SXSW Cheat Sheet 2010
So South by Southwest is upon us again, whereupon thousands of fledgling bands (and this year, for some reason, Stone Temple Pilots) descend upon Austin, Texas, which, shockingly enough, has enough clubs, parking lots, and seedy back rooms to accommodate them all. Often, it seems like 75 percent or more of the action that results involves NYC bands, and with good reason—sure you could save yourself the trip, but then again, the weather (and the BBQ) are liable to be a little more palatable down south. Usually, two or three bands play like 15 showcases in four days and are declared The Victors; here, let us take a few shots at predicting this year's locally derived breakout crew. Oh, and don't walk down the street squinting at everyone's nametag, trying to read it—hella gauche, dude.
Here we have the Mad Decent camp's latest sonically (and sartorially) adventurous heroine, a swaggering maneater ("half-Dominican, half-pain-in-the-ass") who uses beer cans as hair-curlers in the vibrant, lascivious clip for her Diplo-produced debut single, the "speed meringue" jam "El Tigeraso." The tune has been out for a while now, it's true, but there's no better place to unveil her next move than SXSW, loaded down as it is with bloggers who'll be both hopelessly in love and absolutely terrified.
Quoth their website: "Those who embrace Naam have the key to the door of mysteries and miracles, as Naam exists in the Divine plane and shines through to the Physical plane, bringing healing and self-renewal." In other words, fuzz bass. This psych/stoner/headbanger Brooklyn trio trucks in a righteous, heavy, pleasingly narcotic dude-ness they've flaunted at shows with fellow pulverizing-metal big shots like Priestess and Liturgy. Any tune with "Ice" or "Icey" in the title is guaranteed to be epic; great T-shirts, too. "The vast seas cannot drown Us," they insist. "The darkest caverns cannot conceal Us. We will conquer insurmountable foes. We are war, We are peace, We are time and space, We are infinite, We are Naam." Brace yourself.
His name: Johnny Shell. Hers: Jen Shag. Together, they've spent more than 10 years perfecting a delightfully blunt, gleefully scuzzy grunge-fuzz assault with the ferocity of wild animals but the sweetness of born romantics. (As a song title, "Kiss Me Harder," sums it up quite well.) Now signed to Don Giovanni (alongside fellow exhilarating basement-trashers Screaming Females), they're posed for a semi-breakout it's clear they don't particularly need: Survival is its own reward these days, as evinced by "Resilient Bastard," a particularly rousing anthem on their new Rumors in Disguise. Recently, Jen described the tune to us: "For me, it's about choosing to do something with conviction, on purpose, with joy, despite any pain and suffering, no matter how beat up you feel. It's about staying alive when you should be dead."
Sneaking onto a snoozy recent Mercury Lounge lineup of charisma-less "chillwave" wallflowers, flagrantly nerdy electro-diva MNDR dropped like a bomb, with an enormous pair of glasses, an epilepsy-inducing light show, some fantastic dance-pop jams ("Fade to Black" especially), and a bombastic, unignorable personality: "OK, seriously, you can move to this music! This is techno!" The Fader is in love with her, and rightly so: An apparent tech-head, she can build you an amp out of spare parts and then blast all manner of engrossing egghead dance-floor ephemera through it. Here's your Lady Gaga in training, if she doesn't morph into something weirder, flashier, better.
"If you're all alone/Bring over your bones," coos Andrea Estella over loping, dreamy twee-pop, her voice yipping fiercely on "bring," precociously punctuating a tune called, uh, "Dry Hump." The tunes on the young quintet's Vampires With Dreaming Kids EP (available for free at TwinSisterMusic.com) are dazzling in their woozy nonchalance—headphone music for the absent-minded, shoegaze for the barefoot. The best way to describe this is "amniotic," which is not a word often associated with Texas, but, well, chances are an ever-increasing crew of bystanders will be swooning right alongside you, so maybe they'll catch you, and vice versa. After hitting Texas, Twin Sister will schlep down to Mexico for Todd P's MtyMx fest; you oughta consider joining them. The food might be even better.
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