Austin360 On The Record: Patricia Vonne, Brownout, more

Patricia Vonne celebrates the release of her new album on Saturday at the Continental Club. Contributed/Mark Guerra


Patricia Vonne, “Top of the Mountain” (Bandolera). The seventh album from the Austin-based native of San Antonio draws upon the full range of her artistic ambitions and musical inclinations. A strong singer with a flair for the dramatic, Vonne consistently delivers memorable vocal performances here, on material that ranges from hard-driving rock ’n’ roll (“City Is Alive”) to midtempo melodicism (the title track) to the more folk-oriented Spanish-language excursions “Madre de Perla” and “Cancion de la Boda.” Vonne wrote or co-wrote all dozen tracks, working with an impressive cast of collaborators such as Alejandro Escovedo, Joe King Carrasco and her longtime guitarist Robert LaRoche. Ace local producers Rick Del Castillo and Michael Ramos helped assemble an A-list supporting cast including guitarists LaRoche and David Grissom, bajo sexto master Max Baca, violinist David Perales, bassists Scott Garber and Greg Gonzales, and drummers Hector Munoz and Dony Wynn. Release show May 26 at Continental Club. Here’s the video for “Tidal Wave”:

Brownout, “Fear of a Brown Planet” (Fat Beats). The American-Statesman’s Deborah Sengupta Stith writes: “Roughly a year after the 10-piece funk powerhouse hung up their Brown Sabbath-era devil horns and declared themselves “Over the Covers” with an EP of original material, they’re back to reimagining the classics. This time, they take on your favorite Public Enemy jams, including “Fight the Power,” “911 Is a Joke” and “Don’t Believe the Hype,” with muscular, horn-heavy interpretations that throw down the psychedelic funk vibe you never knew these tracks were missing.” Release show June 2 at Mohawk outdoor. Here’s “Fight the Power”:

Christina Cavazos, “Mile Marker” EP. Still a high school student when she released two previous EPs in 2016 and 2017, Cavazos is now 18 and heading to college in New York this fall. “Mile Marker,” recorded locally with producer Charlie Magnone, further attests to her potential as a singer-songwriter, and she branches out beyond the acoustic base of her previous work with a couple of more electric, rock-influenced arrangements. Still, it’s the quieter, string-enhanced title track that’s the most enchanting of these six songs. Release show May 23 at Sahara Lounge. Here’s the track “Fire”:

Carry Illinois, “Work in Progress” EP. On their second EP in as many years following 2015’s full-length “Alabaster,” singer-songwriter Lizzy Lehman’s indie-rock/pop outfit strikes mood-heavy tones on a short set of songs dealing in part with the 2016 suicide of the band’s original bassist, John Winsor. She tackles her feelings head-on in “Runaway,” the album’s most instantly arresting track, singing “I know it’s no good to run away.” Guitarist Darwin Smith, drummer Rudy Villarreal, bassist Andrew Pressman and keyboardist Benjamin Rowe Violet provide inventive and empathetic support throughout. Release show May 25 at Cheer Up Charlie’s. Here’s the track “Runaway”:

Christeene, “Basura.” Second album from the avant garde artist known for envelope-pushing and often controversial videos. In-store May 24 at Waterloo Records.


  • JUNE 1: Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore, “Downey to Lubbock,” release show June 2 at Antone’s.
  • JUNE 1: Sam Pace & the Gilded Grit, “Judgment Eve,” release show June 2 at Swan Dive.
  • JUNE 1: Hooka Hey, “War Cry,” release show May 31 at Sidewinder.
  • JUNE 1: Zack Varner, “Blues in the Nude.”
  • JUNE 8: Jesse Dayton, “The Outsider” (Blue Elan).
  • JUNE 8: Sarah Sharp, “Dream” EP, playing May 23 at Guero’s.
  • JUNE 15: Tish Hinojosa, “West,” playing June 8 at One World Theatre.
  • JUNE 15: Half Man, “Room to Grow.”
  • JUNE 22: Giulia Millanta, “Conversation With a Ghost” (Ugly Cat).
  • JUNE 22: Young Mothers, “Morose” (Self Sabotage).
  • JUNE 29: Cody Canada & the Departed, “3” (Underground Sound).
  • JULY 3: Kinky Friedman, “Circus of Life.”
  • JULY 13: Jimmy LaFave, “Peace Town.”
  • JULY 20: Belle Sounds, “The Sea Within,” release show July 21 at One-2-One Bar.
  • JULY 27: Israel Nash, “Lifted.”
  • AUG. 3: Kevin Galloway, “The Change” (Nine Mile).
  • AUG. 24: White Denim, “Performance” (City Slang).
  • SEPT. 21: Western Youth, self-titled.
  • SEPT. 21: Jonathon Zemek, “Hillcrest.”

