SXSW Thursday Dispatch: Black Lips, BADBADNOTGOOD, Parquet Courts

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For better or worse, Wednesday's tragedy could not stop the bacchanalia and brand promotion of SXSW. With beefed-up security and a midnight moment of silence for the victims of the car crash on Red River, the festival continued into Thursday without interference. Here's the rundown on what sets we caught.

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BADBADNOTGOOD (ft. Tyler the Creator) - Red 7, 3 p.m.

Toronto-based trio BADBADNOTGOOD casually toe the line between hip-hop and jazz, unafraid to sway towards either pole when necessary. A true refreshment from the slew of SXSW bands that can only vaguely play their instruments, BBNG have a supreme command over their work. Seeing the piano-drums-bass outfit live is an exercise in improvisation, an energetic animal that can't quite be contained. It's a unique draw, blending Chick Corea keyboards with beats normally reserved for an 808 drum machine.

With two songs remaining in their set, Odd Future's unabashed leader and portable hype-machine Tyler the Creator took the stage to weave his rhymes with BBNG's rhythms. Though it wasn't a surprise for anyone with a smartphone or a schedule, the pairing represented the best of SXSW: world-class talents mashing up live, unrehearsed and free for anyone willing to wait in line for an hour. The set closed with "Lemonade," a live update on Tyler's "Orange Juice."

Black Lips - Hotel Vegas, 6:30 p.m.

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Over on E 6th, at the Levitation Austin party, things got weird at Hotel Vegas with a staggering twenty-six bands throughout the day. After waiting in line for nearly two hours, I made it in to catch Atlanta's Black Lips, contenders for the title of Garage Rock Champions of the World.

The Lips have been a blast to see since their inception fifteen years ago, but only in the past few have they learned how to really play their instruments to augment their raw talent as performers. The band chugged through ten-odd songs, pulling primarily from their 20011 release Arabia Mountain and their new album, Underneath the Rainbow (out 3/18). The new tunes, like everything in their roster, are a hellish barrel of fun,merging punk, rockabilly and impeccable Southern diction ("got-to drinkin'," start-to bleedin'") under the garage aesthetic.

As singer Cole Alexander howled into the fading daylight, I couldn't help but be impressed by Levitation Austin's booking. The Black Angels, Austin psych-rock royalty and purveyors of Levitation Austin and May's Psych Fest, certainly know how to create a lineup to avoid sonic uniformity, a common issue in the genre.

There is nothing inherently psychedelic about the Black Lips, except maybe their drug use. But toss a reverb/delay mic on stage to complement the bands' howling vocals, pull from the most far-out material in the Black Lips' eight album catalog, and place them in the context of twenty-five other bands in the loose genre of psych, and you've got yourself a show.

Parquet Courts, Bar 96, 11:30 p.m.

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Photo by Jaime Monzon

Parquet Courts are the smartest punks in the room in 2014, intelligent and emotionally expressive, without appearing self-conscious or snotty towards their IQ. The Brooklyn-based quartet cut through forty minutes of music at Bar 96, taking a brief and apparently festival-wide moment of silence for Wednesday's crash victims.

It's evident on their records that language comes first for the band, writing engaging think pieces or stream-of-consciousness rants. Though several days of pounding my eardrums at violent decibel levels rendered the lyrics indecipherable, Parquet Courts are tight enough as a punk band that their music stands alone.

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