Father John Misty
I’d already had a hazy, early-Saturday-afternoon set by Father John Misty, former drummer for Fleet Foxes, aka J. Tillman, picked out as my best of the day. He’s been on a sort of one-man anti-SXSW comedy tour over the last few days, and at Hotel Vegas’s outside stage yesterday, he looked and sounded on the verge of breaking. There was his Doritos tirade from Friday, which he apologized for, but didn’t have to. Then this, between some awfully pretty acoustic songs: “This fest is like the singing Olympics. And I have failed you. I’ve played five sets and each had a hurdle. Today, that hurdle is a truck full of generators… Can you all hear that truck OK?”
But then Nas stepped on stage Saturday night at ACL Live and performed the entirety of 1994’s Illamatic—plus a new single—and I’ve never seen that venue used to better capacity. Queensbridge was projected behind him, and from “N.Y. State of Mind,” on the crowd was lit up. His set, soundtracked by DJs AZ and Pete Rock, made me remember just how singular the album was at the time. I guess what I’m saying is: Can someone please get these two on a summer tour together?
Glossary – Jovita’s
Glossary is a five-piece band in which one of the guitarists plays steel from a small city outside of Nashville. They played Lucero’s Family Picnic showcase late Saturday, warming up earlier that afternoon at St. Louis public-radio station KDHX’s annual SXSW Twangfest party at South Austin creekside Tex-Mex music venue Jovita’s. Glossary turned out to be a good band for St. Patrick’s Day, very Thin Lizzy with a twin-guitar attack, choppy riffs and a bluesy heart. (It’s always a twin-guitar “attack.”) Singer Joey Kneiser introduced “Save Your Money for the Weekend” with “this is about trying to sleep with a Christian girl” and a gleam in his eye, but his wife Kelly was not far away on vocals and maracas. One song nipped a bit of Sheila E.’s “A Love Bizarre,” but that could have been an accident. And they had a skeleton selling merch.
My SXSW was one of memories I will treasure forever, and Donovan’s last-minute addition to the Palm Door bill on Saturday night was one that will live for like, forever. The ’60s bard, the precursor to Bowie, the guy in the car with Dylan in Don’t Look Back, the guy whose influence gets lost on this side of the pond, turned in a great solo set with complete candor and style. His voice was still impeccable; his hits sounded the same live as they do on the now-dusty slabs of vinyl sitting in so many record stores. I was standing next to the bar when I noticed the Animals’ Eric Burdon drinking wine (“spill the wine…”) listening to Donovan on his iPod, learning “Season Of The Witch” so Donovan could summon him to duet on the darkly magical wonder. Later, when Donovan covered the Kinks’ “Sunny Afternoon,” Burdon bellowed along, sending me into a wondrous garage-rock K-hole I never wanted to leave, and might not for weeks.
Though her hype cycle seems to have ebbed, Kreayshawn maintains a widely-diverse, super-devoted fanbase, which coalesced yesterday at Scoot Inn. Hundreds didn’t get in, but many were content to peer through barbed wire next to a dumpster of rotting, reeking produce, complete with fully submerged scavenger. Though her performances have often been listless —and her brash crewmate V-Nasty came off shrill—Kreayshawn has finally developed a compelling stage presence, owning her songs and bantering with the “Austin, Flexus” crowd. (Her words.) Who knows? At this rate, we might still remember who she is by this time next year.
Grupo Fantasma – The Stage on Sixth
Grupo Fantasma’s shows make fight the feeling that this might be the best band in the world, or at least the most fun; at their shows casual observers become blissed-out converts. On Saturday the funk-rock ensemble crammed nine musicians onto a small stage under a backyard tent, and put on the kind of party-rocking perfomance that can only be achieved with Latin rhythms, a three-piece horn section, and some seriously whammy’d-out guitar solos. The lyrics might be in Spanish, but this group’s endless energy and sunglassed cool spoke more than words ever could. Having seen them twice now—both times in front of hometown crowds—I’ve learned to never underestimate this group’s powers of seduction. The only thing I don’t understand is why Grupo Fantasma isn’t better known.
—Ian S. Port
Mikal Cronin – Mohawk Patio
The sheer fact that there was elbow room during Mikal Cronin’s set Saturday evening at Mohawk Patio proved to be as much a coup as the music itself. With fellow San Francisco garage rock specialist Ty Segall doubling the fuzzy crunch of Cronin’s infectious songs, the sweet-strumming, shaggy-haired frontman could be left to splay himself all over the stage with little regard for his body, but high regard for his tightly constructed pop. An answer to the sunny beach bliss question “Is it Alright” proved to be a resounding yes.
Red Bull may not have been able to outshine last year’s Thre3Style SXSW showcase, but they sure as hell tried their best. A full city block of downtown Austin was transformed into a dance party for more than 10,000 people, who were thrilled by Jazzy Jeff’s all-over-the-map mixing, the Crystal Method’s blistering techno, and Erykah Badu & the Cannabinoids’ twisted take on soul.
The night’s headliner, Z-Trip, celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by ushering things in with a little bit of House Of Pain. The Phoenix-born DJ doesn’t mix genres as much as he blends them—he’ll layer Johnny Cash’s singing over Dr. Dre’s beats, then bring in music from the other side of the pop spectrum to keep the crowd on their toes. His guest was none other than Mr. Made-You-Look himself, Nas. “Hip Hop Is Dead,” the “Apache”/”In A Gadda Da Vida”-sampling track that Nas offered up a few years ago as a call to arms to the rap game, sent the crowd over the edge. He’d just finished performing his classic album Illmatic in its entirety at the ACL Live theater, but Nas kept SXSW’s marathon spirit alive by giving the Red Bull-fueled crowd a stellar (albeit truncated) performance to close out the week.