Cheers Elephant, Daniel Bachman among bands playing SXSW 2013

The initial lineup for the 2013 South by Southwest music festival was announced today, and it ranges from buzzing UK experimental pop four-piece Alt-J to Memphis’ Star and Micey, guitar shredder Marnie Stern and reunited 60s pop purveyors The Zombies. The only band from Philadelphia proper on the lineup so far is Cheers Elephant, though Fredericksburg, VA acoustic guitar wizard Daniel Bachman is slated to perform, and he spent much of the past year living in Fishtown. Take a look at the entire lineup here.


Recap: The War on Drugs makes beer cans dance at SXSW

For their final show in a long weekend making the SXSW rounds, Philly’s The War on Drugs gave a rousing performance on The A.V. Club Showcase at Club De Ville Saturday afternoon. The hour-long set drew largely from the band’s epic 2011 release Slave Ambient, dipping back to their 2008 debut Wagonwheel Blues for “Buenos Aires Beach” and “A Needle In Your Eye #16.” Among the highlights were bassist Dave Hartley playing a trumpet through his network of delay pedals; Adam Granduciel’s invigorating vocal performance on “Come to the City”; and a moment during “Your Love is Calling My Name” where the insistent rhythm and pounding bass made empty beer cans left along the P.A. system dance. At least that’s what it looked like in the afternoon heat. Take a look at a short video below and judge for yourselves.


Recap: Bleeding Rainbow’s appearance at SXSW

If you haven’t caught Philly’s Bleeding Rainbow in concert or online over the past few months, here’s a mindblower for you: the minimal noisepop duo formerly known as Reading Rainbow (who last year expanded into a trio, then changed its name) is now a full-blown, epic-sounding indie punk foursome. In its Friday evening South by Southwest showcase at Austin’s The Iron Bear, Bleeding Rainbow delivered a raging half-hour long set of entirely new material that carried tones of Sonic Youth’s Goo and Yo La Tengo’s I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One. New drummer Greg Frantz kept a fierce backbeat while founding members Rob Garcia and Sara Everton alternated between guitar and bass, their trademark vocal harmonies floating nicely above the fray. Over on stage right, guitarist Al Creedon wailed on his guitar so intensely, part of its headstock splintered off by set’s end. I was already amped to hear the new record the band just finished working on, but this has sent it into overdrive – check out a slideshow above, read the setlist below, and experience the noise for yourselves when Bleeding Rainbow opens for Cloud Nothings at Johnny Brendas on March 30.

Get Lost
Pink Ruff
Yr Not Alone
Go Ahead
Drift Away
Inside My Head


Watch Donovan make a surprise appearance at SXSW

An unexpected addition on the final night of this year’s South by Southwest festival, 60s pop icon (and recent Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame inductee) Donovan played a surprise set at The Palm Door in downtown Austin on Saturday. Though he was not mentioned in the SXSW itinerary or on its website, an unceremonious listing of his name on the festival calendar in Friday’s Austin Chronicle drew a few hundred fans to the tiny venue: “I didn’t come to South by Southwest this year expecting to perform,” Donovan explained to the crowd. “But somebody dropped out, and they dropped me in.” His hour-long acoustic performance mixed more recent material with Donovan classics; the ecstatic audience sang along loudly to both, and Eric Burdon of The Animals joined Donovan onstage for “Season of the Witch.” Check out a photo gallery above, watch three videos from the performance below.


SXSW Dispatch: M. Ward, Tommy Stinson and more pay tribute to Big Star’s “Third”

Last night at Austin’s Paramount Theater, an all-star cast of indie / alt-rock luminaries – from M. Ward, to The Replacements’ Tommy Stinson, to Wilco’s Pat Sansone and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck – gathered to pay tribute to Big Star‘s Third, arguably the best unfinished record in rock. This was the second time a Big Star tribute has taken place at South by Southwest in recent years; the legendary power-pop / art rock band was set to reunite for the 2010 festival, but band leader Alex Chilton died suddenly just days before, prompting a troupe of his fans in the music community to convene and pay their respects in song. While that performance was spontaneous and emotional – captured in “Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me,” a documentary that screened before the performance – this one was celebratory, punctuated by a dazzling orchestra and the elegant surroundings (and acoustics) of the Paramount. The performance of the album was followed by a dip into the Big Star back catalog, including songs from the solo career of Chilton (“Bangkok”) and founding singer-guitarist Chirs Bell (“I Am The Cosmos,” “You and Your Sister”). Check out a slideshow of the tribute above, and a video of “I Am The Cosmos” below.