READ MORE: Check out all our recent Austin360 On The Record roundups

Get the blues while it’s hot: July brings the Antone’s anniversary bash

Walter “Wolfman” Washington helps kick off the monthlong Antone’s anniversary celebration on June 30. Contributed/Greg Miles/Anti- Records

Summer’s almost here, and that means just one thing at Austin’s home of the blues: A monthlong blowout bash to celebrate the storied venue’s anniversary.

This year marks 43 years since the club opened at Sixth and Brazos streets in 1975. Whether it’s actually the 43rd anniversary depends on whether or not you count the club’s two-year hibernation in 2014-15. Regardless, it’s been important to Austin’s reputation as a music mecca to have Antone’s back in action, at a new location just a couple of blocks from where it all began.

READ MORE: Antone’s brings the blues back home to downtown Austin

Highlights include New Orleans Night on June 30 with Walter “Wolfman” Washington and more; C.C. Adcock leading a Southwest Louisiana swamp night on July 6; that “Blues Brothers” movie star Matt “Guitar” Murphy heading up Chicago Night on July 7; a July 12 show featuring guitar great Jimmie Vaughan with his Tilt-A-Whirl Band; and an intriguing stylistic addition on July 13 with Houston hip-hop luminary Bun B, a native of club founder Clifford Antone’s hometown of Port Arthur.

Tickets to all shows go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday via the venue’s website. Here’s the full schedule:

  • June 29: Opening Night with Carolyn Wonderland, Jackie Venson, Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry
  • June 30: Early: Augie Meyers with Westside Horns, Jack Barber, Ernie Durawa & Murali Coryell / Late: New Orleans Night with Walter “Wolfman” Washington & the Roadmasters, New Breed Brass Band
  • July 3: Peterson Brothers
  • July 6: Early: “The Wild Jalapeno” Frank Rodarte y Los Chosen Vatos / Late: SW Louisiana Swampede with CC Adcock, Tommy McLain, Lil Buck Sinegal & Lee Allen Zeno
  • July 7: Chicago Night with Matt “Guitar” Murphy, Billy Boy Arnold, Bob Stroger, Bob Margolin, Carl Weathersby & Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith
  • July 8: Miss Lavelle White’s 89th Birthday with WC Clark, Guy Forsyth & Very Special Guests
  • July 9: Ilse’s Birthday Party & Ultimate Blue Monday with Derek O’Brien, Marcia Ball, Malford Milligan, Chris Layton, Jai Malano, Julia Magness, Alan Haynes, James Bullard & Special Guests
  • July 10: Sue Foley Band, Lou Ann Barton, Barbara Lynn
  • July 11: Cliff’s Kids Reunion with Eve Monsees & Friends
  • July 12: Jimmie Vaughan & the Tilt-A-Whirl Band
  • July 13: Bun B
  • July 14: Early: Johnny Nicholas / Late: Big Bill Morganfield, Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater
  • July 20: Los Texmaniacs featuring Flaco Jimenez & Augie Meyers, Roy Head
  • July 21: Early: Paul Oscher / Late: CJ Chenier & the Red Hot Louisana Band, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram
  • July 28: Closing Night with Bob Schneider
Miss Lavelle White celebrates her 89th birthday as part of the monthlong Antone’s anniversary celebration in July. TAMIR KALIFA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Weekend music picks: Little Steven, Steely Dan, Cupcakke, more

Friday: Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul at Paramount Theatre. A member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for his long tenure in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, the guitarist born Steven Van Zandt has been known as Little Steven, Miami Steve and, on “The Sopranos,” Silvio. Nowadays he might be most widely heard on “Underground Garage,” a syndicated radio program and Sirius XM satellite channel. He’s still making his own music, though, with a new album titled “Soulfire” that came out last year. (It’s not named for him, but we wonder if he’ll be staying at the Hotel Van Zandt.) $25-$35. 8 p.m. 713 Congress Ave. — P.B.

