A broke-down tour van and a giant, impending blizzard hit Michael Kingcaid at the same time. The singer/songwriter, on tour with his Austin-based band What Made Milwaukee Famous, wasn’t fazed.
“Things have been going really well,” he said over the phone, waiting for the van to come out of surgery.
The story you’re reading is premium content from the Austin American-Statesman. Subscribers get total access to all our in-depth news, digital editions and exclusive premium content. You can also buy a 24-hour digital pass or 7-day digital pass.
Read MyStatesman.com now — 24-hour digital pass99¢ for 24-hours
Read MyStatesman.com all week — 7-day digital pass$3.99 for 7-days
Subscribe to the Statesman for as little as 33¢ per dayView Offers
For Subscribers: Register your account for digital access.Access Digital
For Subscribers: Sign in here if you have already registered your account.Sign In
3 more Central Texas standouts
Third Root: “Division is the root of all confusion.”
The lead statement, delivered by rapper Easy Lee on Third Root’s smoothly produced, deeply thought-provoking and strikingly cohesive debut album, neatly sums up the philosophical bent of the entire project. The project was born as a collaboration between Easy, half of the powerful San Antonio “Ghetto Soul” group MoJoe and Marco Cervantes, a faculty member in UTSA’s Mexican American Studies program who sometimes DJs under the name Mexican Step-Grandfather. The two, who frequently performed on shared bills, planned to do an EP, but when they began tossing around ideas for the collaboration it began to grow.
As themes began to emerge in the lyrics, it developed into to a more focused project addressing problems in “both the black and brown communities.” Communities that were packing their shows in San Antonio.
“The name Third Root comes from looking at the African presence in Latino and Mexican history, a history that’s not explored much in popular media and scholarship,” Cervantes, who raps as Mex Step, explains.
The exploration of that shared history, emerges through the music of Third Root as a potent and vital call for black and brown unity. Their music splices syrupy Southern soul together with punchy Latin horn patterns and smoothly blends it into bumping hip-hop grooves (aided in part by Austin DJ Chicken George, the group’s third permanent member).
It’s intelligent music that’s incredibly danceable, a feat in itself, but beyond that it really seems to capture a flashpoint moment in history. In the same way that Ozomatli channelled the energy of East L.A. in the mid-’90s, Third Root, bursting out on the heels of San Antonio mayor Julian Castro’s national political debut, harnesses a new energy in Texas. Black, brown and ready to get down. Together. (9:50 p.m. Thursday, Vevo TV Control Room.)
Christeene: “I’ve always been a big old gay theater kid,” Paul Soileau, the performance artist behind Christeene, explains. Soileau, a New Orleans resident who landed in Austin post-Katrina, also performs as Rebecca Havemeyer, a kind of new-money society girl who hosts faux-swanky events around town.
But there’s something about Christeene, a rough-looking cross-dressing character that Soileau says was born out of a mixture of things, including “the stress and emotions from Katrina, the basic anger of being ripped up out of your comfort zone by a damn storm.”
In the PJ Raval-directed video for African Mayonaise, Soileau’s Christeene sashays through her adopted city clad in a ratty black wig, stiletto boots and a roughly stitched rag that serves as a largely ineffective mini-dress. She talk-raps manically over a weirdly ominous but infectious electro beat. The effect, equal parts indictment of post-internet celebrity culture in America and offbeat love letter to Austin, is riveting.
The video, which includes footage from Dobie Mall, Fiesta Mart and the Scientology headquarters on the Drag, was filmed in a guerilla-style shoot that aimed to capture the energy of a Christeene live show. Also, to get in people’s faces and challenge their ideas about celebrity.
For the most part, Austin was quizically amused.
As for the energy of a Christeene live show, Soileau describes it in near-ritualistic terms, using “raw energy” multiple times.
“Christeene kind of dies for you onstage and whatever problems or happiness or sadness you whatever you bring to the room you’re going to be able to pretty much deliver it and watch it go up in flames. Whatever you need it to do.” (11 a.m. Wednesday and 9:30 p.m. Saturday in the Rollins Theatre.)
Kydd: Randell Jones a.k.a. Kydd has been living in New York for the last few months working on his new album “Greed,” which is scheduled to drop with a lead single featuring MF Doom by early summer. But the rapper, born and raised in South Austin, exemplifies our city about as well as anyone out there. His style is laid back but clear-spoken. Funky and fun.
His track “Now and Then” off the 2012 release “Sounds In My Head pt. 2,” references copious amounts of weed and alcohol and a frantic scramble to clean the janky band house. It’s pretty much the perfect Austin hip-hop party song.
“Just another day/Austin stay weird,” Kydd raps.
Jones has spent a good portion of the last couple years on the road, on tours with Yelawolf, Big Sean and the Cool Kids among others. His current relocation to NYC is primarily to reach out, to build more contacts and gain exposure, but eventually he hopes to move home.
In Jones’ mind the Austin hip-hop scene has no definitive sound.
“Really we’re just trying to get a definite look. Trying to get people to hear us,” he says.
But when he takes the stage at SXSW he plans to represent his city, “the cool accepting feel that we have here, the live music feel.” He describes his sound as “energetic, hip-hop based and funky.” In all likelihood, the Austin hip-hop sound, sounds a lot like Kydd. (10:55 p.m. Saturday at StubHub Live at Old School.)
— Deborah Sengupta Stith
More from Texas
Good Field (Austin). Finely textured pop, with frontman Paul Price’s hazy vocals and light, glowing guitar work. (9 p.m. Saturday at Javelina.)
The Tontons (Houston). Fronted by Asli Omar and her smokey vocals, the Tontons move from quick modern rock to soul to something akin to gypsy jazz, and somehow make it work. (10 p.m. Wednesday at 512.)
The Relatives (Dallas). Psychedelic funk-gospel-soul group formed in 1970 returned this year with a new album, produced by Jim Eno of Spoon. (11 p.m. Thursday at the Continental Club.)
Sons of Fathers (Austin). Americana act led by Paul Cauthen and David Beck, who add a heavy emphasis on vocals to their country. (10 p.m. Wednesday at Saxon Pub.)
Crooked Bangs (Austin). Crooked Bangs play surf-inspired punk with horror-influenced lyrics, many of which are sung in French; it’s all catchy. (Official showcase Tuesday night, check their Facebook page for several parties this week.)
What Made Milwaukee Famous at SXSW
1 a.m. Friday at Javelina.