By Keidra Chaney
By the time this column runs, South By Southwest Music Festival will be in full swing in Austin, Texas. As usual, Chicago has a pretty sizable showing this year, with a few dozen hometown bands performing at both official and unofficial showcases. Some local favorites mentioned in previous columns—including Twin Peaks, Sidewalk Chalk, White Mystery and Jon Langford—will be performing throughout the week.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Austin this weekend, you can check out a number of Chicago-centric unofficial showcases. Local music startup Downwrite is throwing its own three-day showcase, with Young Statues and Archie Powell and the Exports headlining at Rooftop On 6th (403 East 6th) on Friday, March 20, and Hawthorne Heights headlining at Kebabalicious (1311 East 7th) on Saturday, March 21. Meanwhile, Bloodshot Records is throwing a twentieth-anniversary party, headlined by the Waco Brothers, at Austin’s Yard Dog Gallery (1510 South Congress) on Friday, March 20. On Saturday, you can also check out MWSXSW, a showcase of local and midwest hip-hop artists, hosted and headlined by Chicago’s own Twista, at Old School Bar & Grill (401 East 6th). There’s probably a lot more Chicago bands and Chicago-centric events going on during SXSW weekend; I recommend following @unofficialsxsw on Twitter to keep up. (And if you have any scoop on exceptional performances by local bands at the festival, let me know @kdc on Twitter.)
If you’re stuck in Chicago during SXSW (like me), you can actually enjoy a bit of the festival showcase experience here. Japan Nite—a showcase of Japanese indie rock, pop and dance music that has been a staple of SXSW Music for the past two decades—does a short tour of New York and Chicago each year after the festival ends, so you can check out what you missed in Austin. On Sunday, March 22, the tour hits Double Door (1551 North Damen), with an exciting lineup headlined by J-rockers TsuShiMaMire and including Zarigani$, a fun bass-and-drum bubblegum punk duo that I highly recommend. The 21+ show starts at 7:30pm and tickets are $15 at the door.
Schubas (3159 North Southport) is doing a series of free local live music called “100% Off Bands” through the end of the month. On March 22, Milwaukee rockers The Living Statues headline; on March 23, check out Chicago indie-pop duo Scout Ripley, a novel combination of pop songwriting and orchestral flair built around a vocalist-violinist with classical music training. Coming off of a stint of showcases at SXSW, atmospheric hip-hoppers Bonelang headline on Wednesday, March 25, instrumental rockers Rhone play on March 30, and the lively Afropop-influenced Black Bear/Brown Bear close out the month on Tuesday, March 31. These 21+ shows start at 8pm, and are, of course, free.
Empty Bottle (1035 North Western) has been great about supporting unusual showcases of electronic and/or experimental music (such as the annual wintertime Synth Chili Cook-off competition, mentioned in a previous column), and last summer the venue hosted a “Night of Modular Synthesis.” The event returns on Sunday, March 22, and includes Andy Ortmann, Peter Speer, Jason Soliday, The Green Pasture Happiness, Anthony Janas, Jeremy Fisher, and Keven Kalaycioglu. Based on the lineup, it seems like the show will have a little something to interest any flavor of modular synth geek, from pop sounds and dance music, to noisy experimentation. This 21+ show is $5 and starts at 9pm.
While not a live show or Chicago-centric, I also recommend checking out an upcoming screening of the documentary “Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-90)” at Brew and View (3145 North Sheffield) on March 28 and 29. Anyone into Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Fugazi and the like will definitely want to check out this look back at the wildly influential music and DIY scene. Dave Grohl is even in it, giving the film his rock ‘n’ roll seal of approval.
Got a tip for future columns? Shoot me a line @kdc on Twitter.