In case you were worried there might not be enough branded events at South by Southwest this year, never fear! Monster Energy, which has had a strong presence at the fest over the years, will return with an official Monster Energy in the Streets event this year. It’s set to take place at the intersection of Sixth and Sabine Streets on the first weekend of the festival, March 11-12.
The street party near I-35 will pick back up on Wednesday, March 16 when Brisk Iced Tea takes over for a two-day party to “launch a new product.” The tea-related theme will continue at the spot through the weekend when it transforms into the Lipton Sparkling Flavor Lounge.
Over on Fifth Street, the Brazos Hall will host the Gatorade Fuel Lounge, a SxSports day party event for the first weekend of the fest (March 11-13) and the Bud Light Factory on Wednesday, March 16 from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.
It’s that time of year again when the South by Southwest week party announcements start flying in. The biggest one that showed up on our radar today is the Onion/AV Club’s Manic Monday bash. The party will take place from 3 p.m. to midnight on both stages at Barracuda on Monday, March 14. It has a packed lineup that includes Beach Slang, Thao and the Stay Down Get Down and Poliça among others.
Culture Collide just announced their Rainey St. SXSW shows today too. The parties are billed as a launch celebration for the new Showtime series “Roadies” with Cameron Crowe. Day parties featuring Grizfolk, Ezra Furman & the Boyfriends, Ra Ra Riot and Thao and the Get Down Stay Down are free and open to the public. Night shows with The Head and the Heart, Sun Kil Moon, White Denim and Børns are official showcases. Be forewarned, all of these events are popular and tough to get into without a badge, but you can RSVP here.
Music site Mxdown has listings for lineups and RSVPs for all four days of the British Music Embassy day parties at Latitude 30. For the uninitiated, these parties are a great opportunity to catch the next big thing from across the pond. No big names, but a lot of potential breakouts. Worth noting, these parties tend to be very popular with SXSW registrants. With badges and wristbands given priority admission, most of the general public is shut out.
Peter Blackstock and I tag-teamed Grammy tweets yesterday. Here’s a broad overview of a ceremony that started slow but went on to feature well-deserved awards, disturbing, yet predictable upsets and a few incredibly impressive performances.
In the early part of the night, folks were not impressed with the Grammy’s decision to pair Stevie Wonder and Pentatonix.
Technical difficulties made Adele’s highly anticipated performance difficult to watch. After the performance she explained the problems came when the piano mics fell on the piano strings causing the sound of a guitar and making her sound out of tune.
Our selections on a variety of top Grammy categories. In the interest of brevity we’ve eliminated many of the overlapping song/performance categories for each genre, opting to focus on albums.
Record of the Year
“Really Love,” D’Angelo and the Vanguard (from “Black Messiah”)
“Uptown Funk,” Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars (from “Uptown Special”)
“Thinking Out Loud,” Ed Sheeran (from “X”)
“Blank Space,” Taylor Swift (from “1989”)
“I Can’t Feel My Face,” the Weeknd (single)
D.S.S.: The award will likely go to the ubiquitous hit “Uptown Funk” or possibly Grammy fave Swift, but I’m going to pull for the underdog, D’Angelo. This category awards performance (as opposed to songwriting) and everything about “Really Love,” from the swells of strings and sensuous whispers in French to the graceful walking bass and subtle counter melodies that frame D’Angelo’s silky falsetto, is an exquisite study in musical sensitivity and sonic detail.
P.B.: “Uptown Funk” did finish atop the Billboard singles charts for 2015, but I’m inclined to think Sheeran may have the edge with Grammy voters, as “Thinking Out Loud” strikes a chord similar to Sam Smith’s Grammy-sweeping “Stay With Me” last year.
Album of the Year
“Sound and Color,” Alabama Shakes
“To Pimp a Butterfly,” Kendrick Lamar
“Traveller,” Chris Stapleton
“1989,” Taylor Swift
“Beauty Behind the Madness,” the Weeknd
D.S.S.: In 2014, hip-hop fans were outraged when Macklemore’s “Heist” bested Lamar’s “Good Kid, M.A.A.D city” for Best Hip-Hop Album, a situation Macklemore exacerbated with a clumsy public apology afterward. In light of that and the recent #oscarssowhite controversy, this is the year for Grammy voters to do right. Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” was as musically adventurous as it was culturally vital. Years from now when we look for an album that encapsulates the energy of 2015, this is the one we’ll pull. It’s an outcry against the racial strife that has colored the last couple of years presented through the deeply personal lens of a young artist who has emerged as one of the most important voices of his generation. The fact that he rejected all the trappings of commercial hip-hop to instead make an album that goes deep into avant-jazz and new-school funk makes it all the more phenomenal.
