Tag Archives: SXSW

SXSWatch: Wild Wing are Punks Who Love Memes as Much as They Love History

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Wild Wing, SXSW 2017. All photos by Daniel Cavazos.

If you’re looking for a hearty, vulgar laugh, look no further than Los Angeles punks Wild Wing. They’re the goofiest guitar band in the City of Angels, with a deep love of memes, doctored photos, and flipping the bird. Here are but a few of the hilarious highlights: a “The Wild Wing Tour starter pack” (the bare essentials include a pair of crutches with boots on the end, a can of Red Bull, an order of McDonalds’ french fries, a hospital discharge form for a head injury, and an image of a doctor standing next to a pudgy dog with the caption “When they remove your balls because you kept fucking your owner’s wife”); a crude stick-figure Calvin-style drawing impudent to the current US president; there’s even a photo of the group standing with a slightly befuddled Guy Fieri.

But there’s much more to Wild Wing than memetic trolling and guitar-driven tomfoolery. They’re less a rock band than a pack of rock n’ roll non-fiction authors, dead-set on fighting the establishment through carefully-controlled chaos, lengthy history studies (and, of course, jokes).

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SXSWatch: Brodka’s Haunting Songs of Love and Cannibalism

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Brodka, SXSW 2017. All photos by Daniel Cavazos.

It’s the day after her 29th birthday, and Monika Brodka—better known simply as Brodka—has shocked her fans with an Instagram post of her freshly shaved head. The Polish singer/songwriter laughs at the frenzy she’s accidently created while still in bed with her two cats in her Warsaw apartment. But perhaps it’s also the surprise she still has the ability to shock at all that has her smiling.

Brodka’s breakthrough in her home country came thanks to her 2004 win on Polish Pop Idol. Her first two efforts minted her as a mainstream commercial pop darling, an image she successfully began to subvert with 2010’s Granda, which she recorded using traditional Polish folk instruments, which she then remixed to create spiky electro pop. Last year’s Clashes (her first international release) further fiddled with the script, an exercise in eclecticism with its arms around both stripped-down, Patti Smith-style punk and melancholy folk. Over the course of 12 tracks Brodka manages a confessional sort of storytelling without actually revealing anything personal—her tales of sex, heartache, and breakups veiled behind images of cannibalism, funerals, and a girl dreaming about horses. (That last detail sounds like it owes something to Belle and Sebastian, but is actually a nod to Courtney Love.)

Brodka played an official showcase in Austin last week at SXSW, at the chaotic center of the festival on corner of Red River and 6th Street on the final Friday. Outside, roving packs of K2 zombies celebrated St. Patrick’s day while sophisticated Europeans with bejeweled faces played pop music. During a rocky soundcheck, the monitors went so out of whack that the ceiling shook and dust fell onto the stage, causing Brodka to proclaim, “It’s snowing in Austin.” The set began with a somber electronic organ and tambourine before a skull-pounding single drum joined in. Her stoic confidence and shaved head can’t help but conjure a comparison to Sinead O’Connor. But Brodka is her own brand of 21st century pop star, inspired by post-punk and a survivor of Poland’s answer to American Idol.

In person, the musician is incredibly forthcoming, recounting her struggles to focus, love of working in different cities, and that one time at SXSW when she embraced her inner rock star.

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SXSWatch: Noga Erez’s Fitful Dance-Pop Carries Potent Messages

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Noga Erez, SXSW 2017. All photos by Daniel Cavazos.

Noga Erez is happy to hear folks compare her fidgety pop songs to M.I.A. and FKA twigs—who wouldn’t be, right?—but the singer/producer’s personal hero is PJ Harvey.

“The way she inspires me is beyond sound and music,” Erez says from her Tel Aviv home. “I wish I could be as authentic and brave as her. The artistic path she’s gone through is one of the most interesting I’ve ever witnessed.”

Erez is especially drawn to the way Harvey speaks her mind on rightfully-acclaimed records like 2011’s Let England Shake LP. Angry and accessible, soft and sharp, it’s a protest record that doesn’t spell everything out.

