Once the roaring apex of a music-marathon long weekend, the final Saturday at South by Southwest has changed dramatically from the early years. Now it’s the fading denouement for a near-fortnight of tech, film, politics, media, style, gaming, social issues… and, oh yeah, there’s music in there somewhere.
No matter. If out-of-town SXSW attendees are increasingly arriving and leaving early, Saturday still leaves a lot of options for the locals. A final free show at Auditorium Shores was built like a home-team showcase, with Roky Erickson, Shinyribs, A Giant Dog, Night Drive and Bidi Bidi Banda. But we opted for a half-dozen of the countless smaller gigs around town, some directly related to SXSW and others that weren’t. Watch the video above to follow along on our day-to-night tour, but here’s a little more about each stop.
2 p.m.: John Doe Folk Trio at Lucy’s Fried Chicken. Wait, the guy from X? Yes, the Los Angeles punk pioneer now calls Austin home, and he’s even started a new band to mark the occasion. It’s a damn good one, too, with Willie Nelson’s bassist Kevin Smith playing an acoustic upright, and veteran indie-rock drummer Cully Symington on a bare-bones kit. Lucy’s was packed to hear Doe’s still-soaring voice adapt songs from the X catalog to pared-down arrangements, with newer tunes and surprises as well (such as a Spanish-language tune he learned from the late Harry Dean Stanton). Welcome, Mr. Doe, the Live Music Capital is lucky to have you.
5:30 p.m.: Ed Miller & Rich Brotherton at Opal Divine’s South. Speaking of people (and places) we’re lucky to have, this duo has been helping local institution Opal Divine’s celebrate St. Patrick’s Day for nearly three decades now. Opal’s recently closed its Penn Field location, but they’ve opened a new South Austin spot in the bar of the Best Western Plus at I-35 and Oltorf. Following the grand-parade entrance of the Silver Thistle Pipe & Drum Corps, Miller — host of Sun Radio’s terrific “Across the Pond” show focusing on music from the British Isles — teamed up with Robert Earl Keen guitarist Brotherton for a lovely set of traditional folk tunes that went down just right with a pint of Guinness.
8 p.m.: Jaimee Harris at Driskill Victorian Room. Back on the official SXSW grid for evening showcases, we began with one of Austin’s most promising young singer-songwriters, who’s finally on the cusp of releasing a debut album that may well turn heads far beyond the region. Backed by five talented players who’ve locked in tightly to her songs thanks to valuable woodshedding at One-2-One Bar, Harris came across like a tour de force — sometimes full-throttle, other times pin-drop hushed, always engaging and leading with her innate sense of a strong melody. Honoring a recently departed young Austin musician with a sign on her guitar and speaking out in support of local organizations HAAM and the SIMS Foundation, Harris eloquently addressed the serious stuff by with a cover of Peter Case’s late-’80s classic “Put Down the Gun.”
9 p.m.: Little Mazarn at Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room. Trawling the two blocks down Sixth Street for this one was an arduous ordeal of dodging barricades and masses of partiers, but the reward was an upstairs hideaway where Lindsey Verrill and Jeff Johnston were playing some of the most fascinating music I heard all week. Thumping bass vibrations drifted up from the cacophony below, a surreal juxtaposition to the duo’s otherworldly blend of banjo, bowed saw, droning keyboards and Verrill’s vocals. The space was perfect, a small open room lined with the most comfortable chairs at any SXSW venue. Little Mazarn’s set was a perfect bookend to Monday’s Max Richter “Sleep” show at Bass Concert Hall: How grand it would have been just to line the whole room with Beautyrests and let these two play for eight hours straight as we drifted in and out of consciousness/reverie.
10 p.m.: Monte Warden & the Dangerous Few at Elephant Room. We almost didn’t want to leave that Gibson Room escapist fantasy, but a few blocks away, country mainstay Warden and his new pop-jazz ensemble were making their Elephant Room debut. Fixtures at the Continental Gallery for a couple of years now, they’ve honed their chops with a fine set of songs that Warden boasted makes them “the world’s only all-original-material cocktail music band!” The crowd gave them a boisterous stamp of approval at the end of their 40-minute set. Now it’s just a matter of how and when these songs will appear in recorded form.
