Baby Shakes released their second full-length record, Starry Eyes, last August. With Mary on lead vocals and guitar, Judy on lead guitar and vocals, Claudia on bass and vocals, and Ryan on drums (they eschew last names) they’ve toured the US and Europe, and just toured Japan in February.
ASTR got started a little late at the Speakeasy Cabaret in Austin, but were determined to bring the straggling individuals together into a crowd—not always easy after midnight at South By Southwest. The Cabaret is a funky venue—way Brooklyn, with a couple of actual bowling lanes upstairs, plus foosball, natch—and the bands play on a small stage wedged behind one end of the bar, visible from right-up-front or the overlooking balcony.
They started strong, with vocalist Zoe ASTR (nee Zoe Silverman) coming on heavy and emotive. They certainly brought a few fans of their spage-age R&B (their megafan had flown in) and early into the set the crowd was trying to move; by the fourth song there was definite swaying and sashaying, and when Zoe offered to buy the whole crowd tequila shots, none of the front line moved. She was just busting chops anyway.
It sounds like a perfect meet cute for a teen Rom-Com: Tucker Halpern was all set to make it as a basketball player but health issues forced him to drop out, and while he was mostly hiding in his bedroom learning how to make beats, he met Sophie Hawley-Weld, a worldly, spiritual whirlwind, singing bossa nova in a warehouse. And Sofi Tukker was born.
Lauren Denitzio, singer/guitarist of Worriers, was easy to spot on the porch of the Eden House in Austin. She and her bandmates stood out, looking more relaxed, more confident, more—well, older—than the majority of other bands and music heads rolling in and out of the house on Rio Grande. Yes, a house—a full-on “DIY venue,” what we used to call “underground” and virtually identical to the scenes I remember playing in the early ‘90s: BYOB, kids with zits, slamming bands. Cassette tapes for sale. You enter through the kitchen, and can only get into the bathroom by crossing the “stage” in the living room between acts—stepping over the pedals and cords. And not a sponsor or logo in sight.
Steve Read wasn’t huge on Gary Numan when he saw the godfather of electronic music play his hit “Cars” at a festival, talked to him backstage, and within five minutes told him that he wanted to make a film about him. The result, Gary Numan: Android in La La Land, made its world premiere at SXSW this week.
The brass band Lucky Chops was started by some kids at LaGuardia High (the “Fame” school) who cut their teeth playing in the subway. When a South American tourist shot a video of them that went viral, they started getting real gigs.
Take Marwencol, set it in Bushwick, replace World War II with Dungeons & Dragons, and you have The Dwarvenaut. The endearing documentary, directed by Josh Bishop, just made its world premiere at South by Southwest. It tells the story of Stefan Pokorny, a Bushwick-based maker of Dungeons & Dragons sets and gamepieces who initially seems to confirm all the stereotypes about D&Ders, but ends up making you feel guilty you ever had those snide prejudices.
It’s a case of #improveverywhere this year at South by Southwest. Not only is Thank You, Del Close screening, but UCB is doing live shows: last night, Anthony Atamanuik dropped into one of them and just destroyed with his scarily spot-on impression of Donald Trump going after America’s new foe, Italian ISIS (say it out loud and you’ll get it). In addition to all that, Mike Birbiglia world-premiered his new dramedy about a UCB-esque New York City improv troupe on Sunday.
This week at South by Southwest, I got turned away from two films because of Alamo Drafthouse’s policy of not letting badge holders in if they’re so much as five minutes late, even if there are still empty seats. Gah!! So when Alamo’s founder, Tim League, conspicuously showed up seven minutes late to a panel discussion about “Indie Film and the Death of the Theatrical,” I was half hoping he’d get ba-ba-bounced. Justice, man! But let’s face it, it’s hard to stay mad at Alamo. They did the whole Nitehawk thing long before there was a Nitehawk. And I definitely had to forgive League when I noticed he was wearing a hilarious Bernie Sanders/Circle Jerks mash-up t-shirt. Plus, he came with news about Alamo’s forthcoming Brooklyn location.
“When I first read the script I was like, so this is just a movie about a guy going from woman to woman?” Cassandra Freeman said after the world premiere of Long Nights Short Mornings at SXSW. “No, thank you.”
Jenny Slate’s preferred brand of jeans may be public knowledge, but don’t ask her what she’s wearing to the world premiere of her latest movie. After a SXSW screening of My Blind Brother at the Topfer Theatre in Austin, a young woman kicked off the audience portion of the q&a by telling Slate and her co-star Zoe Kazan that she loved their style. Then she asked what brands they were wearing.
Writer-director Ilya Naishuller modestly called Hardcore Henry “a little Russian indie experimental movie” at its US premiere last night at SXSW, but the truth is it’s the most visually impressive, batshit film we’ve seen since Mad Max: Fury Road. One look at the new trailer, released a little over a week ago, and you’ll see it offers a similar mix of gonzo stunts, raw adrenaline, Tarantino-esque humor, and a throbbing rock/techno soundtrack – except that it’s filmed almost entirely with a GoPro, so you feel like you’re the one hurtling down Fury Road (or in this case, Moscow highways that weren’t even blocked off).