The Current at SXSW: Thursday, March 16

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Jake Luppen of Hippo Campus tries our Snapchat Spectacles
Jake Luppen of Hippo Campus tries our Snapchat Spectacles (Jay Gabler/MPR)

Hello from Austin! We're excited to be part of one of the world's biggest music discovery events, the SXSW Music conference. Every day this week, we'll be sharing updates on what's news and what's next.

Today is the third of four day parties we're co-presenting with Noisetrade at the Blackheart on Rainey Street. If you're in Austin, come by and see us!

If you're not at SXSW, you can watch The Current's Facebook page as Jade talks with several artists, starting at noon. Today, we're planning to talk with Lizzo, Ron Gallo, Muddy Magnolias, Jason Lytle, and Nicole Atkins. You can also hear Jade check in from SXSW on The Current at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat (thecurrentsnaps) for live reports on all the action.

Here's the lineup today at the Blackheart:

Indoor Stage
11:30 to 12 p.m.: Future Thieves
12:30 to 1 p.m.: Cory Branan
1:30 to 2 p.m.: Knox Hamilton
2:30 to 3 p.m.: The Molochs
3:30 to 4 p.m.: Major and the Monbacks
4:30 to 5 p.m.: Alice Jemima

Outdoor Stage
12 to 12:30 p.m.: Banditos
1 to 1:30 p.m.: Muddy Magnolias
2 to 2:30 p.m.: Baskery
3 to 3:30 p.m.: Ron Gallo
4 to 4:30 p.m.: The Weeks
5 to 5:40 p.m.: Rainbow Kitten Surprise

Minnesota artists playing SXSW showcases today include Andrew Jansen, LOUD SUN (Maggie Mae's); Communist Daughter and jeremy messersmith (Central Presbyterian Church, in a showcase that also includes Kate Nash); Hippo Campus (Blackheart); and Tancred (Cheer Up Charlie's).

The Cedar Street Courtyard hosts an ATO Records showcase featuring Benjamin Booker, Hurray for the Riff Raff, and Chicano Batman among others. Today's lineup at the Radio Day Stage includes the New Pornographers and Middle Kids. Bar 96 has a white-hot (so to speak) lineup featuring White Denim, Betty Who, and the remarkable Jain.

Real Estate, Agnes Obel, and Julie Byrne will be at Clive Bar (a.k.a. the Showtime Twin Peaks house). At the Austin American Statesman lot, MTV will be spotlighting emerging artists as well as one very surely emerged artist: Rick Ross. Hip-hop fans will also be attuned to the Emo's showcase featuring acts including 2 Chainz and Mike Will Made It.

For a complete lineup of today's official music events, see sxsw.com.

Wednesday recap

It was another busy day at the Blackheart, where our day party climaxed with a performance by Minnesota's own jeremy messersmith. Before his set, jeremy stopped by to chat with Jade.

Jade also talked with two members of Hippo Campus, who have a busy SXSW schedule.

Among the other artists who stopped by for Wednesday interviews: A.C. Newman (the New Pornographers), PWR BTTM (exhausted and delightful), and venerable singer-songwriter Garland Jeffreys.

After his interview, A.C. Newman asked if we had any Current shirts he could wear for the New Pornographers' next set. Our options were a little limited at that point, but we showed him what he had. Then he pointed at the shirt I was wearing. "Do you have any more like that?" he asked. "I was kind of looking at that one." It was the last we had in that design, and I happily took it off and gave it to him. A few hours later, there he was wearing it onstage at the Stereogum showcase.

There were no shortage of impressive performances today at our party, but I was particularly taken with London trio SYKES. It was clear early on that a particular energy was building at the indoor stage, where singer-keyboardist Julia Sykes led the band through a set of synth-pop anthems with a hard-rocking edge. By the set's conclusion, Sykes had the crowd — most of whom must have started the set with no idea who they were watching — in the palm of her hands, grabbing a guitar and shredding her way to an ecstatic conclusion for good measure.

When things wrapped up at the party, we grabbed some dinner and convened at Stubb's for the NPR showcase. PWR BTTM kicked things off, ripping riffs and winning screams from the quickly-growing crowd, suggesting that whether or not they ever achieve arena status, they could own a large venue if they ever got there. On one song, they welcomed Alynda Lee Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff to join in on vocals.

After PWR BTTM, Hurray for the Riff Raff had their own soulful set, with Segarra's powerful voice easily filling the courtyard. Sylvan Esso followed, instigating a dance party per usual despite the generally chill vibe of their recorded output.

At that point I split off from the Current crowd, making my way down to Latitude 30 — rechristened "the British Music Embassy" for the festival's duration. Singer-songwriter Marika Hackman was wrapping up her set as I made my way to the stage. While her impassioned songs are generally in an alternative-rock vein that would be familiar to fans of the '90s indie scene, she enlists two supporting guitarists whose axes, in addition to Hackman's own, add texture and nuance more redolent of the Smiths than Hole.

After Hackman, Kate Nash took the stage for a set that was everything I'd dreamed it might be — and more. One of my all-time favorite singer-songwriters, Nash seemed uncomfortable in both of the two Minnesota shows I've seen, and I was curious to hear how her progression towards a riot-grrrl aesthetic (like Hackman's, Nash's current bandmates are all women) would play out in 2017.

It played out beautifully: Nash has truly come into her own as a live performer. She didn't shy away from numbers on her hit debut album Made of Bricks, in part because they've been re-visioned as cutting guitar-driven songs rather than keyboard-driven pop tracks. Her power-trio band rocks hard, with Nash left to explore the space either on vocals alone or, as in the set-concluding "Underestimate the Girl," with a bass guitar that she walked out through the crowd and onto the bar.

A new song, "Agenda," suggested yet another new direction: a loping beat with rap-sung verses breaks for softer bridges like beams of sun through the clouds. Nash herself beamed throughout the set, confident in her ability to get even the just-try-to-impress-me SXSW crowd riled up good and proper. She said she has a new EP coming out this year, and I can't wait.

Jim McGuinn's night ended a little differently. We'll have to find out more later today...


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