SXSW 2013 Thursday: Solange, Pissed Jeans, Savages, More

Our SXSW 2013 coverage continues below, with Rhye, Autre Ne Veut, Savages, Pissed Jeans, Solange, Parquet Courts, and so many other bands you may or may not care about. Only one way to know for sure! And if you’re in Austin today, don’t forget to swing by our Range Life party at the Hype Hotel, with METZ, Kitty, Lakutis, Bleeding Rainbow, Hundred Waters, Youth Lagoon, and Sky Ferreira.

Rhye @ 1100 Warehouse (Pitchfork), 12:25PM

During the walk to 1100 Warehouse under Austin’s pleasant, noontime sun, Michael and I talked about being pumped to see sensual LA R&B sensation Rhye, but how it also felt weird to be seeing them just after 12PM rather than just after midnight. Whether or not you deem Woman to be babymaking music — Gawker’s Rich Juzwiak has some great thoughts on that — it is at least undeniably nighttime music. Or at least, songs for the dark: “Is there any way to make it darker in here?” said vocalist Mike Milosh after a few songs, pointing to the back of the warehouse. “This is night time music and it’s like daylight in here.” I don’t know what he expected playing a show this early, though the importance of minimal light for this band was clear in ways that went beyond just their chosen aesthetic. There’s a huge disconnect between actually getting to see Milosh, a relatively short thin Canadian dude in nondescript dress, and hearing the immaculate honeyed brandy of his voice. The violin and horn solos may have meandered on a bit long in an unflatteringly muzak-y way — on that point a friend made constant comparisons to Dave Matthews Band the rest of the day — but the songs themselves are still works of beauty, and the set turned in the on only SXSW RSVP I really cared about this week: Rhye Singer Voice Perfect. — Amrit

Autre Ne Veut @ 1100 Warehouse (Pitchfork), 1:15PM

I’ve been watching Arthur Ashin play sets as Autre Ne Veut in and around my neighborhood for years now. Before Anxiety, his excellent breakthrough LP, the biggest ANV set was probably the time he opened for then-ascendant How To Dress Well at a church in Greenpoint. Prince was heavily in the mix then, though it was warped, muddled, weirded out, with Ashin pushing his voice into directions it didn’t want to go. At the end of last year at 285 Kent, the newly focused Autre Ne Veut presented Anxiety songs for the first time to my ears (save “Counting,” which had just enjoyed a week of deserved blog love) — with Ford & Lopatin’s Joel Ford and Zambri’s Christie Zambri helping recreate the forward-thinking production — and it was clear 2013 would be Ashin’s year. Yesterday at 1100 represented yet another step: Autre Ne Veut as refined, crowd-conquering auteur. Yes there was a sizable chunk of the audience that could mouth the words and bop on time to every beat of “Ego Free Sex Free,” which Ashin later said was the most surreal aspect of it all. But even those who didn’t know Ne Veut yet were held in his skewed R&B gaze: His voice still goes in directions you may not expect it to, but now the overall effect elicit smiles and “aww yeah” smirks rather than those old WTF squints. Ford didn’t make the trip down but Zambri is still there, contributing backing vocals as essential as the drum work by the dude whose name I don’t know. The LP is jam packed, and now that Ashin’s figured out how to make it work live, things for Autre Ne Veut will really get interesting. How big can outré R&B get? This project will help find the answer. — Amrit

Parquet Courts @ 1100 Warehouse (Pitchfork), 2:30PM

Parquet Courts might be the ideal band for your loft-rooftop barbecue; their form of postpunk is tense and nervy, but it’s still bright and hooky enough that it sounds great in the early-afternoons sun. The Brooklyn-via-Texas band draws plenty of Pavement comparisons, and those comparisons make sense; all three of the singing members share an oblique and vaguely sarcastic Malkmusian drawl. But in their attack, I hear just as much Television, in the brittle guitar spirals, and Wire, in the rigid adrenalized pound of the rhythm section. Months after its release, their Light Up Gold continues to sound better with every listen, and live, songs like “Stoned And Starving” inch ever closer to anthem status. — Tom

Katie Got Bandz @ FADER Fort (The FADER) 3:45PM

This was a befuddling one. I rolled up on the Fort after an impressively energetic set across the street at Pitchfork’s party by a clearly-exhausted White Lung. That band has been going hardbody over the past two days, so I was excited to hop over to Fader to see Katie, who has had a low-key presence in Austin. The majority of her set was eaten by another Lawless, Inc-affilated rapper. He was beaming with unrelenting energy — it was an enormous build up for Katie that she ended up not delivering on. Halfway through her time allotment, she popped up in a fly leather vest with matching shorts and broke into “I Need A Hitta” but could barely even get through the first verse and cut it off. I don’t know if the Austin heat combined with her leather outfit didn’t match up with her Windy City steez, if she was nervous because this was probably the largest show she’s ever done, or if she was on one. I think it was probably a mixture of all three because as she got deeper into her, her turnt arms moved with more ease, when she removed the leather vest, she seemed more comfortable on stage, and when she got to her latest single “Pop Out,” she started to burst with rosy-cheek personality. — Claire

Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer @ The Paramount Theatre 7:15PM

For the sake of full disclosure, one of the directors of this documentary is a long-time friend Maxim Pozdorovkin. If it weren’t for the critical accolades that Max and his co-directior Mike Lerner received at Sundance and by HBO, who has bought the film, its place on this list would be a little suspect. But they deserved all the appraisal because they’ve created a narrative film that gives glimpses to aspects of the story that were never, or rarely, reported. If you kept up with the Pussy Riot story in-depth, a lot of the reportage of the film won’t come as a shock. But that’s not even what makes this depiction of the performance collective special. Interviews with their respective parents and back footage of their childhoods and adult art projects illuminate the beautiful background that got them to the point that protesting was an imperative. When you finally get to watch them defend themselves, whether it’s after the sentencing or at the appeal, you realize they have three polar arguments with the same undercurrent of a desire for freedom. The variety in their statements really drives home their message of women’s individuality. It’s a visually beautiful, emotionally moving, and journalistically informative piece. Grab an HBO To Go code now because if you love modern art, punk rock, feminism, and/or self-liberation, this is crucial viewing. — Claire

Solange @ FADER Fort (FADER), 7:30PM

You can’t forget, watching Solange, that she’s been a professional entertainer for years, that she’s practically been training for pop stardom since birth. And while her great 2012 EP True may have flirted with blurry indie-pop textures, she still worked hard to sell her songs. And performing to a packed and rapturous FADER tent, she put plenty of the tricks she’s learned to good use: Prim but synchronized dance steps with her band, Prince-ian helium whoops, imperious I love yous for her public. All the human beings onstage with her were attractive and immaculately dressed, right down to Dev Hynes’s black leather cowboy hat. (Solange herself wore an all-over leaf print linen pantsuit with heels, an ensemble that very few people on the planet could possibly pull off.) All the showmanship was a joy to behold, but none of it was important as the breezy warmth of Solange’s songs, near-perfect nuggets of melody that might’ve been composed especially for a crowded and euphoric early-evening party like this one. On the festival circuit this summer, she is absolutely going to slay. — Tom

FIDLAR @ 1100 Warehouse (Pitchfork) 8:40

I feel like I’ve heard so much about FIDLAR since first hearing their name (an acronym for Fuck It Dog, Life’s A Risk) that it seems impossible their full-length debut was released just two months ago. Maybe I’m not alone there: Frontman Zac Carper told the crowd last night that this is the band’s 19th year at SXSW (a joke! As far as I can tell, it’s their third). The L.A. surf-garage-pop-punkers brought a raucous insanity to the stage that’s curiously kind of absent from the LP (which is still totally excellent, FWIW). Carper’s a rubber-band ball of electricity prone to voltage spikes, dropping to his knees, spinning on his side, somehow still playing guitar. He and bassist Brandon Schwartzel were high-fiving the wild-eyed lunatics who crammed at the base of the stage and chanted along to amazing early single “Cheap Beer.” But when Carper asked, “Who’s been to rehab?” there was total silence. “This song’s about rehab and how much it sucks,” he said, and the band launched into the boisterous “No Waves.” It was a weird look for a band that seems designed to soundtrack joyful, out-of-control inebriation, but hey, that’s how one winds up in rehab (other song titles include: “Blackout Stout”; “Wake Bake Skate”; “Cocaine”). Whatever. For now, anyway, the kids are pretty fucking all right. — Michael

Pissed Jeans @ 1100 Warehouse (Pitchfork) 9:20

Before Pissed Jeans played a single note, frontman Matt Korvette made an important announcement to the massive crowd that had gathered to see his band: Foo Fighters and David Bowie are playing like five minutes down the street, he told us. There will be free beer. You might want to get the fuck out of here and see that instead. It was, of course, not true — just a scathing, sarcastic indictment of the weird, corporate-branded hype-insanity fostered by the SXSW machine (brought to you by Doritos!). Anyway, no one left, and Korvette continued to be scathing and sarcastic. Pissed Jeans opened with a rocking — and surprisingly faithful! — cover of Guns N’ Roses “It’s So Easy,” as misogynistic a song as you’ll find anywhere. Korvette wasn’t really taking it seriously, but then again, he wasn’t taking any of it seriously. And that made everything he did hit that much harder. Korvette reminds me of comedian Anthony Jeselnik: a disarmingly handsome guy seemingly capable of remorseless cruelty, which you’re free to find hilarious or repulsive; either way, he doesn’t give a fuck. Korvette stalked the stage like Iggy Pop, throwing mock gang signs, miming electrocuting his balls and fingering his asshole, doing Mick Jagger rooster walks, flexing like Hulk Hogan … but seriously going nuts too. It was a brutal, intense set (the pit that formed was rowdier than anything I’ve seen here short of the madness inspired by Trash Talk). “We didn’t come here with the intention of giving you a show,” Korvette sneered. “We came here with the intention if giving you a showcase.” Later, he told us, “I actually hate all of you.” When his band finished up, he once again tried to get us to clear out, announcing that Pissed Jeans were the final band of the night and we should all probably leave now. (There were six more bands on the bill.) I feel bad for people who didn’t stay and thus missed Savages, but if anyone split thinking nothing else could have followed that set, I wouldn’t have blamed them. — Michael