Friday: Sa-Roc at Empire Control Room. The self-described Goddess MC from the Rhymesayers crew tackles heavy themes such as spiritual evolution and social injustice with powerful lyricism laid over soulful grooves. Her new single, “Forever,” is the flip-side of Beyonce’s “Flawless,” a self-love anthem that refuses to deny the struggle. She opens up about eating disorders and episodes of self-harm while encouraging the listener to never let the scars stop you from shining bright. $10-$15. 9 p.m. doors. 606 E. Seventh St. — D.S.S.

Saturday-Sunday: Lone Star Jam at Travis County Exposition Center. Taking over the Rodeo Austin grounds, this annual Texas-country, weekend-long throwdown gathers many of the top draws on the regional roadhouse circuit. Saturday’s lineup features Gary Allan, Reckless Kelly, Stoney LaRue, Roger Creager, Flatland Cavalry, Charlie Robison, Dalton Domino, Kody West, Randall King and Drugstore Gypsies; on Sunday, it’s the Randy Rogers Band, Casey Donahew, Kevin Fowler, William Clark Green, Parker McCollum, Kyle Park, Mike & the Moonpies, Read Southall, Troy Cartwright and Grant Gilbert. $40 each day, or $70 for two-day pass. Noon to 11 p.m. 7311 Decker Lane. — P.B.

Saturday: Cupcakke at Empire. 20-year-old Chicago rapper Cupcakke, who attended the same Southside elementary school as drill king Chief Keef, is best known for her gleefully obscene sex raps and her freaky stage shows. But on her 2017 album “Queen Elizabitch,” and this year’s “Ephorize,” she deftly tackles a range of subjects — the cycle of violence and poverty that is savaging her city, body issues, relationships and the LGBT community that has embraced her from the beginning — with astonishing lyricism and skill. $18. 9 p.m. 606 E. Seventh St. — D.S.S.

Saturday: Blackillac at Barracuda. The new hip-hop crew featuring production and vocals from Gary Clark Jr. and bars by Zeale and Phranchyze debuted in February, but this is a project that’s been waiting to happen for well over a decade, since the three longtime friends were aspiring artists at Austin High. Sonically, the group covers a broad swath of territory, playing a mix of soulful love jams with catchy hooks, bass heavy club-bangers and “blaze one in the air” stoner rallying cries. This performance, part of the Hot Luck food and music festival, will be their first show in Austin with a live band, which should take the steady-building hype around the group up to the next level. Blood Pumps open. $15. 8 p.m. doors. 611 E. Seventh St. — D.S.S.

Saturday: Red Baraat at 3Ten. NOLA brass band meets Bollywood dance party in the best only-in-America sonic mashup you can ask for. Austin singer Jai Malano opens. $20. 8:30 p.m. 310 Willie Nelson Blvd. — D.S.S.

Sunday: Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers at Austin360 Amphitheater. The death of Walter Becker last year means that Steely Dan is now steered only by co-founder Donald Fagen. But the songs they wrote together are a lasting legacy, and Fagen’s distinctive vocals are central enough to the band’s big hits that longtime fans likely will want to be there. The Doobies are sort of the flip side of the equation, missing showcase singer Michael McDonald; but the group had racked up hits before he’d joined the band, and they’ve proven plenty capable of pulling off a quality opening set on previous Austin visits in recent years. $35-$149.50. 7:30 p.m. 9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd. — P.B.

Patricia Vonne celebrates the release of her new album on Saturday at the Continental Club with Joe King Carrasco. Contributed/Mark Guerra



  • Mike Flanigin Trio with Jimmie Vaughan & George Rains at C-Boy’s




READ MORE: Check out our guide to 200-plus summer music events

Ludacris to play Rallycross event at Circuit of the Americas this fall

Ludacris will perform at the World Rallycross Championship at Circuit of the Americas on Sept. 29. Contributed/Arnold Wells

Multimillion-selling and Grammy-winning rapper Ludacris will perform Sept. 29 at Circuit of the Americas as part of the two-day FIA World Rallycross Championship event at Circuit of the Americas.

Tickets, $30-$69, are on sale now via the World RX of USA website. The event, the first-ever World Rallycross stop in the United States, runs Sept. 29-30.