11 p.m.: Knife in the Water at Lamberts. The recent resurgence of this atmospheric indie band, which last year released its first new record in 14 years, has been a nice surprise. A five-piece ensemble that supplements a guitar-bass-drums core with female backing vocals and steel guitar, Knife in the Water gradually pulls you in. Their set started unassumingly, amid chatter in the upstairs room above the venue’s barbecue restaurant. But the more they played, the more entrancing their songs became. It’s good to have them back in action.
A Postscript: Our Saturday finale didn’t fit the local theme (except that he has a memoir due out on University of Texas Press next month) but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the gorgeous acoustic chamber-folk performance North Carolina’s Chris Stamey presented at the Driskill Victorian Room at midnight. Known largely as a producer and arranger — he was the music director for Alejandro Escovedo’s annual ACL Live show this past January — Stamey has written many splendid songs across a 40-year career that intertwined with the heyday of New York’s legendary CBGB club in the 1970s. (Stamey took part in a Friday SXSW panel about the CBGB scene alongside the Talking Heads’ Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz, Television’s Richard Lloyd and others.)
Neatly sidestepping technical problems with his acoustic guitar, Stamey and his locally recruited cello/violin accompaniment wove magical spells with songs such as “Something Came Over Me,” “Lovesick Blues” and “27 Years in a Single Day.” Like Little Mazarn’s set earlier, it was a sweet moment of enchantment, right there in the heart of the cacophony.
Cut Copy can’t catch a break in Austin it seems. In October, the Australian dance act was playing a late afternoon set at ACL Fest when their sound was cut off mid-way through their set-closing biggest hit, “Lights and Music,” as part of a festival-wide Tom Petty tribute. At Lustre Pearl Saturday night, at their only honest-to-goodness SXSW show (two members played a DJ set earlier in the evening), the four-piece wrestled with persistent sound issues.
Frontman Dan Whitford was visibly upset, wincing at the piercing shrieks of feedback and knocking down his keyboard during crowd-pleaser “Hearts on Fire.” Having a seemingly amateur sound issue like egregious feedback tarnish the polish of their slick, carefully crafted electronic sound was no doubt frustrating for the guys of Cut Copy, but they played on and made the best of it, with Whitford rebounding from the apparently unfixable annoyance by focusing on pushing the crowd harder to sing and get moving.
“It’s the last night. If you’re not going to dance now, when?” Whitford asked.
Adding to the mix of sound pains was music pouring over from a neighboring Rainey Street bar. But, as with the feedback, the crowd seemed eager to forgive and focus on dancing. “SXSW is a bit of a battle of the bands sometimes. But as long as you’re on our side,” Whitford said with a smile.
Through it all, Cut Copy kept the packed crowd at Lustre Pearl moving, with hands waving in the air and voices raised shouting along the words from a short run through hits from albums In Ghost Colours, Zonoscope, and their latest, Haiku From Zero.
Maybe next time the band can undo their current streak. Fortunately, fans won’t have to wait long: Cut Copy gets a redo in Austin next Friday, March 30, at Stubb’s. Let’s hope they can find and replace the sound guy before then. (I’ll see myself out…)
Contrary to whatever cliché you may have heard, 13 was not a particularly lucky number for Hinds during their Barracuda set on Friday afternoon. First, there was the incessant feedback that’s plagued the Spanish garage pop quartet for years at SXSW. Then, of course, there was the inevitable physical deterioration that comes with playing 13 shows in a week. So, just to be safe, singer/guitarist Carlotta Cosials issued a warning at the beginning of their set.
“Before It gets awkward, just to let you know, we have some issues with the voices,” she said. Fellow singer/guitarist Ana García Perrote chimed in, “Use your imagination with sweet angels’ voices, because that is what we have.”
To which the audience collectively responded with: Girl, please. Hinds could’ve made whale noises and told knock-knock jokes onstage and the audience would’ve eaten it up. These ladies are one of the brightest buzz bands at this year’s festival, and their delightfully rough-around-the-edges set felt like a hard-earned victory lap. What’s a little hoarseness when the band members were shouting triumphantly between songs and hopping around the stage like prizefighters?
It’s easy to see why Hinds dominated SXSW this year. Cosials and Perrote flex their pop smarts with dual lead vocals that recall veteran girl groups of the late ‘90s, while their crunchy guitar leads satisfy the DIY kids who cuff their jeans two inches above their Vans SK8-Hi’s and smoke American Spirits by the pack. Cosials, Perrote and bassist Ade Martín cut rock goddess power stances and aimed their guitars into the crowd, emboldened by the throng of women jumping against the stage and singing their infectious choruses back at them.
