Nothing boring about Nick Cave, Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Wednesday night at Stubb’s was all about frontperson charisma — Nick Cave’s magnetic, preacherly menace, Café Tacvba’s singer Rubén Albarrán’s indestructible grin and Yeah Yeah Yeah’s frontwoman Karen O, newly blonde and screamy as ever.
The SXSW showcase, sponsored and simulcast by NPR, opened with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
Sporting a black suit and, well, more hair than when I last saw him, Cave gesticulated and leaped and bellowed and led his way through a tight, expressionistic set.
Café Tacvba continued with its mix of Latin music, rock, ska, electronic music and, at one moment, New Kids on the Block-style full-band synchronized dance moves. It was a jarring transition from Cave’s melodrama, largely because singer Rubén Albarrán seems like one of the cheeriest, most energetic men in Austin this week. He bounded around the stage, fiddled with his long, wavy hair and generally held every Spanish-speaking audience member in the palm of his hand.
At 11 p.m., the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (singer Karen O, guitarist and keyboardist Nick Zinner, drummer Brian Chase and touring multi-instrumentalist David Pajo) bounced onstage. O’s stage persona was pure rock star, a mix of Elton John, anime character, professional wrestler and banshee (and Banshee ), and it was striking how much everyone seemed to miss it. (Their last album was released in 2009 and many people thought they were a spent bullet.)
The new material was as weird and fierce as anything in their catalog. The deeply sexy “Zero” (“try and hit the spot/ get to know it in the dark”) sent the crowd into a frenzy as did the classic ballad “Maps” and the leap-along “Heads Will Roll.” They’re back, baby.
— Joe Gross
Classic Iggy and the Stooges experienced
Iggy Pop and company rolled up to the packed Mohawk in a white van, with the front man already shirtless. He and the rest of the band — guitarist James Williamson, drummer Scott Asheton, sax player Steve Mackay and bassist Mike Watt (taking the place of the late Ron Asheton) — took the stage, and, after Iggy gave the crowd the middle finger, jumped into “Raw Power.”
Iggy thanked the crowd, introducing the band as the “slimy Stooges.” A sinister “Gimme Danger” followed, with Iggy hoisting the mic stand into the air and grabbing hands in the audience.
The new songs in the set, including “Burn,” “Gun,” “Job” and “Sex and Money,” worked just fine next to the classics, gloomy blues rock with Watt and Williamson driving forward as Iggy did what he does.
A few times, Iggy fell (not jumped) into the audience, only to be dragged back out by someone from the stage; he crawled around for “I Wanna Be Your Dog.”
After closing the set with the new “Ready to Die” and “No Fun,” Iggy, not wanting to leave the stage, beckoned the band back. They returned, offering up a bruising “Fun House,” with a huge sax solo and Iggy shrieking, then waving goodbye.
— Peter Mongillo
Golf is one of the most mentally taxing sports imaginable. It is as much a test of focus and attitude as it is a physical competition. The sport also can be incredibly rewarding, that one perfect shot a pay-off for enduring countless frustrations. Imagine wrapping your head around all of that as a 7-year-old.
Josh Greenbaum’s directorial debut as a feature filmmaker follows seven elementary school children from around the world as they prepare for the grueling junior world championships at Pinehurst. The sweet and engaging story gives a look inside the children’s lives as they juggle a relentless practice schedule with their lives at home. Each kid’s story offers a different angle to the film: there’s the middle-class African-American girl whose father has devoted much of the family’s limited resources to using golf to help give his daughter a brighter future. Another elite golfer is the brother of tennis star Anna Kournikova but still surprisingly dedicated and modest. The most touching storyline may be the mildly autistic boy who finds in golf a respite from the world.
“The Short Game” is a love letter to the beauty and pain of competition and a celebration of the spirit of childhood.
It screens again Friday at 6:30 p.m. at the Stateside.
— Matthew Odam
New sounds from the Shoes, refreshingly familiar
South By Southwest isn’t only for bleeding-edge bands seeking to stake out their turf as the Next Big Thing. Sometimes SXSW also serves as a forum for cagey veterans to reassert themselves and remind all the youngbloods that they didn’t invent the wheel.
