At SXSW, Choc Quib Town, Yelawolf, Court Yard Hounds, jj

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 22, 2010

AUSTIN -- It's one of spring's most exhilarating and exhausting rites: The South by Southwest music festival, a five-day continuum of concerts where pop music's sprawling blogosphere is transposed into real life. With countless gigs dotted across Austin's city grid, bands that are normally a few mouse clicks away are now just a few blocks away. Dancing shoes recommended, walking shoes required.

Now in its 24th year, SXSW used to be about discovering fledgling artists. This weekend, it was about affirming what you already hoped to be true. Is your favorite band on MySpace (or YouTube or Vimeo or SoundCloud) really all that? There's often a sweet-and-sour dissonance between what our earbuds have been telling us for months and what we finally witnessed onstage.

This year, thousands of acts crammed onto Austin's stages -- with more than two dozen visiting from the Washington area. Of the 60-odd performances I sought out at SXSW between Wednesday afternoon and the tiny hours of Sunday morning, here are nine that met my expectations in the most refreshing, mysterious ways -- or even exceeded them.

And heads up: Many of them are scheduled to storm Washington stages soon.

Choc Quib Town

The biggest thrills at SXSW came from an emerging Colombian trio who can sing, rap and trigger dance floor delirium like the Fugees reincarnate. They're called Choc Quib Town and their new album is a gritty-gorgeous tropical swirl of Latin hip-hop. But at the Beauty Bar Palm Door on Saturday night, the pogoing threesome proved there's no substitute for the thrill of a dance floor rumbling under stomping feet.

Choc Quib Town's U.S. debut album "Oro" is available now, with no pending local gig.


Metal is synonymous with machinelike precision, but these Brooklyn headbangers deliver the goods in a loose, ecstatic blur. Onstage, guitarist and vocalist Hunter Hunt-Hendrix unleashed jangled blasts of distortion and throaty jaguar roars as if they were involuntary actions. It didn't seem like he was playing these songs so much they were happening to him. And during the opening blast of Liturgy's outdoor show on Saturday afternoon, a violent wind came gusting across the patio as if on cue. It felt like heavy metal magic.

Liturgy is scheduled to perform at the Talking Head in Baltimore on April 1.


This Alabama rapper pounced onstage at Klub Krucial on Saturday night sporting a Joe Strummer mullet and a constellation of tattoos etched on his pasty skin. Twenty sweaty minutes later, he had proven himself one of the most riveting performers at SXSW, thanks to a nasal, petulant sneer that reaffirmed rap music's rebel spirit.

Yelawolf is scheduled to perform at the 9:30 club on March 28.

Cloud Nothings

SXSW is overrun by the young and under-rehearsed, drawing a fine line between charming and annoying. Cleveland's Cloud Nothings were all ramshackle charm on Wednesday, though, barreling through a handful of rousing indie rock tunes with youthful abandon. And they're plenty youthful. Songwriter and frontman Dylan Baldi is bespectacled, fired up and all of 18 years old.

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