Anderson Paak, Lapsley, Iggy Pop win SXSW’s 2016 Grulke Prizes

Anderson Paak & the Free Nationals at NPR Music's SXSW Showcase at Stubb's on Wednesday, March 16, 2016. Photo by Erika Rich for American-Statesman
Anderson Paak & the Free Nationals at NPR Music’s SXSW Showcase at Stubb’s on Wednesday, March 16, 2016. Photo by Erika Rich for American-Statesman

California hip-hop act Anderson Paak & the Free Nationals, British electronica singer-songwriter Lapsley and proto-punk legend Iggy Pop are the 2016 recipients of the Grulke Prize, South by Southwest announced Wednesday.

The awards, determined by a jury of music industry attendees and SXSW staff, are designed to single out performers who had the highest impact during the six-day run of the music festival. Paak and Lapsley won for Developing U.S. and Non-U.S. Act, respectively. Pop was recognized as Career Act, given to “an established artist who appeared at SXSW to reinvent themselves or launch an important new project,” the event’s website states.

Paak seemed omnipresent during the festival, drawing acclaim for performances at high-profile venues including Stubb’s, the Mohawk and a YouTube pop-up stage.  Lapsley, whose debut album came out earlier this month, also performed at Stubb’s as well as on the Radio Day Stage in the Convention Center. Pop premiered songs from his new “Post Pop Depression” album with Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme over two nights at ACL Live, one of them taped for an “Austin City Limits” episode.

The prizes, which have been handed out annually for the past four years, were instituted after the 2012 death of longtime SXSW creative director Brent Grulke. Previous winners were Leon Bridges, Courtney Barnett and Spoon (2015); Future Islands, the Strypes and Damon Albarn (2014); and Haim, Chvrches and Flaming Lips (2013).

SXSW 2016: Hip-hop 4 Flint event raises over $3,000 for water crisis

Away from the downtown core of South by Southwest Saturday afternoon, a roster of roughly 30 hip-hop, R&B and spoken word artists gathered to raise money for relief efforts for people affected by the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Local organizers coordinated with national activists to produce the event and over the course of six hours over 300 people attended.

The group well exceeded their fundraising goal of $2,000. On Sunday morning, local artist and social worker DaShade Moonbeam, who helped put the event together, said they raised over $3,000. The money will go toward the purchase of water filters that will be distributed to families by members of the national Hip-hop for Flint effort.

Photo by Reshma Kirpalani
Photo by Reshma Kirpalani

The scene on the ground Saturday radiated positive energy. The inside of the theater was packed to capacity and members of the audience, many of whom brought their children, stood along the walls or sat on the floor in front of the stage. The audience was attentive, warmly receiving the sounds of young emerging artists alongside their more experienced counterparts. Meanwhile, outside the theater graffiti artists painted a mural on the side of the theater building with the words Hip-hop 4 Flint blazed proudly in the middle.

Moonbeam said the turnout far exceeded his expectations.

“I kept hearing ‘Why are these types of shows not done more frequently?!’ and ‘When is the next event?!'” he said Sunday.  “I felt like we did the right thing in providing a family oriented four elements hip hop event.”

UPDATE: This report has been updated to correct fundraising totals provided by the organizers.

You’ll never guess who all joined The Roots for their SXSW jam

All you have to do to build a buzz is put “and special guests” on your bill. The South by Southwest party-goers will come a’ runnin’, just like they did for The Roots SXSW Jam Session on Saturday night at Brazos Hall.

The last-night-of-festing event that promised the “Tonight Show” house band — plus genre-smashing supergroup Big Grams and the aforementioned special guests — attracted a line hours before the 9 p.m. doors-open time, leaving many in the dust once the venue filled to capacity.

The evening kicked off a little after 10:30 p.m. with a jolly sousaphone leading The Roots into a cover of “Express Yourself.” (Not the Madonna song.) And about those special guests: Rumors of Ashanti and Naughty By Nature started circulating on Twitter before the jam started, and a lineup that leaked on social media ultimately proved quite accurate.

But the crowd at Brazos Hall, not all clued in to this, grew restless after a strong start from Black Thought, Questlove and co. gave way to a rotating showcase of somewhat obscure rising talent, with The Roots sitting in as a house band. X Ambassadors squeezed in “Renegade” and a Sam Cooke cover. Bronx rapper Tish Hyman served up major Lauryn Hill vibes and was the valedictorian of the jam’s newbies. Soul singer Marc E. Bassy (performing like a room temperature Robin Thicke) eked out a cover of Radiohead’s “High & Dry”; a sharp-dressed R&B singer named Emily King wisped when she should have wailed.

