Established in Austin in 2005 to provide an exhibition opportunity for artists across the Lone Star state, the Texas Biennial is the longest-running state biennial in the country. Comprising contemporary works selected from an open call, the biennial’s “TX?13” centerpiece rounds up more than 60 artists—with Shannon Crider, Claudio Dicochea, Julia Barbosa Landois, Kelly O’Connor, Chris Sauter and Gary Sweeney representing San Antonio—for a sprawling showcase at Blue Star Contemporary. Boasting 14 curators (with Virginia Rutledge acting as Curator-at-Large), the independent survey opens with onsite performances by Dion Laurent, Natali Leduc and The Bridge Club along with outdoor projections by Skye Ashbrook. In addition to companion exhibits, projects and performances hosted by Austin’s Big Medium, University of Texas at Dallas’ CentralTrak, Houston’s Lawndale Art Center, and Ballroom Marfa, the fifth anniversary event encompasses happenings at 80 participating venues across Texas—including the Alamo City’s own Artpace, FL!GHT, X Marks the Art, the McNay, Neidorff Art Gallery at Trinity, UTSA Art Gallery and Satellite Space, Sala Diaz, SAMA, Southwest School of Art, the Lullwood Group, Unit B (Gallery) and the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. For a full list of Texas Biennial programming, visit texasbiennial.org. Free, 6-9pm Thursday-Friday, Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum, 116 Blue Star, (210) 227-6960, bluestarart.org.
2. The Dear Hunter Tour
Homeboy Sandman may be the biggest no-brainer signing in Stones Throw’s history; his tuneful flow, clever lyrics and naturally soulful voice are a perfect fit for the label’s profile. One of the best new MCs to come out of Queens in a decade, his poetic, grooving style is nicely balanced on the Dear Hunter tour by the artfully jazzy approach of Open Mike Eagle, a longtime collaborator of L.A.’s Project Blowed. While his freestyle skills are sharp as a razor, he mellows them out considerably with a thoughtful, mannered aesthetic that makes him stand out from a generation of thug-mugs and party rappers. Also on the bill is Random, whose agile rhyming and obsession with video game culture has made him a favorite with the crossover nerdcore crowd; all three are talented rappers, and the Dear Hunter tour gives them to you for a single sawbuck. $7-$10, 9pm Thursday, 502 Bar, 502 Embassy Oaks, (210) 257-8125, 502bar.com.
3. JD Samson
Gender-bending JD Samson (Le Tigre, MEN) isn’t just one of the most lucid minds in the DJing world—she also possesses a rare ear for rhythm and clearly understands a beat isn’t just a beat, but in the best cases the communion of different rhythmic patterns. She’s also the personification of everything that’s good—and hard—about living life as an artist. “I know the economy is failing, but I think it is important to remember that it is failing for everyone
Even the people you think might have money,” she wrote on a classic confessional column in the Huffington Post (“I Love My Job, but it Made me Poorer”) in which she described the hell she went through in order to get a roach-infested apartment in Brooklyn. My solution: come live in SA. It may not be as cool as NY, but it’s cheaper and way more loving. With resident VJ/DJ Glitoris. $5, 10pm Thursday, Industry, 8021 Pinebrook, (210) 374-2765, feelgoodfridays.com.
4. Chris Isaak
His generally enjoyable dabbling in thespianism aside, Chris Isaak has quietly had one of the longest-lasting, successful careers of any singer-songwriter of his generation. While he’s never been able to equal the success of early hits like “Blue Hotel” and “Wicked Game,” he’s remained a viable touring act, a reliable studio musician and a sought-after collaborator–all of which has led him to develop a live show that’s as comfortable as an old pair of jeans. His songwriting style has never strayed far from the roots-tinged guitar rock that brought him fame, but he doesn’t always dance with the one that brung him. He’s also worked with a wide enough range of performers that there’s never a lack of flavor to his material. (He’s also got his brother Nick as his opening act, which is bound to create some hilarious backstage sibling rivalry.) $65, 8pm Friday, Gruene Hall, 1281 Gruene, New Braunfels, (830) 606-1281, gruenehall.com.