The Atlanta musician and actor’s last album, “Ludaversal,” came out in 2015. Earlier this year he appeared on the crossover single “The Champion” with country singer Carrie Underwood. He was part of Rodeo Austin’s music program this past March, and appeared at South By Southwest in 2015 and 2014.

RELATED: Check out our guide to 200-plus summer music events


John Prine at Waterloo Records? It’s happening, on June 4

John Prine has added a June 4 Waterloo Records in-store to his Austin itinerary for next month. Contributed/John Kurc

Legendary songwriter John Prine already had two local appearances on the books for next month: June 5, taping “Austin City Limits” at ACL Live, and June 30, playing Bass Concert Hall. Now he’s added a third, significantly more intimate gig: He’ll do a 2 p.m. in-store at Waterloo Records on June 4.

READ MORE: John Prine to play Bass Concert Hall on June 30

How to get in? Go to Waterloo and purchase Prine’s new album, “The Tree of Forgiveness,” which came out last month and quickly topped the folk charts. They’ll give you a wristband that gives you priority entry to the event. (It doesn’t guarantee admission; those with wristbands will get in first, until the store reaches capacity.)

Oh, and this additional detail from the store’s announcement: :Did you already buy the CD or LP from Waterloo Records? Cool! Just bring it by the store to get your wristband.” (A receipt was not mentioned, but it might be a good idea to bring that too if you have it.)

RELATED: John Prine among artists taping “Austin City Limits” in June

We’re betting Prine will do a little shopping while he’s there — much like David Crosby did when he stopped in on Monday afternoon this week before his Tuesday show at the Paramount Theatre. There appears to be truth to the rumor that his purchases included four David Crosby albums. (No word on whether any Stills, Nash or Young records were part of his haul.)

READ MORE: Check out our guide to 200-plus summer music events

That’s not brisket, that’s Grizzly Bear: Brooklyn band to play at Stubb’s

Grizzly Bear will play the outdoor stage at Stubb’s on Sept. 12. Robert Hein for American-Statesman

Brooklyn indie-rock band Grizzly Bear, whose 2017 album “Painted Ruins” reached the top-5 of the Billboard rock albums chart, will play the outdoor stage at Stubb’s on Sept. 12.

Tickets, $46-$51, go on sale at 10 a.m. Tuesday, May 22, via the venue’s website.

The band had been booked as a headliner of Sound on Sound Fest east of Austin last fall before that event was canceled. The group’s Austin appearance was re-booked for Nov. 10 at ACL Live.

READ MORE: Our review of Grizzly Bear at ACL Live in November 2017

ALSO: Check out our big list of 200-plus summer music events in Austin

Emmylou Harris takes the long view of a storied career in first of two Paramount nights

Emmylou Harris performed at the Paramount on Saturday, May 19, and will return for a second show on Sunday, May 20. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman

Midway through her concert Saturday at the Paramount Theatre, Emmylou Harris made a reference to bucket lists but acknowledged hers is basically nonexistent. There’s a good reason for that, as she explained a little later: “Because I’ve been doing what I love for nigh on these 50 years.”

At 71, and refreshingly proud to acknowledge her age from the stage, Harris has indeed lived a lifetime of music that must sometimes seem like a dream. Across 22 songs on the first of two nights at the historic downtown venue, she gave a sold-out crowd some sense of that journey.

There were tunes she sang with Gram Parsons nearly a half-decade ago, plus highlights from the 1970s solo albums that found Emmylou coming into her own. She gave a nod to Texas with songs by Townes Van Zandt (“Pancho & Lefty”) and Billy Joe Shaver (“Old Five and Dimers Like Me”), plus the beautiful “Love and Happiness” co-written with Austin’s Kimmie Rhodes. And she turned frequently to the significant catalog she’s amassed as a songwriter in her later years with albums such as “Red Dirt Girl,” “Stumble Into Grace” and “Hard Bargain.”

The wide-career overview also allowed for an appreciation of the many sounds and styles Harris has brought into her own identity as a musician. Those early country-rock explorations with Parsons were readily apparent on “Luxury Liner” and “Wheels,” but Harris never allowed herself to be typecast or tied to any one genre. The more mystical work with Daniel Lanois and Malcolm Burn a couple of decades ago got plenty of play, from her rendition of Anna McGarrigle’s “Goin’ Back to Harlan” to her own mesmerizing “Michelangelo.” And a sterling solo performance of the exquisite “Prayer in Open D,” from her 1993 album “Cowgirl’s Prayer,” showed how moving Harris’s music can be when it’s reduced to just her voice and an acoustic guitar.

