in Dearland's relatively raucous, new, self-titled album is reviewed in this week's Rhythm and Views, but let me just add this to what Jarret Keene wrote: It's one of the best albums I've heard so far this year, and should make any singer-songwriter want to hang up his or her acoustic guitar. To wit, from opening song "Shampoo": "Yellow is the color of my true love's crossbow / Yellow is the color of the sun / Black is the color of a strangled rainbow / Just the color of my loss / Black is the color of my true love's arrow / Just the color of human blood" (9:30 p.m.). Show attendees are welcome to stick around for '80s dance night, which begins at 11 p.m.
Plush: Like those of Carole King or Rufus Wainwright, the songs of Secretly Canadian artist Richard Swift hearken back to the age when Tin Pan Alley gave way to singer-songwriters, though they use modern technology (and vintage synths) to get there (9:30 p.m.); Santa Cruz, Calif.-based The Devil Makes Three play modern-primitive country-folk tunes with a punk heart and energy using banjo, guitar and double bass (10:30 p.m.); former frontman for the late, great Grandaddy, Jason Lytle will preview songs from his debut solo album, Yours Truly, the Commuter, which will be released on ANTI- in May (11:30 p.m.).
Week 1, Day 3, Tuesday, March 17:
Club Congress: Los Angeles co-ed trio Gliss are purveyors of sexy tunes centered around droning, fuzzed-out, shoegazing guitars (9:30 p.m.); former buskers The Blakes bust out a gritty, bass-driven, sleazy blues-rock jam one minute, and a '60s psych-pop-inspired tune the next (10:30 p.m.); reportedly one of the highlights of last year's HoCo Fest, Fullerton, Calif.'s unique Dusty Rhodes and the River Band take inspiration from '70s country rock, the bluesy British rock of the Animals and, yes, the prog rock of the 1970s, too (11:30 p.m.).
Plush: As a South by Southwest co-sponsor, each year, the Weekly gets to pick a band (albeit from a short list supplied to us by SXSW organizers) to represent Tucson with an official showcase in Austin. This year, that band is ... music video?, whose dreamy, glitchy, indie electronic pop is just waiting to be discovered (9:30 p.m.); with a self-titled debut album set to drop later this month on Saddle Creek, O+S, which consists of Orenda Fink (Azure Ray) and Scalpelist (aka Cedric LeMoyne of Remy Zero), are all about dreamy electronic soundscapes and Fink's lovely, ethereal vocals (10:30 p.m.); co-ed Californians Great Northern are similarly dreamy, but keep a foot firmly in the door of poppy rock 'n' roll, too (11:30 p.m.).
So, yeah--all of that for a 10-spot. Or tack on $5 and get entry to a similarly great run of shows next week, too. Lucky you!
Plush is located at 340 E. Sixth St., and can by reached by calling 798-1298. Club Congress is at 311 E. Congress St., and its number is 622-8848.
L.A.'s The Mae Shi, who now count among their ranks former Tucsonan and Bark Bark Bark frontman Jacob Cooper, North and Wonderful Stories perform an all-ages show at 9 p.m., Sunday, March 15, at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave. $8; 884-0874.
The Birthday Suits, Ultramaroon, Fugitive Kind, Lenguas Largas (which includes Isaac from Shark Pants and Weekly contributor Mark Beef), the palindromic TacocaT and Forever play an all-ages show at 8 p.m., Monday, March 16, at Bsnsns Sawmills, 657 W. St. Mary's Road, No. C7. $5; more info at myspace.com/bsnsnssawmills.
Perhaps best known as a drum 'n' bass act, on their latest album, In Silico (2008, Atlantic), U.K.-via-Australia's Pendulum merge electronic elements with '70s-era classic rock. They'll perform an all-ages show at The Rock, 136 N. Park Ave., on Sunday, March 15. Corbin Dooley and DJ Whiteboi open at 9 p.m. $22 advance via Ticketmaster, $25 at the door; 629-9211.
In what they're envisioning as the first in a series of live, all-ages, local, Latin dance nights, on Saturday, March 14, the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., will host Sergio Mendoza y la Orkesta, the new Perez Prado-inspired outfit that includes Salvador Duran as well as the namesake frontman; salsa from Descarga; and Latin jazz from Manteca. 8 p.m. $10; 740-1000.