P.B.: Lamar’s album is one of those moments where critics and the masses converge to anoint a new superstar. He fully deserves this award, though Alabama Shakes’s record is a similar case of great art that reached a wide audience. Beware the Grammys awarding the mega-selling Taylor Swift, though.
Song of the Year
“Alright,” Kendrick Duckworth, Mark Anthony Spears and Pharrell Williams, songwriters (Kendrick Lamar, from “To Pimp A Butterfly”)
“Blank Space,” Max Martin, Shellback & Taylor Swift, songwriters (Taylor Swift, from “1989”)
“Girl Crush,” Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna & Liz Rose, songwriters (Little Big Town from “Pain Killer”)
“See You Again,” Andrew Cedar, Justin Franks, Charles Puth & Cameron Thomaz, songwriters (Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth from “Furious 7: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack”)
“Thinking Out Loud,” Ed Sheeran & Amy Wadge, songwriters (Ed Sheeran from “X”)
D.S.S.: Again, let’s go with Lamar. In a year when black Americans were bombarded with a never-ending stream of bad news, Lamar provided the incredibly uplifting and necessary message “We gon’ be alright,” adopted as an anthem by the Black Lives Matter movement. The energy he conjured performing the song live at ACL Live last year was utterly exhilarating.
P.B.: “Alright” was a more momentous touchstone, to be sure, but the Grammys have a pretty steady track record of rewarding safer stuff. Again, Sheeran’s song seems right down the center of voters’ collective aesthetic.
Best New Artist
D.S.S.: Grammy voters seem likely to stand with Trainor, whose “All About the Bass” was admittedly one of the most infectious songs of the last several years, but I’m pulling for Courtney Barnett. The young Australian is a master of artful and unexpected lyricism, but don’t get it twisted, she’s also one of the fiercest guitar shredders in modern rock.
P.B.: I suspect Barnett has to settle for an “it’s an honor just to be nominated” philosophy here. She’s easily the most creative of this lot, but Hunt is the only nominee who came close to Trainor’s commercial impact, and he’s not likely to have a shot at categories outside the country genre. It’s Meghan’s moment.
Best Pop Vocal Album
“Piece By Piece,” Kelly Clarkson
“How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful,” Florence + The Machine
“Uptown Special,” Mark Ronson
” 1989,” Taylor Swift
“Before This World,” James Taylor
D.S.S.: Let’s be honest, Taylor Swift rightfully owns this category and “1989” provides everything we generally look for in a pop album and then some. But I’m secretly hoping for an upset scenario where Swift and Ronson voters cancel each other out and the beautifully ornate pop of “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful,” the most introspective and vulnerable release of Florence Welch’s career, floats to the top.
P.B.: The winner will be named Taylor. But Swift, or James? The former is far more likely, for the reasons noted above; but don’t count out the boomer bloc of Grammy voters migrating en masse toward their beloved Sweet Baby.
Best Rock Album
“Chaos and the Calm,” James Bay
“Kintsugi,” Death Cab For Cutie
“Mister Asylum,” Highly Suspect
“5: The Gray Chapter,” Slipknot
P.B.: It’s somewhat surprising to see Death Cab in this bunch rather than the Alternative category, but they’re a long shot. Bay seems most likely to emerge here; his competition for the coveted Best New Artist award is too stiff, but this is an easier field to beat.
D.S.S.: “Drones” was a very uneven release for concept rock juggernaut, Muse, but I still wouldn’t be surprised to see them walk off with this one. I’m pulling for James Bay whose “Hold Back the River” was one of the year’s best rock songs.
Best Alternative Music Album
“Sound & Color,” Alabama Shakes
“The Waterfall,” My Morning Jacket
“Currents,” Tame Impala
“Star Wars,” Wilco
P.B.: Here’s where Alabama Shakes gets its just desserts. Most of these nominees are worthy, but the Shakes, though an odd fit stylistically for the “Alternative” category, are doing something really special in their young career, while the likes of Björk and Wilco are basically extending accomplished careers.
D.S.S.: “Vulnicura,” Björk’s haunting elegy to a long-term relationship, crafts stunning beauty out of stark vulnerability, but “Sound & Color” is such a broad reaching, ambitious platter it deserves the win.
Best R&B Album
“Coming Home,” Leon Bridges
“Black Messiah,” D’Angelo and the Vanguard
“Cheers To The Fall,” Andra Day
“Reality Show,” Jazmine Sullivan
“Forever Charlie,” Charlie Wilson
DSS: After several years mired in a rut of formulaic song structure and autotuned hooks, R&B is going through an amazing resurgence. The Jazmine Sullivan and Andra Day albums were both very, very good and Leon Bridges’ overnight rise to superstar status is one of the great success stories of modern music, but this award is D’Angelo’s.