When she spoke between songs, the spirit was conversational. Harris treated the audience like old friends, even specifically saying as much when she asked for forgiveness after halting the bluegrass burner “Get Up John” mid-intro because she’d forgotten to play “Wheels.” She prefaced her moving tribute “My Name Is Emmett Till” (from 2011’s “Hard Bargain”) by noting it had been inspired by an NPR report about the black teen lynched in 1955 Mississippi — making clear her sociopolitical standards by championing “that bastion of liberal bias called the truth.”

You can’t make music for half a century and not leave out some highlights. We’d have loved to hear the other Van Zandt song Harris is famous for, “If I Needed You,” in part because her duet partner on that 1981 hit, the late Don Williams, had played this theater several times in recent years. And it’s hard not to miss “Two More Bottles of Wine,” the tune by another Texan (Delbert McClinton) that became Harris’s first chart-topping single in 1978.

It’s possible those songs or others might get played on Sunday, as examinations of recent Harris set lists suggests she mixes things up with regularity. (To wit: Saturday’s set featured only four songs in common with her last full Austin concert, a June 2013 appearance at ACL Live.)

RELATED: Review of “Austin City Limits” 2014 Hall of Fame ceremony with Emmylou Harris, others

Harris gratefully acknowledged the support of her band with a mid-set introduction: mandolinist/fiddler Eamon McLoughlin (a former Austinite during his tenure with the Greencards), electric guitarist Will Kimbrough, keyboardist/accordionist Phil Madeira, bassist Chris Donohue and drummer Bryan Owings. Quoting Willie Nelson’s famous line about “making music with my friends,” she gave thanks for the opportunity to lead this life she’s loved. Soon she’ll be on the road again, but Sunday she’ll be back at the Paramount, for one more night in Austin.

Set list:
1. Here I Am
2. Orphan Girl
3. Love and Happiness
4. Red Dirt Girl
5. Making Believe
6. Big Black Dog
7. O Evangeline
8. Born to Run
9. My Name Is Emmett Till
10. Raise the Dead
11. Luxury Liner
12. Prayer in Open D
13. Pancho & Lefty
14. Michelangelo
15. Goin’ Back to Harlan
16. Old Five and Dimers Like Me
17. Wheels
18. Get Up John
19. Shores of White Sand
20. The Pearl
21. Bright Morning Stars
22. Boulder to Birmingham

READ MORE: Our full guide to live music in Austin this summer

Emmylou Harris and band taking a bow at the end of their concert at the Paramount Theatre on Saturday, May 20, 2018. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman

This week’s music picks: Blues on the Green, Hot Luck Fest and more

Tuesday: David Crosby at Paramount Theatre. Given that he’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it might come as a slight surprise that last year’s “Sky Trails” was just Crosby’s sixth solo album. Of course he’s best-known as a member of ensembles such as the Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash, but in his 70s he’s become surprisingly interested in expanding his own catalog, with three of those six solo records coming since 2014. Expect to hear both new tunes and old favorites at this performance with a five-piece backing band. (And yes, there appears to be truth to the rumor that Crosby stopped by Waterloo Records on Monday and purchased four David Crosby records. What, no Manassas?) $30-$70. 8 p.m. 713 Congress Ave.

Wednesday: Blues on the Green with Black Angels, Night Glitter at Zilker Park. Fresh off an in-the-clubs revival of its revered Levitation Fest, Austin psych-rock heavy-hitters the Black Angels are kicking off radio station KGSR’s massively popular series of seasonal shows in the city’s crown-jewel public park. Night Glitter, featuring Thievery Corporation touring member LouLou Ghelichkahani, opens. Three more Blues on the Green concerts will follow in June, July and August, with performers to be announced. Free. 8 p.m. (Arrive early for a 6 p.m. acoustic set from Rob Baird at the Lyft Stage, a new addition this year.) 2100 Barton Springs Road.