In the end, rapturous applause overruled the sound tech’s call to end the set, and Hinds eked our one more song. All they could do was smile in exhausted, ecstatic disbelief as they garnered the loudest reaction I’ve personally witnessed all week. The members of Hinds have earned themselves a solid week of rest — and a bigger venue next time they come to town.
I’ve heard plenty of veteran SXSW-ers who bemoan the lack of rock at the festival. With hip-hop, R&B, and electronic music making up more and more of the lineup, many long for a simple drum-guitar-bass setup played loud and played fast. For these, Naked Giants are the cure for what ails. The bombastic Seattle rock trio are an absolute delight, with an energetic live show that is loud, fast, and, dare I say, the most fun to be had at a live rock show at SXSW 2018.
Despite the name, Naked Giants are clothed and of only slightly above-average human dimensions, but their presence on stage is huge, with goofy on-stage antics, high-flying moves, and serious face-melting solos. This is gnarly garage rock delivered with guitar straps worn high and tight and a seemingly endless array of effects pedals. Think: (Thee) Oh Sees or Ty Segall but firmly rooted enough in classic rock basics to appeal to your Stevie Ray Vaughan-loving mother just as well as your record crate-digging music snob pal.
The secret in their mass appeal is the live show sauce. They feel like they’re three buds who just happen to be wickedly talented musicians having a good time together on stage–as well as off stage. Early into their Little Woodrow’s show Thursday at SXSW, bassist Gianni Aiello jumped the railing and played from the sidewalk, holding his bass behind his head and thrashing about, all the while drawing delighted or concerned stares from passers by. My favorite reaction? A child in his caregiver’s arms, smiling while tightly covering his ears: an apt analogy for the Naked Giants gleeful/ear plugs-encouraged live experience. Many smilers turned the corner and walked in to watch the show. (Who needs fliers and email blasts with promotional work like that?) Meanwhile, back on stage, guitarist-vocalist Grant Mullen’s eyes rolled back in his head and his mouth hung open, looking possessed as he sanded down the fretboard with a non-stop spidering of flying fingers. Throughout it all drummer Henry LaVallee played at a frenzied pace, exhibiting superhuman stamina–even more so later during an 8-minute-or-so solo-stuffed jam.
One notable fan in attendance (or at least in the same venue) was Rory McCann–Game of Thrones’ Sandor “The Hound” Clegane.
Naked Giants played SXSW last year but returned this go-round ahead of their upcoming full-length debut, SLUFF, due out March 30.
There were two things happening at the eastern fringe of SXSW on Friday afternoon.
In the sun-splashed dirt courtyard of the Scoot Inn beer garden, the Brooklyn Bowl Family Reunion was in the final stretch of a three-day run — Erika Wennerstrom’s enormous voice on “Extraordinary Love” was swamping the place like a tsunami, drowning out pockets of disinterest.
But inside Scoot Inn proper — what was on this afternoon the “Roadie Lounge” — the star of the afternoon was a legend on a different level. Ben Dorcy, who maintained his title of “oldest living roadie” by working until the week he died at the age of 92 last September, was being celebrated with sneak peeks at a documentary 13 years in the making.
Every now and then Amy Nelson, daughter of Ben’s longtime employer Willie, would try to bring the two events together, speaking to the outside crowd of the virtues of “Lovey” — as Dorcy was known to those close to him. But still, a separation remained: The show and … backstage.
For an event honoring the original roadie, it was only natural.
It was fitting that the Scoot Inn would host — it is one of the few Austin bars old enough to encompass the legacy of Dorcy, who was born in 1925, two years before the first jukebox. After serving as gardener and valet to John Wayne, Dorcy would hit the road for 65 years with the giants of country music.
Inside the dark and cool interior of the historic bar, the first 15 minutes of the documentary: “Lovey: King of the Roadies” began with Dorcy aboard Willie’s bus, sharing a joint with his old boss and recounting stories of misbehavior and wild times. It is a professional and polished film of music legends sharing what is legendary to them. Among the many icons on screen, we don’t lose sight of who the star of this show is. There’s Dorcy, shuffling along on his cane, his countenance weathered to sharp angles. In portraits, his eyes are inscrutable. In snapshots with friends, they are alive with joy.
“He took care of all these stars with this star power,” Amy Nelson said. “And he had that same kind of star power. He could have been an actor, too. He was hanging around all these amazing people and he chose to serve them.”
