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Coverage from the 28th annual SXSW music festival with The Post’s pop music critic Chris Richards.

  • Chris Richards
  • ·
  • March 17, 10:14 AM
Young Thug performs at Fader Fort at the 2014 South By Southwest festival. (Josh Sisk/For The Washington Post)

Young Thug performs at Fader Fort at the 2014 South By Southwest festival. (Josh Sisk/For The Washington Post)

A Zen riddle from Texas: If Lady Gaga hires someone to barf on her in concert and nobody really cares, does it sell Doritos?

Here’s another one: How did South by Southwest — a music festival originally designed 28 years ago for fans with curious eardrums — mutate into a hysterical, capitalist trade show for 18-to-34-year-olds with the munchies?

Find out by reading our full SXSW recap here.

  • Chris Richards
  • ·
  • March 15, 1:18 PM

SXSW can be a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-and-hate-yourself-forever kind of place — and it felt especially so on Friday afternoon when Young Thug materialized at the Fader Fort for an energized micro-set. The Atlanta rap phenom burst through the gate with “Danny Glover” and
“Stoner,” twisting his squeaky voice into odd shapes, as if making balloon animals. Then he vanished.

Other highlights from Friday: A breathtaking performance from R&B visionary Kelela and a mosh-sparking set from OBN IIIs, whose lead singer offered sound advice for all SXSW goers: “Put that phone away!”

I ignored that directive in hopes that you’ll watch video footage from Friday’s best performances above. And below, check out the best stage moves from Samuel T. Herring, frontman of Future Islands, the Baltimore band David Letterman recently took a shine to. You’ll see why.

  • Chris Richards
  • ·
  • March 14, 1:52 PM
Lamont "Bim" Thomas of Obnox. (Photo by Josh Sisk/FTWP)

Lamont “Bim” Thomas of Obnox. (Photo by Josh Sisk/FTWP)

Sex, drugs and rock-and-roll used to be the stuff of pop culture fantasy, but Obnox frontman Lamont “Bim” Thomas sings about them like they’re a part of everyday life. Because let’s be real — for plenty of ordinary people living in the 21st century, they are.

But Thomas’s lyrics aren’t the only thing helping Obnox stand out from the hordes of garage bands currently loitering around SXSW. We cornered the Cleveland rock singer on the patio of Beerland before his Thursday afternoon gig and asked him about his rapid-fire discography and his desire to compete.

This patio is kinda jammed. Is South by Southwest overwhelming for you?

Naw, I’m not afraid of big gatherings. I grew up next to an amusement park.


Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. It’s the best park in the country. They’re kicking Walter Disney in the a–. It’s the “Amazement Park,” man. These guys have the most roller coasters of any park, and like, nine out of ten them are fairly thrilling.

So you’re comfortable in these crowds. Do you feel competitive with other bands?

Yeah, I like to cut heads in the old blues tradition, sure. But not like a jock trying to conquer these people. I just want to spread the word. When you go to a concert and you’re young, you want the band to kill. I want to be that band.

How difficult is that with so many great bands here?

Those are usually my friends. The best bands are my friends’ bands. It’s a tribe. It’s love.

I’d say one thing that separates you from so many other groups here is how prolific you are. And [last year's excellent] “Corrupt Free Enterprise” was a double album.

I’m a stay-at-home dad essentially, and now my kid is in kindergarten, so I have time to play guitar at home. And when she’s around, she inspires me. So my mojo has kicked in … I just write these tunes and my man is ready to record them two days later. That’s what’s up… [Other bands] that are simply known for their Internet profile? That s— doesn’t last. I’ve been punching for a long time and I don’t have more time. So I dropped a dozen records in, like, three years.

Another thing that sets you apart is your lyrics.

They’re rooted in real life. Regular language, man! Lyrics aren’t poetry, poems aren’t lyrics and once we understand that, we’ll be able to communicate … When I listen to Curtis Mayfield, I want to be somebody. I want to punch a clock. Or raise an orphan. Or, like, paint a wall or something! You know what I mean. I want to touch people like that. And if I gotta describe how to roll a joint in a song because I’m high as hell and I’m writing a decent riff, then that’s what the f—– song is about.

  • Chris Richards
  • ·
  • March 14, 11:03 AM

Life’s mysteries spring eternal at SXSW, where bros with acoustic guitars are still scouting new paths to transcendence.

Ryley Walker, a spaced-out young singer from Chicago who claws at his instrument like an angry old soul, was one of them. He spent his Thursday night practically snapping the strings off his guitar, squeezing magic and violence out of a gorgeous songbook. This was rainy day music for when the wind is threatening to rip your house from its foundation.

Accompanied by an upright bassist, his songs evoked the tone and delivery of John Martyn and Bill Withers — and he sang them out to side of his mouth, as if moaning, or yawning, or maybe both at once.

His audience was small but rapt — and if it got noisy, Walker would snap. “Close that door!” he shouted between songs. Then he pivoted toward his new flock and flashed a stonery grin: “I’m not really a mean person.”