Best Rap Album
“2014 Forest Hills Drive,” J. Cole
“Compton,” Dr. Dre
“If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late,” Drake
“To Pimp a Butterfly,” Kendrick Lamar
“The Pinkprint,” Nicki Minaj
D.S.S.: King Kendrick, “King Kunta,” All hail the king.
Best Country Album
“Montevallo,” Sam Hunt
“Pain Killer,” Little Big Town
“The Blade,” Ashley Monroe
“Pageant Material,” Kacey Musgraves
“Traveller,” Chris Stapleton
P.B.: Will Stapleton repeat his CMA Awards success in the Grammys’ country categories? It’s almost certainly either him or the bigger-selling Hunt here, though Musgraves and Monroe are significant rising stars.
Best Americana Album
“The Firewatcher’s Daughter,” Brandi Carlile
“The Traveling Kind,” Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
“Something More Than Free,” Jason Isbell
“The Phosphorescent Blues,” Punch Brothers
P.B.: Grammy voters lean toward the established veterans in this category, which would seem to favor Harris and Crowell. Artistically, though, nobody in this genre came close to Isbell in 2015, and his record topped the rock, country and folk charts upon its release. It’s his time.
Best Folk Album
“Wood, Wire & Words,” Norman Blake
Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn, self-titled
“Tomorrow Is My Turn,” Rhiannon Giddens
“Servant of Love,” Patty Griffin
“Didn’t He Ramble,” Glen Hansard
P.B.: Austin’s own Griffin has a legitimate shot at her second Grammy with a fascinating record that, like many falling into this category, pushed well beyond the bounds of the folk genre. But expect the voters to award the very deserving Giddens, who won in 2011 as a member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops but has had a spectacular coming-out as a solo artist.
Other Austinites nominated are Hayes Carll, whose “Chances Are” (recorded by Lee Ann Womack) is up for Best Country Song; choral group Conspirare, seeking a second straight Best Choral Performance award for “Pablo Neruda — The Poet Sings”; and the Bismeaux Records design team of Sarah Dodds, Shauna Dodds and Dick Reeves, nominated in the Best Recording Package category for Asleep at the Wheel’s “Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys.”
Austin-raised songwriter Savan Kotecha, who now lives in Los Angeles, shares a nomination for Best Song Written for Visual Media as a co-writer of the Ellie Goulding hit “Love Me Like You Do.”
With Valentine’s Day approaching, we asked a handful of Austin couples who play music together to share a few thoughts on how love and music intertwine in their relationships. We’ll post their responses here on Austin Music Source each day this week, and feature them in the Sunday print edition of the American-Statesman on Valentine’s Day.
CARLEY & JONNY WOLF
Carley and Jonny are partners in the indie band Ghost Wolves.
How they met:
Jonny: We met at the Kerrville Folk Festival in September 2007. Carley was working as an engineer on the live recording crew. I was playing drums in my old band, the Belleville Outfit. I tried to make some cute small talk back stage with her, and it didn’t really work at first. The next time I saw her, she asked me to play drums for a special Dia de los Muertos show she was playing. We have been playing music together ever since.
Their special song(s):
Jonny: Our band, the Ghost Wolves, was really lucky to open for Alejandro Escovedo on his tour when he put out “Big Station” . At the end of the tour, we were to be married back in Austin. Alejandro knew this, and every night at the shows, he would dedicate a slow country love song to us, usually a Gram Parsons song. We’d go right up to the front of the stage and two step around the dance floor. We did that every night for two weeks straight, all over the country. It was awesome, very romantic, and we felt so lucky to be there.
“Dream date” or ideal romantic night:
Carley: First class tickets on a nice airline. Joan Jett is in the suite next to ours, and we hang out a bunch with her. Lots of champagne and fresh fruit. Arriving in Tokyo and hitting all the great clothing stores, with an unlimited budget of course. We rock one out there and then back on the jet, first class, to New York. Spend the next morning walking through Central Park, drinking fancy coffee, see a Broadway play maybe in the afternoon. Dinner at our favorite vegan place in Manhattan followed by an intimate Tom Waits concert. Then back to Texas, but this time, Iggy Pop is flying us!
A Valentine’s Day or anniversary spent on the road together or apart:
Jonny: We did go see Tom Waits on our first anniversary. He played his first show in five years out in California, so we flew out to see it. It was amazing; he’s hilarious and had 20,000 people on their feet by the end of the set. The year after that, we spent our anniversary out over the Atlantic Ocean, on a plane coming back from our first tour of Europe. We watched movies together and drank airline wine, which I thought was pretty romantic, honestly.
Carley: Last year we were in Florence, Italy, on our anniversary, in the middle of a tour, but we had the night off and enjoyed all the city had to offer.
Plans for this Valentine’s Day:
Jonny: We actually have an awesome show booked at Stubb’s Jr. It’s our first annual Valentine’s Day Dance and we’re on a co-bill with the Happen-ins, one of our favorite local bands.