Amy Nelson — there on Friday alongside her co-producers of the film, David Anderson and Lana Nelson — co-directed the film with her cousin Trevor Doyle Nelson. Her love for the man who was part of the Willie Nelson Family band, and by extension, her own family, was apparent in her conversation … and also in the years she has spent on the film.
All along, she pictured Dorcy at events like these and on the red carpet at the premiere. “It was hard to keep working on (the documentary) after he was gone,” she said. But Austin’s High Brew Coffee stepped in at that moment to help push the project forward.
Now Amy Nelson says the film is nearly complete and she hopes to have details like publishing and licensing complete in time for the fall film festival season.
Inside the Scoot Inn, Dorcy’s fellow roadies are lined up for free custom earplugs being given out this afternoon by MusiCares. Those not on barstools having their ears peered into are watching the screen as Jamey Johnson sings a cover of “Night Life.” Toward the end of the clip, Dorcy is shown in the plaza of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, when a fellow in a Batman costume sidles up to him. “Where are the drugs going?” he asks. Is it a real moment or a setup? Either way, Dorcy’s reaction is authentic: “Get away from me!” he snarls.
The room erupts in laughter. These pros know, the meek don’t survive 65 years on the road.
Dorcy was connected to Willie for many of those years, but he also worked with Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Ray Price, George Jones and Waylon Jennings, among others.
In his later years, Dorcy was connected to a similar run of “Texas music” artists: Robert Earl Keen, Pat Green, Cory Morrow, Kevin Fowler, Josh Abbott, Cody Canada and, particularly, Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen.
As it turns out, it’s no accident that Dorcy stayed on the road with the younger generation — those artists and their roadies worked together to take care of the man who had no living relatives.
“All of these fellow roadies were becoming like his sons,” Amy Nelson said. “They would network and figure out where Ben was going and where he going to work and where he was going to spend the holidays and how they were going to pay his rent.”
“It was amazing to see this brotherhood and how they came together to take care of their fellow roadie.”
It was in this spirit that Joel Schoepf (former roadie who now works for John T. Floore Country Store) and John Selman (Willie Nelson stage manager) created the Live Like Lovey foundation, to help benefit other roadies who need financial assistance.
A silent auction at the Scoot Inn on Friday, featuring items ranging from Willie-signed bandanas to original Jerry Garcia art, helped raise funds for the roundation. Looming over the auction was a huge framed movie poster for the “Lovey: KIng of the Roadies” documentary.
Before he died in September, Dorcy did see a cut of the hour and 40 minute film about his life. His judgment?
“He loved it,” Amy Nelson said. “After 20 minutes, he was like ‘I like it.’ And when it was over he said, ‘I love it.’”
Austin’s own less-grumpy Ryan Adams Alejandro Rose-Garcia (a.k.a. Shakey Graves) took to the SXSW Outdoor Stage at Auditorium Shores as to the sun began to set on SXSW Music Friday. In a sleeves-rolled-up red flannel shirt andMeow Wolf baseball cap, the gentleman from Austin is nearly a living, breathing physical manifestation of the town as it aspires to be: a little country/a lot rock, polished and cool but welcoming and warm.
Rose-Garcia and his band opened with new single “Counting Sheep” and followed it with a set of mostly new material from the upcoming album, Can’t Wake Up, due out in May.
Shakey Graves’ new sound skews more barroom-ready blues rock than dusty Americana stompers and just feels bigger. Or maybe it was the setting: Watching Rose-Garcia play the sun down with the downtown Austin skyline behind him felt like an epic moment for the hometown hero.
Halfway through the 45-minute set, Shakey Graves shed the band for just his guitar and signature double-pedalled kick drum/tambourine suitcase contraption (remember: machines will take all our jobs–even yours, percussionists), starting with new song “Kids These Days” and later closing with the muted picking and plucking of pounding hit “Roll the Bones.”
“Y’all be excellent to each other out there in the world,” he said leaving the stage.
Up next was the main event for the evening: Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, an eight-member band with a classic, classy sound driven by a horn section and electric organ flourishes to church up the affair. The band’s rowdy, vintage rhythm and blues and soulful revival rock make them a surefire crowd pleaser and tonight’s show didn’t disappoint. Fans danced across Auditorium Shores as far back as the Long Center lawn outside the gated perimeter.