He just plays guitar like one.

Ryley Walker (Photo by Chris Richards)

Ryley Walker (Photo by Chris Richards)

Two hours later and five blocks down the 7th street, it was New York troubadour Steve Gunn who was digging into a suite of cosmic folk songs that felt highly intricate and effortlessly propulsive, like Robbie Basho sitting in with the Doors.

He sang them with a stone-faced stoicism that seemed to reject our spectacle-craving notions about what a performance should look like. It was best to close your eyes and let this music take you someplace else.

Because right around the corner, a perversely self-aware pop superstar was being vomited on by a performance artist. It felt a universe away.

  • Chris Richards
  • ·
  • March 13, 5:35 PM

It’s a tricky thing to discern: Has rap music’s presence at SXSW been on the rise in recent years? Or has everything’s presence been on the rise?

Either way, when the quantity of rappers in Austin spikes, so does the quality. You could feel it in a performance early Thursday afternoon from 100s, a Los Angeleno with long, flowing hair and a terrific new mixtape titled “IVRY.” Over backing tracks built from squiggly bass lines and snowflake synths, his X-rated rhymes were as smooth as his hair-do.

  • Chris Richards
  • ·
  • March 13, 1:31 PM
Diarrhea Planet. (Photo by Chris Richards)

Diarrhea Planet. (Photo by Chris Richards)

It’s Wednesday night in Texas and you’ve got a problem. You’ve fallen for a band whose name you can’t bring yourself to say out loud. You love Diarrhea Planet.

This hirsute Nashville sextet is playing a gig on the second floor of a downtown restaurant — an eatery that must be thrilled about hosting a band with a name like this.

Yep, sextet. The band has a drummer, a bassist and four guitar players who all sing. That’s a lot of guitars, right? But more remarkably, it all adds up to six grown men who all agreed to name their band Diarrhea Planet.

Back to those guitars. They look really cool. One has a hand-painted heart with wings. One is jet black, no nonsense. One is bronze metal flake like an old bumper car. The last one is red and boring, but the guy who plays it looks like Jesus. And when all four dudes are ripping away, it sounds as if the Ramones had taken a pill that made them grow beards and shred like Iron Maiden.

You can’t miss the drummer. He looks like a young Jerry Garcia trying to kill you, but not when he’s smiling, which is at least half the time because this music is a total blast and this guy knows it. Up on the frontline, his bandmates are hot-dogging through riffs and solos, poking fun at heavy metal theatricality while embracing it at the same time. (Weezer wasn’t always the best at this.)

After 30 sweaty, moshy, crowd-surfy minutes, it’s abundantly clear that this is a killer band capable of bowling over anyone who’s ever loved Thin Lizzy, AC/DC or the underrated Minneapolis punk group Dillinger Four.

And that’s you. You love Diarrhea Planet. Almost enough to buy a T-shirt.


  • Chris Richards
  • ·
  • March 13, 12:35 PM

The big arrival: Y.G.

The rising Cali rapper and his excessively massive entourage stormed the Fader Fort on Wednesday afternoon with a strength-in-numbers approach. First, there was some microphone passing: a cameo from R&B sensation Ty Dolla $ign. Then, some blunt passing. And finally, a torch passing in the form of a guest appearance from Snoop Dogg.

The big comeback: Kelis

 (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for SXSW)

(Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for SXSW)

She used to be an R&B futurist, but Kelis decided to re-boot her career at NPR’s SXSW showcase by leaning back in time. Her band’s old-school horn section sounded more like a horn arsenal, and it helped transform her signature 2003 hit “Milkshake” into a broken Afro-beat jam. As for Kelis, she wore flowing robes and occasionally pushed her modest rasp up toward octaves previously inhabited by Mariah Carey and Minnie Ripperton.

The big surprise: Ghetto Ghouls

Corey Anderson, the frontman of this Austin-based quartet spent most of his band’s afternoon set at Beerland buried in a hooded parka. He wanted to be heard but not seen. So while his bandmates evoked the bruising, underdog punk of Eddy Current Suppression Ring and the Soft Pack, Anderson shout-sang about the polar vortex, or perhaps life itself: “It’s so cold!”

  • Chris Richards
  • ·
  • March 13, 9:13 AM

The upbeat mood at SXSW changed an hour after midnight on Thursday morning when news began to spread that a suspect fleeing police had struck a group of festival-goers with his car, killing two and injuring 23.

Bystanders and paramedics tend to a person who was struck by a vehicle on Red River Street.  Police say a man and woman have been killed after a suspected drunken driver fleeing from arrest crashed through barricades . (AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Jay Janner)

Bystanders and paramedics tend to a person who was struck by a vehicle on Red River Street. Police say a man and woman have been killed after a suspected drunken driver fleeing from arrest crashed through barricades . (AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Jay Janner)

Read the full story here.

  • Chris Richards
  • ·
  • March 13, 9:08 AM

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