The first few singles from Erez’s upcoming Off the Radar album (due out June 2nd through City Slang) take a similar approach. With its pitch-bent vocals, pressure-cooked beats, and lumbering bass lines—all sounds that are more often found at dance clubs than political rallies—”Dance While You Shoot” tackles an elusive government that thrives on “manipulative media, ignorance, and bureaucracy.”

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SXSWatch: The Powerful Spitfire Storytelling of Cuba’s La Dame Blanche

La Dame Blanche

La Dame Blanche, SXSW 2017. All photos by Daniel Cavazos.

As soon as you hear Yaité Ramos talk about her journey, from developing as a classical musician in the famed Escuela Nacional de Arte in Cuba, to finding her voice as a hip-hop artist in the streets of Paris, it’s evident that she’s a warrior—battle-tested and not afraid of the unknown. Artistically, she identifies herself as La Dame Blanche, a nod to the scary yet benevolent ghost at the center of a French opera of the same name, but also a picaresque wink at her status as a santera and a black woman. She’s a raconteur. With the flute as her chosen weapon, and Marc Babylotion Damblé of the Orisha’s providing the beats, she marches on-stage and raps about the characters, hardships, joys and lived experiences between the two places she calls home—France and Cuba.

On 2014’s Piratas and 2016’s 2, her spitfire rapping and strong delivery are underscored by bass-heavy staccato beats, turntable scratching, and a sophisticated mixture of cumbia rhythms intermingled with dancehall, Cuban rumba and son. In the midst of this fusion is Ramos’ flute, is sweet, bucolic melodies rounding out her signature sound and giving her music an emotional breadth that reveals the heart underneath the combativeness. After years of touring across Europe and the Americas, she’s finally performing at one of the music industry’s biggest events, South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.

Ballroom D at noon on a Wednesday in the Austin convention center is hardly a match for La Dame Blanche. In front of a small audience in a cavernous grey room she took the stage wearing reflective aviator sunglasses with a lit cigar in one hand, and made her SXSW debut by belting out the word “Maria.” To her left, a DJ dropped a chorus of support and to her right, a live drummer joined in. You may have to speak Spanish to fully understand the nuances of her lyrics, but the intent comes through just fine. Her swagger on stage and the way her impressive register suddenly drops at the end of a line is reminiscent of Missy Elliot. After the first ballad, she grabbed a flute, gripping it like a baseball bat and resting it on her shoulder before launching into a jarrings classical melody. Later in the set, she retreated to the back of the stage, only to emerge with her arms in a boxing stance, slowly lurching forward, as if sparring with the small, but captive audience.

Bandcamp caught up with Ramos on her way to SXSW to talk about her performance at its Sounds of Cuba showcase, the stories she likes to tell and why—after years of performing jazz and classical music—she chose hiphop as her medium. The interview was conducted in Spanish with English translations below.         

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SXSWatch: OSHUN’s Afrocentric Soul Music

Oshun by Daniel Cavazos.

Oshun, SXSW 2017. L: Thandiwe Sala R: Niambi Sala. All photos by Daniel Cavazos.

Niambi and Thandiwe Sala are the voices behind OSHUN, a Brooklyn-based duo specializing in fizzy takes on Afrocentric soul. Their music is shot through with a sharp intellect and critical awareness—unsurprising, considering both Niambi and Thandiwe are pursuing degrees in music and Africana Studies at NYU. Their skill and grace were on full display Monday night in Austin, during a SXSW showcase at Kasita on East 4th Street. Throughout the set, OSHUN delivered a layered blend of evocative R&B, at times feeling like a combination of Floetry and Les Nubians. It’s the sort of music that would’ve thrived in Philadelphia’s early ’00s Black Lily movement, or fit comfortably alongside mid ’90s neo-soul.

Just prior to hitting the stage at SXSW, OSHUN talked with us about their upcoming graduation, musical maturation, and maintaining control of their narrative voices.

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