While many Canadians are quietly reaching for a rope or finding a nice bridge as Smarch sludges onward (except you, Calgary– 14°C, what the hell?) , the weather is looking positively balmy south of the 49th parallel, in Austin, Texas. It’s just the kind of forecast the city needs as its premier music festival (and one of the most renowned in North America) hits its stride.
South by Southwest 2014 started on March 8th and will carry on until St. Patrick’s Day, while mixing together its famously eclectic batter of musicians, film screenings, trade shows, book readings, and much more. Now in its 27th year, SXSW has grown to be an absolutely gigantic setting for media, entertainment and culture of all spots and stripes–and, like the zit on your forehead that arises the morning of your big interview, it just keeps growing larger.
Let’s just take a look at last year’s numbers shall we? Hmm: 2,278 musical acts, 113 festival stages, 133 feature films screened, 473 conference speakers, 12,926 individual reservations for hotels, and a boost to the local economy estimated to be somewhere near the mark of $200 million. What an excellent, everlasting cover of “12 Days of Christmas” that would make. In short, don’t mess with Texas-bred multimedia extravaganzas.
But, while I could continue to lob massive gobs of figures and render you into statistical coma, let’s instead look at a more happy and complacent number: five. As in the number of Canadian artists playing SXSW that we’ll be checking out today.
1. A Tribe Called Red
Playing at SXSW: Saturday, March 15th at Russian House, 1:00a-1:50am
A Tribe Called Red may benefit from getting the sloshy yippee-I’m-so-drunk! slot (really, who doesn’t), but they possess a sound that deserves more ears and bigger venues . If you can imagine First Nations-influenced dance music with the right hits of hip-hop, electroc and reggae, then that still won’t be an approximation of what A Tribe Called Red can do. The group, like many happy accidents, was famously conceived at a party where the founders, Ian “DJ NDN” Campeau and Bear Witness, attempted remixes and mashups that appealed more to the Aboriginal identity. With the addition of two-time Canada Battle DJ champion Dan “DJ Shub” General, ATCR and a new genre that they themselves describe as “powwow-step” were born.
You can also see ATCR later this month at the Juno Awards in Winnipeg, where they are deservedly nominated in the categories of Breakthrough Group and Electronic Album.
2. The Pack A.D.
Playing at SXSW: Friday, March 14th at Maggie Mae’s, 12:00am-12:40am
This dynamic duo consists of guitarist/snarler Becky Black and drummer Maya Miller. These garage rockers recently released their fifth album, Do Not Engage, which took their act to sonic levels befitting stadiums and wild swathes of rustic woodland. What is it about tw0-piece rock outfits that they tend to just sound BIGGER? I’m thinking also of keys and stripes and elephant heads, here. In any case, it is hard to imagine the need for a third member when The Pack A.D. do so well instilling mortal fear into their amps. Not to mention the savings on hotel rooms.
3. Royal Canoe
Playing at SXSW: Thursday, March 13th at Central Presbyterian Church, 12:30am-1:10am.
On the opposite end of the band-member spectrum, these poor fellows spend half of their touring budget on Super 8s. The band with what may be the most Canadian name in history, Royal Canoe count six among their ranks, as well as displaying a blatant disregard in resisting easy categorization. Indeed, these boys from The Peg think of themselves as mad scientists: warping their instruments (i.e. guitars, synths, strings, all matters of percussion), and twisting together splices of rock, hip-hop, and pop DNA, creating a sound more than the sum of its parts. It is the kind of aural aesthetic that lends itself easily to music videos that would make Michel Gondry coo with joy.
Playing at SXSW: Thursday, March 13th, at Maggie Mae’s, 12:00am-12:40am
With shades of No Age and a childhood that played to 90’s based alternative sensibilities (see: Sonic Youth; Dinosaur Jr.), Montreal-based Solids are just the kind of band you wouldn’t want playing at your wedding. Or any kind of social function with your relatives, rather. They have already crashed ahead of the rest of 2014’s punk pack with their latest release, Blame Confusion. Guitarist Xavier Germain-Poitras and drummer Louis Guillemette are the kind of guys that prefer their shouted vocals to just be heard over their melodic slash of distortion and uptempo 4/4. They would also prefer for you to shut it up and rock it out.
(Also, another prime example of the two people? = GETS LOUDER! equation.)
5. Tory Lanez
Playing at SXSW: Saturday March 15th, at Haven, 10:55pm-11:10pm
The final artist on this list, Daystar Peterson aka Tory Lanez will aim to give Southern audiences a sample of Toronto-bred rap and hip-hop that, for once, doesn’t have anything to do with Drake. Tory will play a swift quarter-hour set, but it will likely be one that Tory himself would call “swavey”. Boasting a seamless blend of rapping and singing with a killer cadence that has him straight murdering beats, the acclaim has been steadily building in anticipation of the inevitable major label debut. Despite being only 21, Tory is already a vet of Toronto’s vibrant and vicious rap underground, having been discovered by Sean Kingston when he was 18 and having collaborated with rap legends such as Bun B. His budding fanbase even has its own name: SWAVENATION. Considering the local flavour, let’s hope he makes an appearance at SXSW’s sister festival, Toronto’s North by Northeast, this summer.
Author: Nathan Christie