SXSW Dispatch: Far gone and out with The Jesus and Mary Chain (photos, setlist)

One of the more hotly attended shows at South by Southwest last night was a midnight set from Scottish noise-pop cult favorites, The Jesus and Mary Chain. They played for just under 90 minutes at The Belmont, an outdoor club in the downtown of Austin, and clusters of fans could be spotted watching the show, guerrilla-style, from the roof of the building next door. The setlist, which touches on all the group’s full-length albums, is below, and you can check out a photo slideshow above.

Head On
Far Gone and Out
Between Planets
Blues From A Gun
Teenage Lust
Cracking Up
All Things Must Pass
Some Candy Talking
Happy When It Rains
Halfway To Crazy
Just Like Honey

The Hardest Walk
Taste of Cindy
Never Understand


SXSW Dispatch: Lushlife welcomes us to Austin

Oh, hi there. Greetings from Austin, Texas. The Key is here—along with about a million billion other music folks – for the annual South by Southwest conference. And, over the next few days, we’ll bring you dispatches from the madness, beginning with a photo recap of a set by our man Raj Halder, aka Lushlife. He traveled from South Philly for the festival last week—he’s been here since the “Interactive” tech component of SXSW kicked off—and on Thursday afternoon, he played a hip hop showcase at Victory Grille, a soul food eatery slightly off the downtown grid.

To set the scene: it was about 80 and beautiful out, and the crowd was beginning to question its decision to stay indoors. Thanking them for their patience, Haldar explained “I’ve got a lot of nerdy shit going on up here,” gesturing to his array of samplers and mixers. From the opening beat of “Magnolia,” he had the room hooked, and people moved in from the wings to rock to his psychedelic sonic tapestries and mic-rocking bravado.

In the gallery above you’ll also see photos of Sacramento’s C-Plus, who played before Lushlife, and The Cranberry Show from Milwaukee who, despite the absurd name, harnessed innovative sounds, beats and rhymes to create a heady hiphop potpourri on par with Lushlife’s own.

Listen to a Key Studio Sessions performance of “Magnolia” below.


Download a new song from Streetwalkers (playing Bands In The Backyard’s SXSW kickoff at Studio 2424 tonight)

Streetwalkers occupies a great space for lovers of late-’80s/early-’90s dream pop: the Philly five-piece can drift all blissfully like Slowdive, and then wail and rumble like they’re lost in Disintegration. Below, you can download the band’s latest single, “Song Eight” (this is one group of musicians that doesn’t overthink its song titles), which was recorded this winter with versatile Philadelphia producer Jeff Zeigler. If its beguiling tones pique your interest, you can catch Streetwalkers in concert tonight—it’s playing an all-ages show at Studio 2424, sponsored by Bands In The Backyard. (BITBY’s Kyle Costill plays keys in the band.) The show is a dual fundraiser, both for the video-blog’s trek to Austin next week for South By Southwest (WXPN and The Key are co-presenting BITBY’s showcase on Thursday, March 15) and for Girls Rock Philly. The bill is jam-packed with favorites of The Key—Oh! Pears, Attia Taylor, Break it Up, The Silence Kit, Heyward Howkins, and more—and the BITBY gang will premier two new videos at the event as well. Streetwalkers plays the BITBY SXSW Kickoff tonight at Studio 2424, located at 2424 East York Street. Admission to the all-ages show is $10 at the door, music begins at 7 p.m.


The Key Studio Sessions: Lushlife

Typically when an artist pulls up at WXPN studios to record a session for the Key, the first thing I ask if they need help loading in – a handtruck, an extra set of arms, that sort of thing. When I posed this question to Philadelphia’s Raj Haldar a month ago, I got a friendly chuckle in return. “I think I’ll be fine,” he told me as he emerged from his car with a single bag of gear. Über-portability is something his psychedelic hip-hop outfit Lushlife strives for – Haldar said a goal in touring his one-man show is to be able to give an energized, compelling performance, fitting everything he needs in a single flight case. Once in the room, he set up MIDI controllers, a keyboard, a mixer, a laptop, and sleigh bells across a table and proceeded to deliver. His voice is fierce, and his presence is animated. He can turn the most nuanced bit of gear-tinkering – using drumsticks to trigger the subtly rhythmic, ethereal chimes in “Gymnopiede 1.2” into something enthralling. Below, you can download his performance – which draws largely from Lushlife’s soon-to-be released full length Plateau Vision, as well as its warmly-received 2009 release Cassette City. Tune in to XPN2 tomorrow night at 7 to hear an interview with Haldar during The Key Studio Sessions hour. Austin-bound folks can catch Lushlife at next week’s South By Southwest festival. And those back home, keep your eyes peeled for news of the record-release extravaganza Haldar is planning in Philly when Plateau Vision comes out on April 17.