Wednesday: Randy Newman/Harry Nilsson tribute at Townsend. A benefit for Planned Parenthood, this salute to two of California’s finest songwriters will include Sarah Sharp, Alice Spencer, Wilson Marks, Datri Bean, Bruce Salmon, Daniel Durham and more at 7:30 p.m. ($15). Stick around for a late show at 10 p.m. with Nashville’s Ben De La Cour plus local singer-songwriters Jaimee Harris and Nichole Wagner ($10-$15). 718 Congress Ave.

Thursday: Hot Luck Festival opening night. This one’s as much about food events as concerts, especially with barbecue maestro Aaron Franklin centrally involved. But the music — a dozen events running through Sunday at a handful of downtown and east side venues — is a significant part of the allure. Kicking things off are Hot Snakes at the Mohawk ($27), Girlpool at Barracuda ($17), Con Brio at Antone’s ($17) and Texas Gentlemen at the White Horse. Check venue websites for opening acts and start times. Shows continue through the weekend with Okkervil River, DJ Questlove, Paul Cauthen, Blackillac and more. Full details and tickets are at

READ MORE: Hot Luck has food, music and a fest vibe that sets it apart

Dave Matthews Band is at Austin360 Amphitheater on Tuesday. / Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman 2015



  • Tash Sultana, Reuben Stone at Stubb’s outdoor (sold out)
  • Dale Watson, Peterson Brothers at Continental Club
  • Church on Monday Band at Continental Gallery
  • Lonelyland, Rochelle & the Sidewinders at Saxon Pub
  • Texas KGB, Reed Brothers at One-2-One Bar
  • Kelley Mickwee at Geraldine’s
  • Jazz Jam with Adrian Ruiz at Elephant Room


  • Dave Matthews Band at Austin360 Amphitheater
  • Lola Tried, Ringo Deathstarr, Duncan Fellows, Blushing at Hotel Vegas
  • Smokepurpp at Mohawk outdoor
  • Amber Mark, Demo Taped at Mohawk indoor
  • Company of Thieves, Rob Clancy at Stubb’s indoor
  • Alice Spencer at Townsend
  • Toni Price at Little Darlin’
  • Ephraim Owens, James McMurtry at Continental Gallery
  • Mike Stinson, Bonnie Montgomery at Continental Club
  • Durawa with John Arthur Martinez at El Mercado Backstage



  • Unplugged at the Grove with Dale Watson at Shady Grove
  • Sammy Brue & Pearl Charles, Flower Graves at Stubb’s indoor
  • Christeene at Waterloo Records
  • Crown City Bombers at Carousel Lounge
  • Jai Malano, Los Coast, Paul Oscher at C-Boy’s
  • Annabelle Chairlegs, Christian Brand & the Revelators, Bitter Leaves at Hotel Vegas
  • Bonnie Whitmore, Monte Warden & the Dangerous Few at Continental Gallery
  • Timberos Del Norte at Parker Jazz Club

Kendrick is king, Sza is queen, but where were ‘All the Stars’?

I only have one complaint with the Top Dawg Entertainment’s Championship Tour, which rocked the Austin360 Amphitheater on Friday night, but it’s a big one. So let’s get it out of the way up front: Kendrick Lamar and Sza performed on the same stage on the same night, roughly three months after “Black Panther” became a definitive cultural touchstone for this moment in time and they did not play the film’s hit single, “All the Stars.”

According to the fine folks at, they have been playing the song on this tour. They’ve been placing it where it belongs, near the end, as part of Kendrick’s climactic closer. But for whatever reason, they didn’t play the song on this date.

Now I get that sometimes artists change up their playlists. Sometimes you don’t get to hear your favorite song. But this is a serious omission. Like if Prince came to town on the “Purple Rain” tour and didn’t play “Purple Rain.”  I felt legitimately cheated of my experience of swaying to the soaring chorus on a beautiful spring night in Texas, which, let’s be honest, is the closest we mere mortals are going to get to Wakandan royalty.

So that was a drag.

Other than that the show was phenomenal — further proof, in case we needed any, that Kendrick Lamar is the most important hip-hop artist of his generation right now and Sza is one of the most exciting new R&B singers.

The striking visuals of a glaring red line that morphed into a menacing whir of red and blue police lights that gave way to the bold graffiti scrawl “Pulitzer Kenny” underlined the potent statement of self in set opener “DNA.” The live band in the wings put a wall of funk at his back for a neck-breaking version of “King Kunta.” We need the uprise anthem “Alright” more than ever these days, and when he brought out Zacari to guest on “Love” it was simply divine.