5. Ronald Ray Gun
From his membership in Bad Breaks and Jasper’s Cast to his status as a former angel in Marcus Rubio’s Gospel Choir of Pillows, SA stalwart Jackson Floyd is no stranger to the scene. But his newest outfit, the pun-heavy Ronald Ray Gun, reps a sense of humor we haven’t seen before in the multi-instrumentalist. The band’s debut LP, What’s So Funny About Pizza and Understanding? finds the band with a shred-heavy, synth-happy approach to ’90s alt and indie rock. “Ronald Ray Gun began for a couple reasons,” Floyd told the Current over the phone last week. “One, I had a wealth of creative material and nowhere for it to go. Two, me and some friends started jamming a lot and it kind of developed naturally from there.” Over the past year or so, Floyd, drummer Eric Elliot (a former Jasper’s Cast-er), keyboardist Tyler Sanders and bassist Phil Repsher honed in on the Ray Gun sound: whip-smart-meets-weed-stupid guitar glam. “I’ve always been in love with early ’90s guitar rock. Pavement, Sebadoh, Superchunk, all of it,” said Floyd. Pizza and Understanding certainly shows it, as distorted guitar riffs flood the record. Still, the band’s impeccable sense of humor—knowing when to cut the jokes and when to throw them into overdrive—and an unexpected ear for instrumentation keep Ronald Ray Gun from performing at Dinosaur Jr. tribute nights. This Friday at the 502, Ronald Ray Gun will be firing at full capacity as a septet, complete with the cello, clarinet and trombone parts from Pizza and Understanding. “For the record, we wanted to do something a little more than just the quartet,” Jackson said. “So we recruited our friends to help out with strings and horns and give it a fuller effect.” Joining Ronald Ray Gun will be the power-pop of the Rosedale Highs, the one-man extravaganza of FILMSTRIPS and the Australian psychedelic outfit Hailer. Fresh off their 2012 release Go Down, Sam Amador (drums/vocals), Dustin Olinick (bass/vocals) and Jason Treviño (guitar/vocals) of the Rosedale Highs hit the 502 with their off-kilter brand of mellow pop. FILMSTRIPS, the most recent incarnation of SA heavyweight Chris Maddin, meshes his capable songwriting with a newfound electronic proclivity. Riding the recent wave of most excellent Australian psych, Hailer reaches the U.S. with reverb-drenched tales of Aussie life. Along with the beer-battered, party vibes of Ronald Ray Gun and free pizza provided by the band, it’s sure to be a good time. $5, 9pm Friday, 502 Bar, 502 Embassy Oaks, (210) 257-8125, 502bar.com.
6. San Antonio Burlesque Festival
When producers of the 2nd Annual San Antonio Burlesque Festival asked Coco Lectric (rated No. 5 on 21st Century Burlesque Magazine’s “Top 50”) and burlesque legend Tiffany Carter (Miss Nude Universe 1975) to headline their event, they inadvertently catapulted Elisa Chan’s San Anto onto the North American touring circuit for burlesque superstars. This two-day, interactive skin fest kicks off Friday with the ravishing Coco Lectric (above) of Austin’s Jigglewatts Burlesque and Ron Dez Vous and April Showers from L.A. The glittered sensuality continues Saturday with 2012 New Orleans Queen of Burlesque (the Emmy award equivalent for stripping and teasing) Angi B. Lovely and the absolute must-see King of Burlesque Russell Bruner (top) whose Chaplin-esque act is straight out of a technicolor time machine. “There’s a wide world of burlesque out there,” says Joule of the classic burlesque, neo-burlesque and boylesque to behold. “Everyone can see all this variety in one gigantic show.” $15-$50 per night, 8pm Friday-Saturday, Woodlawn Theatre, 1920 Fredericksburg, (210) 355-2904, sanantonioburlesquefest.com.
7. The Octopus Project
Among electro indie-pop party bands, few are more hard-rocking or as musically ambitious as The Octopus Project. The mostly instrumental Austin band is the perfect blend of digital and analog grooves, all wrapped in an exuberant, fast-driving and melody-filled package that, in spite of how they describe it (“post-ears, pre-brains”), is the sound of capable musicians with more on their minds than mere dancing. Nothing wrong with laptops, but make no mistake: The Octopus Project is a band, a group of humans making music with real instruments and “living in the future and the past at the same time.” If you liked their latest album Fever Forms, wait until you see them live: that’s where The Octopus thrives. This isn’t your typically holier-than-thou, overrated Austin band—this is the real deal. With Deer Vibes, Young Dreyfuss and DJ Pulp. $12-$15, 8pm Saturday, Limelight, 2718 N St. Mary’s, ticketfly.com.