What a wedding:
Carley: At one point, our love of music really caused some issues. We took a three-week tour right before our wedding, which ended in a late-night set at a crazy Halloween party in Fort Worth. We got out of there at 5 a.m. and drove directly to the hill country, where we had three days of wedding stuff planned: a bonfire campout with the wedding party, a rehearsal dinner, the ceremony, and then a big party at the Continental Club in Austin. The weeks of nonexistent sleep caught up with us on the morning of our ceremony. We both somehow caught a stomach bug that had been going around, because we were physically so run down. We caught it BAD. We should have gone to the hospital, really, but we hobbled our way down the aisle, all of our family there to see it. We never should have played all of those crazy shows right up to our wedding! Should have listened to my mom about that, but we just couldn’t resist it.
A couple years back, hip-hop powerhouse LNS Crew looked like ATX hip-hop’s next big thing. Then rapper Cory Kendrix moved to Denver and Kydd Jones decamped to Atlanta. At the end of the 2015, producer Haris Qureshi told us the crew had largely restructured as a record label. LNS crew as a whole will be back in town for South by Southwest, but rapper Tank Washington is still holding down the fort for Austin full time.
“My sons Trae and True live here so I’m probably not moving unless it’s very lucrative for me,” he said this week.
That’s good news for Austin hip-hop. His latest album “Pain,” released at the beginning of January, is a fully realized platter, loaded with thoughtful, mid-tempo meditations on the struggles of a young artist ready to break out. He recently smoked a Free Week performance at the Mohawk and he’ll be at the Weird City Hip-hop Festival on Saturday.
Austin360: You open this album with a very moving memorial for your father. What was your relationship with him like?
Tank Washington: My dad was one of my best friends. Our bond was very strong. Our birthday is on the same day!! He taught me so much about life and pretty much everything I know, I got from him. I miss him a lot.
Did losing him drive you to finish this album?
Of course it did. I lost him in the process of completing this album. That’s why the “RIP POP” track is first. His death is still fresh on my brain since it’s only been 4 months since he passed away from cancer.
What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of the Austin hip-hop scene?
Our strength is in variety. There’s so many different sounds in Austin hip-hop that if people actually paid more attention and listened, they would have their mind blown. The weakness is consistency. I think a lot of artists get fed up with not getting anywhere. At times, they give up. I feel like we need to keep pushing and putting our music in people faces!
Sonically, this album covers a lot of ground, from soulful Southern stuff to a kind of chilly OVO vibe. Who did the production and what sounds inspire you?
Pretty much everything on the album was produced by my crew. Kydd, Cory, and Scott Pace helped me a lot with the beats. Also, DJ Anna Love blessed me with some heaters when I went up to Denver to rock a show with Cory earlier this year. Chamothy The Great let me use the song “MT4Ts” for my album and J Money from San Antonio produced the track “Never” which is one of my favorites on the album. As far as inspiration, I’m inspired by whatever sounds good. I went in a lot of directions and sounds with this album. I don’t just have one sound and my life is like that: it’s up and down and I expressed a lot of my personal life on this album.
What is the one thing everyone should know about you as an artist?
I’m real and I’m something people should pay attention to.
What’s your signature breakfast taco?
Bacon, egg, potato, sausage and cheese with red sauce! In case you were wondering, Kydd gets potato with either bacon or sausage tacos (no egg) with green sauce. I don’t know what’s up with that but that’s what he likes.
Local husband/wife duo Riders Against the Storm have always been clear on one very important point: what they do is bigger than hip-hop. It is a movement. They use their music as a vehicle to empower individuals, build community and raise a collective consciousness. Their music is not protest music, it is uplift music and coming out of an incredibly difficult year for race relations in America, they are unflinchingly, defiantly positive.
As incense and sage hung heavy in the air, that energy reverberated through the show they hosted last night at the Sahara Lounge. The main attraction was Oshun, a hip-hop duo formed by a pair of NYU students who have stormed Soundcloud with their sharp rhymes, sweet harmonies and and Nubian soul.
When Oshun took the stage around midnight, the very diverse and tightly packed crowd at Sahara went wild. The young women, still in college, performed with stunning skill and poise, whether quick-spitting rhymes or raising their voices in sublime harmonies. Their music combines the new school hip-hop consciousness of Kendrick Lamar with the wildly, complex neosoul sound structures of D’Angelo. They up the spiritual ante by boldly mixing in elements of ritual from the earth-based West African Yoruba traditions and their thoroughly charming stage personas make their shows utterly entrancing.
Buzz around the group has been steadily building and a Leon Bridges-like rise in 2016 is entirely possible.
As Chaka Mandla Mhambi Mpeanaji from Riders Against the Storm said at the end of the show, “They call this the underground, but we are coming up.”