Then the big guns came out. Veteran emcee Too Short was first and drew comparisons between the longevity of his career and of SXSW itself. Comedian Hannibal Buress emerged to stall for time and to deflate event sponsor Bud Light. As expected and highly anticipated, Big Grams put on the most substantial part of the show. The collaboration between Outkast alum Big Boi and Phantogram’s Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel injected much needed electricity into the room, with “Fell In the Sun” an obvious standout. Barthel and Big Boi’s interplay, awkward as it was, charmed.

The most rapturously received moments of the night were the few Outkast tunes that worked their way into the setlist, including a reworked “Ms. Jackson” performed by Big Grams. (Likewise, Phantogram tallied a couple solo joints, like “Fall In Love.”)

The cameos were rapid-fire quick hits after that, which rankled a bit considering the talent show at the beginning of the night. Rappers Yo Gotti and Talib Kweli made brief appearances. R&B singer Ashanti came out for a very well-received, high energy medley that included a “What’s Luv?” that came just as the night was dragging to the finish line. Naughty By Nature dropped “O.P.P.” and “Hip Hop Hooray,” which obviously reduced the entire audience to a bunch of hands in the air.

Ashanti performs at the Bud Light Factory at Brazos Hall during South by Southwest on Saturday March 19, 2016. (JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Ashanti performs at the Bud Light Factory at Brazos Hall during South by Southwest on Saturday March 19, 2016. (JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

As it was in the beginning, so it was in the end. The Roots closed the night with a final jam that really just made one wish that there had been more Roots at the Roots jam. But if you’re going to dedicate about 7 hours of your life from queue to quitting time on one party, seeing Phantogram and Naughty By Nature in one night without leaving the room is quite the feat to boast of. And in a SXSW lacking big star power — save Drizzy — this jam was certainly an explosive finish.

Treach, left, and Vin Rock of Naughty by Nature perform at the Bud Light Factory at Brazos Hall during South by Southwest on Saturday March 19, 2016. (JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Treach, left, and Vin Rock of Naughty by Nature perform at the Bud Light Factory at Brazos Hall during South by Southwest on Saturday March 19, 2016. (JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Sun Radio brings live broadcasts to El Mercado Backstage

Morning live-music broadcasts from downtown hotels with stations such as KUTX and KGSR have long been a big part of SXSW week. But a nice new addition the past two years has been Sun Radio’s afternoon broadcasts from El Mercado Backstage.

A fundraising event for the Americana-oriented public station, the series began Tuesday and ran through Saturday, with a nice mix of hometown favorites who sometimes guest at the club’s popular “Mystery Monday” series and out-of-town performers adding day gigs to their official SXSW showcase itineraries.

Aaron Lee Tasjan and Brian Wright played Sun Radio's live broadcast at El Mercado Backstage on Saturday, March 19, 2016. Photo by Peter Blackstock
Aaron Lee Tasjan and Brian Wright played Sun Radio’s live broadcast at El Mercado Backstage on Saturday, March 19, 2016. Photo by Peter Blackstock

We caught locals Willy & Cody Braun of Reckless Kelly (with guest mandolinist Kym Warner) and the Malford Milligan-fronted new band Big Cat on Tuesday when we stopped by, plus sets by the duos Aaron Tasjan & Brian Wright and Teddy Thompson & Kelly Jones early Saturday afternoon. (See video above).

Others who stopped by the South First Street Mexican restaurant, which added its impressive Backstage room just before last year’s SXSW, included Wynonna & the Big Noise, Aoife O’Donovan, Robbie Fulks, Jack INgram and Marcia Ball.

Dear SXSW-ers, don’t disrespect the musicians

seymaliVocalist and musician Noura Mint Seymali from the Islamic Republic of Mauritania performed at the Globalfest showcase at the Palm Door last night and she was magnificent. The clarity and power of her voice, soaring over mesmerizing desert rambles from her skilled band, is astounding. A solid crowd pressed forward to catch her show at the Palm Door around midnight.

For the most part everyone was thoroughly entranced, and she was given a wonderful reception. Then there was this dude.

It seems like we shouldn’t have to say this (we’re all grown ups, right?), but apparently we do: Dear SXSW-ers, don’t disrespect the musicians.

We get that South by Southwest is a magical experience that puts you up close and personal with amazing artists from around the world. It’s easy to get swept up in the moment. If an artist invites you onstage to dance with them, you win. Get up there and be part of the action. But under no circumstances should you jump on stage and just start dancing. It doesn’t matter if you’re a sliding, gliding, silver-toed fool who dominates the dance floor. No one wants to see you. No one.

This is doubly true if the performing artist is a woman and you are a man. Do not invite yourself onstage to dance with her.

This is triply true if the performing artist is a woman from an Islamic country who gracefully adjusts her headscarf several times throughout her performance, indicating she values her modesty. No really, don’t invite yourself onstage to dance with her.