He dug into his back catalog to indulge his day one fans with “Swimming Pools,” “Backseat Freestyle” and “Money Trees.” Then he reminded us that “M.A.A.D. City” is easily one of the best hip-hop songs of the last decade with a ferocious live version.

The climax was “Humble.” He led the crowd into the song then dropped out and allowed a crowd of thousands of people in unison to take over. They rapped every word, capturing every breath, every nuance, a capella for several verses. It was particularly stunning when you consider that the song is only a year old. Seeing the way it’s already seeped into so many people’s lives in such a profound way made it all the more moving when he followed up with his own version. 

Sza was wonderful in her own way, too. The power in her music comes from a perfect balance of sexy swagger and raw vulnerability. Songs like “Supermodel” and “Normal Girl” ache as much as they posture. She introduced the latter by shouting out the awkward girls, saying, “If that awkward (expletive) is real, you just have to live it.”

She’s so charming and genuine, it’s a joy to watch her inhabit her work.  And she was effusive in her love for Austin, a city she credits with launching her career, saying she was signed by Top Dawg Entertainment after performing at South by Southwest.

“Thank you for having me and thank you for being my birthplace,” she said after closing her set with a steamy version of “Weekend.”

Overall, it was a beautiful night. Undoubtedly, we witnessed the current generation of hip-hop greats. We just wish there had been a few more stars.  



UPDATE: Empire owner, Sidewinder crew hope to reopen club

The Sidewinder has closed and will likely reopen as a new club, Stephen Sternschein, owner of Empire Control Room and Garage, confirmed Friday afternoon. The news of the club’s closing was first reported in the Austin Chronicle.

Arrow de Wilde of Starcrawler performs at the Secret Sounds party at Sidewinder during SXSW on Wednesday March 14, 2018. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“My partners and I are working on securing a lease for the space from the landlord, and of course we want to keep it a music venue,” Sternschein said.

Sternschein says the new venue team hoped to come to terms with the landlord without closing, but “because of the code issues (which need to be addressed before any new business could operate in there), it’s a complicated deal and taking a lot of work to get across the finish line.”

The Red River Cultural District club opened in the space formerly occupied by the Red Eyed Fly in late 2015 and rapidly became a haven for emerging artists, presenting shows by locals and touring artists on two stages. Graham Williams’ company Margin Walker Presents regularly booked shows in the venue, and John Wickham, who owns neighboring club Elysium, is a principal owner. Wickham and Sternschein are working together on the new venture.

The Chronicle traces the beginning of the end for the Sidewinder to a load reduction that dropped the club’s capacity on the outdoor stage from 238 to 49 during the South by Southwest Music Festival. Many music venues rely on an influx of cash in March to float them through slower months.

The Sidewinder’s liquor sales for March 2018 were $50,018, down from $88,088 in 2017 and $76,001 in 2016, as reported to the Texas comptroller.

“According to Wickham, the reduced occupancy came as a result of city staff’s reinterpretation of what are considered exits and entrances,” according to the Chronicle story.

A statement from Fire Marshal Rob Vires provided to the Statesman in March said the city had notified the club about the need for a second exit in 2016, but issued them a variance with the expectation they would make the necessary fixes.

“Although we do our best to work with all of the venues in town to ensure they can operate during SXSW, the safety of our citizens and our guests must come first. Without sufficient means of escaping the structure should it become necessary, the Austin Fire Department cannot — and frankly, will not — compromise the code, whose sole purpose is to protect patrons,” the statement said.

Vires said his team worked with the venue to increase their capacity somewhat during the festival. “However, the owner is acutely aware that a permanent solution must be implemented without exception after the conclusion of SXSW,” the statement said.

“I was not involved with the club in 2016 so I can’t speak to the accuracy of that statement from AFD, but i will say that it is challenging as a business operator to stay abreast of code changes, departmental policies, and individual preferences, and understand what to do in order to comply,” Sternschein said.

Sternschein, who also owns the Parish, which he bought on Ebay last year, said if his team can secure the new lease (the club is currently under a month-to-month lease), they will remodel the outside space to address the issue with the exits.

“It is not a lot of construction work, but it will take a few months to get permits and approvals,” Sternschein said.

“The city has been helpful in giving us the roadmap and I’m confident it will all get sorted and this story will have a happy ending,” he added.