The Toast of Texas
With CDs in their hands and a song in their hearts, our local favorites head South By Southwest
America has lost a lot lately: Circuit City, the Rocky Mountain News, millions of jobs, Stargate Atlantis. Yet some sacred institutions remain, like annual music-industry festival/conference South By Southwest, where buying a ticket at the door will cost you anywhere from $325 for a film-only “Student Badge” to $1,145 for an all-access, second mortgage-demanding “Platinum Badge.”
It’s also still just about the best chance for young bands to get noticed by highfalutin industry types, and during March 18 to 22, a gaggle of Orange County and Long Beach acts will be in Austin, plying their wares in hopes of impressing the right people.
This raucous Fullerton quartet haven’t let the prospect of imminent international exposure go to their heads—their SXSW gigs, like Thursday’s Blackout Booking showcase, are listed on their MySpace alongside several house parties they’re playing at in the near future (the venues are listed as “dudes house”). Audacity proudly embrace the rough edges of old-school punk and released their Power Drowning album last year on Anaheim-based indie Burger Records.
The Long Beach duo of Elvin Estela (known musically by the humble moniker of “Nobody”) and Niki Randa produce spacey pop with a splash of trip-hop. They will be part of the LA Record’s Thursday showcase with fellow SoCal standouts Castledoor, the Henry Clay People, Very Be Careful, Busdriver and Blu. Blank Blue’s Western Water Music Vol. II, released on Ubiquity Records, won the lofty prize of being OC Weekly’s Best Album of the Past 12 Months last year.
COLD WAR KIDS
At each SXSW, among the slew of relatively unknown artists are some bands that are more established and some that are downright huge; last year, R.E.M. and Van Morrison played, and Tori Amos is scheduled for this year. So seeing Cold War Kids (formerly of Fullerton, now of Long Beach) on this list shouldn’t be shocking, despite their mainstream popularity. They’re playing Thursday on a bill with similarly successful singer/songwriter M. Ward.
The past 12 months or so have been kind to Crystal Antlers: Their EP got lavish praise from notoriously grouchy Pitchfork Media, they were signed to Chicago’s Touch and Go Records (the former home of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV On the Radio), and they are on the verge of releasing their first full-length, Tentacles, in stores on April 7. So an SXSW appearance seems almost obligatory at this point for the thrash-happy Long Beachers.
ROCCO DELUCA & THE BURDEN
One of their main goals at this point, at SXSW or otherwise, has to do with no longer being solely known as the band that was managed by Kiefer Sutherland and appeared in the documentary I Trust You to Kill Me. Mentioning that in this write-up probably doesn’t help, but at least they probably know a thing or two about getting information out of terrorists.
Huntington Beach’s Dirty Heads are a good deal more playful than many of the super-serious indie rockers to be found at SXSW. Specializing in the type of white-boy reggae/hip-hop/rock that is familiar to Sublime or 311 fans and feels a bit like a vestige of a bygone era, they released their debut album, Any Port In a Storm, last fall.
As a piano pop singer/songwriter from Lake Forest, in the vein of the Vanessa Carltons of the world, Sara Haze generates music that would fit in nicely at Starbucks or in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. On her song “Lovely,” she asks, “Am I supposed to give up everything I am just to make you happy?” No way, sister.
Like Crystal Antlers, Japanese Motors are also riding a wave of recent successes—which brings us to the obligatory apology for using that cliché, seeing as how this Costa Mesa crew not only boast surf-rock undertones, but they’re also fronted by professional surfer Alex Knost. They’re on a hip label (Vice Records), and both bands appeared at last fall’s CMJ Music Marathon, sort of an East Coast SXSW. “Single Fins & Safety Pins,” the lead single from their debut full-length, has gotten play on Sirius XM Satellite Radio.
The members of Local Natives recently moved to oh-so-trendy Silver Lake, but their hometown on SXSW’s website is listed as Orange, and they still play shows regularly here, so we can claim them. They’ve got an unreasonably busy schedule planned for Austin, with eight gigs slated, including a benefit on Wednesday with the Union Line, who still live in Orange County, and an “official” showcase late Thursday night.
MAGIC LANTERN/SUN ARAW
Cameron Stallones will also be busy at SXSW, given the double duty he’ll be performing as guitarist for psychedelic/experimental Long Beach troupe Magic Lantern and for his solo project Sun Araw, which released The Phynx last year to positive reviews. Schedulers made it pretty easy on the guy, though, as Sun Araw is playing the same show as Magic Lantern on March 20, the Not Not Fun showcase (that’s the name of a record label, not an assessment of the gig’s potential quality).
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Sure, Anaheim’s the Willowz have worked with visionary genius Michel Gondry—he directed their “I Wonder” video and used their songs in his films Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep—but what have they been up to lately? Showing off new stuff is probably a motivation behind their SXSW appearance, given that their last album came out in 2007.
Peruse the full lineup—more than 1,000 bands!—at www.sxsw.com.