The band took the stage with “Shoe Boot,” the first in a line of non-stop irresistible top-tappers that would include current single ”You Worry Me,” from their just-released album Tearing at the Seams, and previous monster hit “S.O.B.” Familiar or not, each song feels like a greatest hit delivered with Rateliff’s voice never faltering voice, equal parts gruff and honey smooth and never breathless between bouts of celebratory fancy footwork stepping and strutting across the stage.
Rateliff was gracious to Austin fans for their support over the years, including anACL Fest appearance in 2016. “We wouldn’t be here without you,” he said. “And not just us but our families and friends, we really owe you so much.”
“Sometimes it’s hard to believe in yourself when there are so many people looking at you,” a young woman with a black bob says softly as she tunes her electric guitar. In the glow of aged Christmas lights, in the hot, humid air under a ceiling so low it feels inches away from crushing me, Haley Heynderickx finishes tuning her guitar and plays the most minor of minor chords.
I don’t know who Haley Heynderickx is. It’s Tuesday afternoon, and I’m at Sahara Lounge for the She Shreds SXSW 2018 show, which has quickly relocated after a permitting issue. I’ve shown up seeking some loud rock music courtesy of Shopping and French Vanilla—and I’ll get just that. But, at the moment, I’m enchanted and stilled by this quiet three-piece on stage. There’s a vulnerability in this music and in the singer-guitarist’s between-song banter that creates an intense sense of intimacy across the tightly packed crowd.
The quiver in her voice and the shimmer of her fingerpicked Telecaster strings is chilling. The guitar’s electric hum and her warbly, emotive vibrato strike a nerve in me like no other show I’ll see over the week ahead. It all seems simple enough, but the result feels somewhere between Patsy Cline and Sufjan Stevens.
She plays a song called “No Face” and explains it’s so named after the lonesome black-and-white spirit from Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film Spirited Away, a creaturewho wants to love but doesn’t understand how… so he eats people. It sounds silly on paper, but, like everything I’ll see Heynderickx play, it’s delivered via a medium that feels so genuine as to transplant emotions or experiences you’ve never had—instilling in the listener a ghost of a sad or lovely memory that’s not your own but somehow speaks a truth that is yours.
It’s near what I can only imagine it would have been like to unknowingly see Jeff Buckley or Elliott Smith live—or maybe a living artist. Then again, maybe not. Heynderickx’s haunting voice at times feels like it comes from another world and time.
After the experience, I need more, so I squeeze into The Sidewinder Thursday night for her evening showcase as it’s underway, following a bit of one-in-one-out watching from the sidewalk. Inside is noisy with the clamor of friendly conversation and drink orders and the general persistent din of SXSW—sirens and soundchecks and bass—from all directions. On stage, Heynderickx’s band is now complete. Back again are drummer Phillip Rogers and vocalist/keyboardist Lily Breshears, but this show they’re joined by Denzel Mendoza on trombone. The three musicians’ additions to the music are subtle but perfect: there in all the right places and at a light touch or pulled back to let Heynderickx’s words land alone when needed.
The highlight of both sets proves to be “Worth It,” an 8-minute multi-part epic of yes-and-no uncertainties that twists and tangles, oscillating between peaks and valleys, whispers and near screams, slow twang and almost punk-like cathartic crescendos. “I guess you should know that I don’t need you there… but I need you sometimes. But not all the time. I need you there,” Heynderickx sings as the song takes its first turn. She ends on its closing stretch singing with a growing intensity, “Maybe I’ve been selfish… maybe I’ve been selfless…. maybe I’ve been worthless… maybe I’ve been worth it.”
Even describing the show again now feels like recalling a particularly potent scene from a movie, one hard to describe without feeling a lump form in your throat. Whatever magic Heynderickx and her fellow music-makers have tapped into is real. Or at least it was to me.
It’s over. At The Sidewinder, those to my left and right seem unfazed, but I feel cut in half. I wander out into the night and on to some other thing, but I feel at least temporarily changed—softer and maybe more empathetic, having the residue of callused, indifferent unfeeling washed away by the lovely sound of Haley Heynderickx and her guitar.
Haley Heynderickx plays again tonight at the Toms Austin store on South Congress at 8 p.m. and at 1 p.m. Saturday at Cheer Up Charlie’s indoor stage for Brooklyn Vegan and Margin Walker’s Lost Weekend 2.
Introducing South by Southwest’s “Conversation with Keith Urban” at the Austin Convention Center on Friday, Grammy Museum executive director Scott Goldman rattled off Urban’s impressive list of chart-topping hits, awards and other career accomplishments. The New Zealand-raised country star’s credentials certainly are beyond reproach. But such success doesn’t necessarily guarantee an illuminating dialogue.