Savages @ 1100 Warehouse (Pitchfork) 10:00

We had Savages at our CMJ party last year, and I’m seriously ashamed to admit that I didn’t catch their set that night. I was especially mad at myself the next day, when everyone was saying that Savages basically laid waste to the venue, the festival, the borough of Brooklyn. So I wasn’t going to miss them last night, and after last night, I’m not going to miss them again. The London-based post-punk band played their set in virtually no light, dressed in black, their details caught only occasionally by a flicker of strobe, totally androgynous except for singer Jehnny Beth’s patent stiletto pumps. Beth is the most haunting, magnetic frontperson I’ve seen since … Nick Cave? Michael Gira? Jeff Buckley? There’s a lot of Sinead O’Connor in her — visually, yes, in the hard angles of her face, the lightning intensity of her eyes, the military-cropped hair — but in her ferocious voice, too, and devastating presence. The band plays with the bleak urgency of the Birthday Party or Siouxsie And The Banshees. I stood at the base of the stage and was totally captivated; by the time they closed with the magnificent “Husbands” (a B-side!), Beth’s voice was curling like feedback, leaping like sparks. It was an otherworldly experience, the best I’ve had at this festival. — Michael

Zebra Katz and Njena Redd Foxxx @ 1100 Warehouse (Pitchfork) 11:30PM

I don’t know what the ratio of shows that Zebra Katz does with Njena to shows without Njena, but the two of them really belong together. They slay in tandem, going track for track and hyping each other with unrelenting enthusiasm and thematic dance moves, when appropriate. They were also styling hard. Njena looked like Janet from Poetic Justice 300 — a box braid bun with a shaved underside while Katz rocked a face mask that toed the line between fetish gear and balaclava. It’s kind of the perfect thing for Katz to rock. He gets lumped into the Vogue House set, but none of the music he performed utilized the four beat sample of Masters At Work “The ‘Ha’ Dance.” But if he is anything, it’s the classic definition of banjee — he presented extreme masculinity while he played his own songs as much as he did supporting Foxxx. It wasn’t until “Ima Read,” the tell-off single that brought him into the forefront, that he dropped his patina of pure masculinity and just broke it down with Njena, who never halted from giving her all. — Claire

Smoke DZA @ North Door (Peter Rosenberg Presents The New York Renaissance), 11:50PM

I’m more excited about New York underground rap than I’ve been since maybe 1999, but a showcase like Peter Rosenberg’s one seems to miss the great animating force behind it lately: It’s now dominated by internet-enabled weirdos and freaks, people who only accidentally fulfill rap-fundamentalist hopes. Rosenberg, the Hot 97 DJ who ignited a minor culture war by slighting Nicki Minaj at a show that she was headlining (and inadvertently spurring her to pull out at the last minute) put together a lineup that purported to show off a rebirth but really just showed the stuff at its most reductive core. Case in point: Harlem’s Smoke DZA, a perfectly capable rapper who should never be expected to hold down a stage by himself. The most interesting and distinctive thing about DZA is his predilection for bucket hats, which essentially makes him Tony Yayo with no 50 Cent. He refers to his songs as “my sermons” and he talks a lot about weed. He’s a fine rapper, but he’s nobody’s idea of a potential star, and I kept imagining who might’ve taken his spot if this was a “the internet is vital” show rather than a “New York is back” show. — Tom

Action Bronson @ North Door (Peter Rosenberg Presents The New York Renaissance), 12:20AM

“I literally just woke up.” That was Action Bronson, who managed to transcend his uninspiring surroundings just by being a giant amazing rapping weirdo. Bronson gave maybe 15 minutes onstage, and he relied on no hypeman or solicitous crowd-participation tricks. He just appeared onstage, reeled off a bunch of epicurean hungry-man raps, and then disappeared. He’s too good for a scene like that, and he knew it. When I saw Bronson at last year’s SXSW, he was visibly excited to welcome his “Bird On A Wire” duet partner Riff Raff to the stage. And at North Door, I kept imagining how many heads would’ve exploded if Riff Raff had walked through the door. A more inclusive rap show would’ve found room for his particular goofball presence, but this particular rap show was about anything but inclusion. — Tom

The Underachievers @ North Door (Peter Rosenberg Presents The New York Renaissance), 12:20AM

With their preference for bloopy circus-music beats and their frantically expressive on-record rapping, the young Brooklyn duo the Underachievers are just as weird and head-blown as Bronson on their own excellent recent mixtape Indigoism. But at least in this live context, all that eccentricity burned right off, and they faded right into the stoned-traditionalist morass. Both guys rapped with hunger and ferocity, but they displayed none of their more interesting edges, making me wonder if those interesting edges are even things that might come through live. In any case, they should use their forthcoming national tour to figure out how to not come across quite so pedestrian onstage. The duo has potential for days, but their stage show is a long way away from realizing that potential. — Tom