8. Mad Decent Block Party
One stage, nine bands, an inflatable cooling station, free T-shirts and even sponsored mascots (a walking taco, a walking pizza) are some of the features of the sixth edition of the Mad Decent Block Party—the first to come to Texas, and also the first with a ticket price after five free years. “It just didn’t make any sense [to keep it free] because too many people wanted to come and couldn’t get in, and there was a lot of RSVP confusion,” said Jasper Goggins, label manager for Mad Decent. Yes, Diplo may own it, but Goggins is the guy who runs Mad Decent and works behind the scenes for this year’s Block Party, which grew to 13 cities from only five last year. Mad Decent Block Parties started in 2008 outside the label’s former office in Philadelphia (it’s now headquartered in Los Angeles) and have steadily grown from a crowd of 500-1,000 the first year to mostly sold-out crowds of no less than 4,000 and up to 15,000 (depending on the venue) in 2013, and it keeps on growing. “We’re already talking about some foreign places,” said Goggins. “We have strong presence in places like Australia, England, France and New Zealand, so we’ll see.” The 2013 lineup includes EDM superstars like Major Lazer, the “Harlem Shake” dude Baauer (who is only playing in Dallas and New Braunfels, so consider yourself lucky), Dillon Francis, Flosstradamus (Chicago DJs J2K and Autobot), Amsterdam’s The Party Squad (huge in the Netherlands, these are their first U.S. shows) and others. “Usually a Major Lazer show alone will cost as much as the whole Block Party, but [here] you’re getting a lot for your money,” said Goggins. “Everyone who played in the past free events hardly charged us anything to play. But even now we keep the ticket price so low because [everyone] understands the goal here is to have kids of all ages come and see all these bands without having to spend over $100, which is usually what these things cost.” The headliners aren’t skimping, either. Dancehall-lovin’ Major Lazer comes in full force: Diplo, Jillionaire, Walshy Fire (original producer Switch left in late 2011 due to creative differences), two dancers and an explosive mix that’s as overstuffed as the “featuring” line of the group’s latest album, Free the Universe, which included the likes of Peaches, Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig, Bruno Mars and many more. If you loved the irresistibly infamous video for “Bubble Butt,” you’ll want to check out the new “Scare Me” video (also off Free the Universe, released in April). The live action mini-film employs a roster of stars for a B-movie tribute in which the Major Lazer character takes out various bad dudes and dudettes with the help of a fierce female sidekick before a missile explodes. (Or something.) It’s almost as fun as jiggling your own bubble butt to a live performance by these partying fusioners. Mad Decent even throws a bone to our cultural heritage, inviting 3BallMTY to the Block Party. Pronounced “Tribal Monterrey,” these three Mexican kids have an infectious way of mixing cumbia, synth-pop and techno without dumbing things down. The three DJs/producers (Erick Rincón, DJ Sheeqo Beat and DJ Otto) won a Latin Grammy for Best New Artist in 2012, had a number one Billboard Latin song for two weeks (“Inténtalo”) and will be in the area for the third time after two consecutive appearances at the Festival People en Español. The 3BallMTY link to Mad Decent: Toy Selektah (mixmaster for Control Machete, arguably Mexico’s greatest hip-hop group), who produced their Inténtalo album and who released his own Mex Machine EP on Mad Decent in 2011. “[At the New York date] I was wondering how it would go [with 3BallMTY],” said Goggins. “The whole front of the audience were white young teenagers from Connecticut and Long Island, but it went great—everyone was digging their ‘Suavemente’ remix. It was awesome.” $30-$75, 4pm-1am Saturday, WhiteWater Amphitheater, 11860 FM 306, New Braunfels, (830) 964-3800, whitewaterrocks.com.
9. Danny Lyon: "The Bikeriders"
In the ’60s, self-taught photographer Danny Lyon played an active role in transforming documentary photography just as writers were pioneering New Journalism. The native New Yorker began his career as the first staff photographer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee—a job that once landed him in a jail cell next to Martin Luther King Jr. In an attempt “to record and glorify the life of the American bikerider” (and “destroy Life magazine” in the process), Lyon purchased a Triumph, joined the Outlaws and spent years photographing the gang from the inside. Published in ’67, Lyon’s iconic book The Bikeriders served as visual inspiration for Easy Rider. In conjunction with Fotoseptiembre, SAMA showcases 50 photographs from Lyon’s influential body of work. $5-$10, 10am-9pm Sat, 10am-6pm Sun, 10am-9pm Tue, San Antonio Museum of Art, 200 W Jones, (210) 978-8100, samuseum.org.
Bound by roots that can be traced to Ferris Bueller’s own Glenbrook North High School in Chicago, Krewella is a rising electro-pop outfit benefiting from a sonic blend of hard and soft. Formed in 2010 by metalhead-turned DJ/producer Kris “Rain Man” Trindl, former choir girl Jahan Yousaf and her “little annoying sister” Yasmine, the trio made its first waves with the track “Alive,” which was recorded in a closet and charted on Billboard’s Top 40. By taking cues from the Yousaf sisters’ multi-ethnic background and a songwriter’s approach to club music, Krewella differs from many on the EDM scene—despite mass appeal. In support of their debut LP Get Wet, the wild bunch descends on Cowboys with “a brand new super structure called the Volcano” and support from Seven Lions, Candyland and Roy Montez. $30, 9pm Sunday, Cowboys Dancehall, 3030 NE Loop 410, (210) 646-9378, cowboysdancehall.com.