Seymali’s musicians looked mortified as a strange man jumped onstage, drink in hand, and gyrated like an idiot behind one of their country’s most revered artists. Thankfully, the whole incident only lasted about 30 seconds before the man in question was escorted out.

But it left us feeling obligated to write this public service announcement. We love that SXSW brings so many amazing musicians around the world to our beautiful city. Let’s all make them feel welcome. Cheer wildly at their shows and dance madly in the audience, but please, let’s show them respect.


Late SXSW co-founder honored with “Louis Meyers Day”

Mayor Steve Adler declares Friday as "Louis Meyers Day" at a memorial event for the SXSW co-founder at Palm Door Sabine. Photo by David Menconi
Mayor Steve Adler declares Friday as “Louis Meyers Day” at a memorial event for the SXSW co-founder at Palm Door Sabine. Photo by David Menconi

The death on the first day of SXSW Interactive of co-founder Louis Meyers was felt throughout the full run of this year’s event. On Friday, an official SXSW Memorial Reception drew a visit from Austin mayor Steve Adler, who officially proclaimed Friday as “Louis Meyers Day” in the City of Austin.

Musical tributes to Meyers had been held Monday at Strange Brew, following a burial service at Memorial Park Cemetery in north Austin, and Wednesday at Threadgill’s for a day show that Meyers had helped put together.

Friday’s event was especially significant for Meyers’ out-of-town friends and acquaintances who were here for SXSW Music, longtime friend Mike Stewart noted. Especially notable was the presence of many international attendees with whom Meyers had worked during his years as SXSW music festival director from 1987 to 1994, and on subsequent events during his years living in Denmark and Amsterdam around the turn of the century.


Santigold is in charge at SXSW; don’t you forget it

She can rap, she can boast, she can croon, she can chirp, she can groove in sync with her backup dancers and she can run a show with a metaphorical riding crop. She started krumping before her first song was half over Friday night, and she choreographs Busby Berkeley-style routines that employ dollar store shopping carts.

She’s Santigold.

The Philly artist’s South by Southwest set at Stubb’s was plagued the entire time by a late start (thanks, rain) and sound problems (to which Crystal Castles might relate). But Santi White? Try to storm her winter palace. You won’t be able to take it. (Speaking of the song “Go!” … more later.)

(Eric Webb/American-Statesman)
(Eric Webb/American-Statesman)

White was unflagging in her desire to correct the sound problems plaguing her, even leaving stage between songs to get to the bottom of it. Too much reverb, bad enough mix that she couldn’t hear the track — still none of it stopped her from presiding over a party that crackled louder than the night’s lightning.

Breakout hit “L.E.S. Artistes” made an early appearance, and it was obvious from the singer’s furrowed brow and impeccable side-eye that she meant business, even as her backup dancers reenacted “Puttin’ On the Ritz” using selfie sticks. “Big Boss Big Time Business” found White embodying swagger and machismo over an underworld groove. And just as easily as she squared her shoulders on that number, she asserted her taunting, flirtatious dominance in swirly, syrupy, dangerous coos on “Who Be Lovin’ Me.”

By the time “Disparate Youth” came up on the setlist, White has made it clear that she was in control of the mayhem; an ensuing dance party and stage flooded with fest-goers were chaotic, but the singer was still the one pulling the strings.

“I’ll stop you when it’s too many,” White said as she commanded people to come up on stage. “Come on up. Bring ’em up.”

Newer track “Banshee,” which might be Santigold’s best song ever, was the kinetic highlight of the night, with the chorus’ “I’m having a good time” as an effective thesis. (See also: the line “Let me keep on preaching to my choir.” It is inconceivable that anyone would even dare try.) Coda “Can’t Get Enough Of Myself,” on second thought, probably better deserves that designation on title alone.

But if you’re looking for symbols in a pop concert, that mid-set rendition of “Go!” served the perfect blend of art, pop and an iron fist. For a song that says “People want my power/And they want my station,” it’s hard to get more literal than Santigold plucking a tiara off an audience member, donning it for a few seconds and the flinging it well past its starting point.

What happened with Crystal Castles’ disastrous SXSW set?

Friday was a bad night to be a Crystal Castles fan. First, a scary bout of lightning in downtown Austin pushed the South by Southwest set times at Stubb’s later than planned. Then the Canadian electronic act, originally slated to hit the stage at 10 p.m., didn’t go on until well after 11 p.m. Once Ethan Kath, joined by new singer Edith Frances in a beret and overcoat, did begin the set, the skittering sonic clash only lasted about 10-15 minutes.

Press photo
Press photo

The band left the stage abruptly. What a waste of the white LED bracelets handed out in front of the venue.

While the “Not In Love” group was actually on the stage — which looked like a dragon, such was the smoke vomiting into the amphitheater — their performance was loud, post-verbal, loud, nightmarish, loud, tinny and cacophonous. Which, truth be told, is pretty on-brand. But fans at Stubb’s were confused and audibly upset by the premature denouement.