The hourlong panel was pleasant enough, touching on how Urban got started in the business, his ascent to Nashville stardom, his songwriting process and more. Ultimately, though, there’s just not much more to Urban than a guy who’s good at making pop-oriented country music.
Yes, he’s married to Nicole Kidman, but he rightfully downplays this. (When Goldman asked about the personal/celebrity balance in their lives, he answered wisely that their credo is, “Nothing to hide and everything to protect.”) And he did have a couple of great anecdotes, like the time his upstart band got booked to play at a baggage claim carousel in an Australia airport. It went surprisingly well until the arriving-baggage alarm blared out mid-song. “I just got on the thing and went for a ride, playing guitar,” he cracked.
But Urban’s music generally doesn’t dig deeply enough to make for a really memorable panel discussion. The midsize room was a little more than half full, perhaps partly an indicator of interest-level, and/or investment of the artist in the event. Urban is performing at 11 p.m. Friday at Stubb’s, but when Garth Brooks did a big show and press conference last year, he also snuck in a much-buzzed-about Broken Spoke secret show the night before. No such Urban sightings around town last night.
There were insightful moments, like when Urban talked about how he approaches collaborative songwriting: “I know what I do, and I know what you do, but I want to know what WE can do.” And his story about how his family’s New Zealand community rallied to assist them after their house burned down when Urban was 10 was touching. Then there were the embarrassing remarks, like his comparison of songwriting to childbirth: “As a man who can’t bring a child into the world, I can bring a song into the world.”
The closing Q&A segment produced a similar mixed-bag of whimsy and vacuity. Early on, a woman informed Urban that her son-in-law, guitarist Matt Gregg of the Austin band Western Youth, was Urban’s third cousin. She detailed the family-tree branches that connected them, prompting Goldman to ad-lib, “This part of the panel brought to you by ancestry.com.” Urban seemed to genuinely appreciate it, giving the band an acknowledgment that may well spark up their social media.
And then the final question brought things back down again. It was a worthy inquiry about whether the current polarizing political climate has any effect on Urban’s songwriting. The answer was a definite no, primarily because, as Urban put it, this is “a very dangerous time when the mob is just running rampant.”
That was a vague dodge, punctuated by his addition that he and Kidman strive to “live away from all that.” Such is the privilege of those who have the means to avoid politics. He’s free to steer clear, providing music that he himself described as “audible incense.” Smells like Urban spirit.
Shame on you, Fader Fort! Some of the latest and greatest names in hip-hop are performing right before your very eyes, and you’re too busy chatting with your neighbors, blowing strawberry daiquiri vape rings and trying in vain to refresh Twitter to even notice! (Wait, that last one was me. Sorry.)
Luckily, SOB x RBE proved undaunted by the lethargy and even wrung some signs of life from the Fort’s Thursday night crowd — all it took was a little help from the biggest superhero of all time.
“How many of y’all seen ‘Black Panther’?” they asked to mild applause. “How many of y’all bought that ‘Black Panther’ album?” Slightly more applause. The Vallejo, California foursome promptly tore into “Paramedic!”, the blustery banger off the Kendrick Lamar-curated soundtrack to the highest-grossing solo superhero film of all time. Finally, the most applause.
The members of SOB x RBE — short for Strictly Only Brothers, Real Boi Entertainment — are all between the ages of 19 and 21, and they just released their debut studio album, “Gangin,” last month, but they already boast a boisterous, fully realized sound and infectious stage presence that suggest years of studying their craft. (Yhung T.O. and DaBoii used to rap into their phones and put them over beats through a PlayStation.) Their production quirks are brash and unpredictable, occasionally hearkening back to ‘90s West Coast rap stalwarts Mac Dre and E-40. They spit schoolyard taunts and outsize boasts with gleeful tenacity, bars tumbling over each other and threatening to derail the songs at any moment — but never quite doing so.
At this stage in their early careers, SOB x RBE’s calculated recklessness would probably serve them better in a more confined space, where they could rage with their audience unimpeded by a barricade or elevated stage. But it’s a testament to their rapidly rising profile that they managed to headline Fader Fort and engage an audience that drowned out Raekwon’s brief surprise set just minutes earlier with its chatter. The kids are alright — and they’ll keep getting better.