One of those veteran groups this year is power-pop standard bearers the Shoes, who played their first touring set in 18 years on Wednesday afternoon at Molotov.
The trio — Jeff Murphy, Gary Klebe and John Murphy — chased the brass ring in the mid- and late 1970s with a string of albums that included “Heads or Tails” and 1977’s highly lauded “Black Vinyl Shoes.” Fashions evolved and time moved on, and the band settled into local legend status.
But their music — rooted in the classic sounds of the Beatles, Cheap Trick, Todd Rundgren and Big Star — still sounds (well, there’s no high-falutin’ way to say it) really great.
Songs from their latest album, “Ignition,” such as “Say It Like You Mean It” and “Hot Mess” (the greatest song the Some Girls-era Rolling Stones never cut) melded seamlessly with Shoes songs with three decades of mileage on them.
The Shoes’ music simply transcends trends and decades. Here’s hoping it’s not another 18 years before they roll around again.
— John T. Davis
Dixie Chick out on her own, sort of
For her first show ever as a solo artist, Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines was upstaged by a steel guitar duel between her father Lloyd and her producer Ben Harper on set-ending “Take It On Faith.” But instead of pouting, Natalie should’ve been mighty thankful. Her 40-minute segment at a surprisingly not full Austin City Limits Live was a bit of a dud until the scorching finale.
She’s got a powerful voice, but so does the seventh-place singer on “American Idol.”
Acts come to SXSW to show the industry that they mean business, but on Wednesday night Maines was timid, tentative on mid-tempo opener “Without You,” from her May 7 release “Mother.” She didn’t really snap out of the lull until about the fifth song and seemed to finally find herself when the set was almost over. If she was an unknown and not the notorious leader of the best-selling and fastest-falling country group of all time, she would’ve been just another singer for a rock band.
— Michael Corcoran
A rap star in the making at Carson Daly show
Introducing the final act at a Wednesday night full of performances slated for broadcast on his late night show, television host Carson Daly introduced Brooklyn rapper Angel Haze by saying that although the world at large isn’t familiar with her right now, within the next year she’s destined to be a worldwide star. Moments later, the compact spitfire MC took the stage and started unleashing the hyper speed, painfully frank verses of “Werkin’ Girls” as a collective gasp rushed through Cedar Street Courtyard. The 21-year-old lyricist had every bit of their attention.
Haze (a Detroiter born Raykeea Wilson) packs her songs with defiant lines like “I’m not here to be mastered” and “Made some mistakes/I’m mature now/I know what it means to endure” and there was a feeling throughout her kinda-short set that every song is an act of catharsis.
Because of that quality as well as her Motor City beginnings there was a strong parallel to Detroit rap star Eminem, whose career-making second album was look into the gaping wounds of his psyche. The difference with Haze is that she’s an endearing personality, which makes her orders of magnitude more likable and marketable.
So even though she had to run through her song “Supreme” twice to edge her set past the half-hour mark, no one was much complaining about having the clearly gifted rapper on stage for a few minutes longer.
— Chad Swiatecki
Live from Austin, it’s Uruguay
In the South American country that has less than 4 million people, there’s something to be said about the musical talent that Uruguay is cultivating.
At Speakeasy Wednesday, the night was dedicated to a diverse sampling of Uruguayan sounds from tango to rock. And the Uruguayan pride beamed throughout the night as members of the crowd waved the country’s flag and wore soccer jerseys supporting the national team.
The Grammy-nominated Campo’s musical mix of indie pop, electronic, rock, neo-tango and neo-cumbia make for danceable grooves. Despite some microphone issues early in the set, Campo powered through and ended strong with some of the more upbeat tunes.
Veteran rockers El Cuarteto de Nos pushed the boundaries of rock, with songs that also had some hip-hop influences. The rockers had the crowd jumping, dancing and hanging on to every lyric.
— Nancy Flores