So what happened? According to reports on social media, sound issues might have been to blame.

That could check out. Santigold, who performed more than an hour later after Charli XCX and Sophie, spent her entire set pressing the production crew to correct her own sound difficulties.

Regardless of reason, a two or three song set was probably not part of Crystal Castles’ plan for the evening.

Friday night’s fiasco was not the band’s only SXSW dust-up this year. Crystal Castles was removed from a Tumblr showcase highlighting feminist issues after comments made by Kath in the past about the band’s ex-singer Alice Glass resurfaced online.

SXSW: Into It. Over It. weathers storm of growing up and also actual storm

Into It. Over It. plays Friday at the Mohawk during South by Southwest. Photo by Eric Webb
Into It. Over It. plays Friday at the Mohawk during South by Southwest. Photo by Eric Webb

As Into It. Over It. did sound check at Mohawk for a SXSW showcase Friday night and a storm roiled above, a few brave souls hugged the lip of the stage under a short awning hanging over. Everyone else hid from the rain underneath the tent on the balcony or by the covered bar. It looked like the Red Sea, with a no man’s land of a floor as a dry gulf.

But then the rain stopped, and Evan Weiss opened that black hole from which many emo proverbs have emerged — his mouth. The venue space filled and became intimate. The band released new LP “Standards” this month, showing a remarkable musical growth characteristic of the whole “pop punk renaissance” that’s emerged as Warped Tour kids have grown up and gotten mortgages. The heart-pangs are still there; everything just sounds a little more sober. New song “No EQ,” with its talk of aging brains not focusing quite the same, showed Weiss hasn’t lost his big, emotional core.

At times, post-rock luxury scored the drizzle. Guitarist Josh Parks took a violin bow to his strings, an elegant touch. And say what you will about the maturity of bands that can appear on the cover of Alternative Press any given month. Into It. Over It. is an athletic band that works up a sweat, dropping their bodies into the beats.

The relatively classic “Upstate Blues” worked the wet crowd into a frenzy like no other song. The words “I think you’ve had enough to handle/And I can see it in your smile” were a familiar rallying cry. But as Weiss said, many of the songs performed were being played for maybe the second time ever in front of people. It’s a testament to resonant bedroom journal lyrics and chords that keep you 17 in your head that the stand-bys and new cuts wrapped everyone up with the same sense of wistfulness.

SXSW: Israeli sister act A-Wa finds new meaning in Yemeni folk songs

On Thursday March 16, sisters Tair, Liron and Tagel Haim of the Israeli group, A-WA, thrilled a capacity crowd at their Thursday night SXSW 2016 showcase at Flamingo Cantina. The band was in town as part of their first North American tour. (Reshma Kirpalani / American-Statesman)
On Thursday March 16, sisters Tair, Liron and Tagel Haim of the Israeli group, A-WA, thrilled a capacity crowd at their SXSW 2016 showcase at Flamingo Cantina. The band was in town as part of their first North American tour. (Reshma Kirpalani / American-Statesman)

With exuberant energy and tightly woven Yemenite harmonies laid over reggae-tinged electro grooves, A-Wa, a sister act from Israel thrilled a capacity crowd at Flamingo Cantina on Thursday night. The band, who dropped their debut EP, produced by Tomer Yosef of Balkan Beat Box, was in town as part of their first North American tour.

The sisters, Tair, Liron and Tagel Haim grew up in a musical family in Shaharut, a mountaintop village in the middle of the deserts of southern Israel. Their paternal grandparents emigrated to the country from Yemen in 1949, the year after Israel was established. In Shaharut, they began singing together as children. “We would sing to the people in our village, gather around all the kids and come up with shows,” Tair Haim said on Friday morning.

Soon they were singing in school talent shows and then went to university to study music. Over the past few years, the sisters, now ages 27-33, began to rediscover the Yemeni folk songs they sang as children. “It’s an oral tradition,” Tagel Haim said, “each woman passed it down to her daughter and this is how these songs got to us.”

The sisters feel the messages in the songs, which are mostly about love and loss are still relevant today. The lyrics from “Habib Galbi,” the lead single from the EP, roughly translate to “Love of my heart, my eyes, who turned you against me? I wish him to eat with no taste.”

“It’s like their sense of humor,” Liron Haim said. “It’s like a very gentle curse, ‘I want you to eat, but not enjoy it.’” Though the subject matter is sad, the song is still very upbeat and danceable. The same is true of most of A-Wa’s work and they love the way their music bridges cultural barriers.

“There’s also a message that we can overcome and any problem by just singing and enjoying together, dancing freely and carelessly,” Liron said. “We love the comments that we get from people that they don’t really understand the lyrics, but they feel something. It moves them and that’s a great thing.”