Originally published on Tue March 11, 2014 1:49 pm
This week Felix and I are heading over to one of our favorite places in the whole world — Austin, Texas — to meet up with some of our favorite musicians, watch some great live shows and, if Tio Felix has his way, eat a lot of Tex-Mex. Later today we'll be DJing a little get-together, and one of the highlights of this trip will certainly be our show with Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux.
Angel Olsen begins the song "Hi-Five" by paraphrasing Hank Williams, admitting she's so lonesome she could cry. She goes on to say she just wants someone who believes in love as urgently as she does. The twanging guitar throbbing beneath these sentiments suggests that it's going to be a long, lonely search. Over a matter of minutes, Olsen has created the landscape she'll inhabit for an entire album.
Roland Swenson is a co-founder and the managing director of the South By Southwest Music Festival. The idea for the festival came in 1986, when organizers of the NYC New Music Seminar contacted Swenson, then a staffer at the alt-weekly paper The Austin Chronicle, about organizing an extension to their festival in Austin. After that fell through, Swenson and others went ahead planning an event themselves and the first SXSW Festival was held 1987. He says they only expected 150 people.
Bob Boilen is the founder of NPR's All Songs Considered. A musician himself, he has a unique feel for presenting music on the Web. And he is a bit obsessed — and ambitious. Obsessed enough to attend more than 600 shows a year. Ambitious enough to listen to songs from 1400 acts scheduled to play SXSW each year to figure out what is worth seeing. And we are crazy enough to ask him to limit his picks to just five for our Sense of Place: Austin.
As excited as we are about NPR Music's 2014 SXSW showcase with Damon Albarn, St. Vincent, Kelis and others (which you can stream live on March 12 at 7:30 p.m. Central), those artists represent a fraction of the massive party happening in Austin, Texas this week.
There was a haze over Jake Bugg when he arrived at the Tiny Desk. He was expressionless and quiet. That all changed when he strummed fast and fierce on his acoustic guitar and began a flow of words reminiscent of Greenwich Village in the '60s, not modern Clifton in England's East Midlands, where he grew up.
It's still early days for the British band Glass Animals, but with just a handful of songs they've definitely gotten our attention. Their latest groover, "Gooey," has an undulating sexiness that makes it worthy of heavy rotation. The Kingdom remix drops the vocal to emphasize sheer atmospheric cool.
Every year Bob Boilen, NPR Music's Stephen Thompson and I prepare for South by Southwest by listening to songs from roughly 1,500 artists. And when you go through that many bands you start to see trends in the names. The two most commonly occurring words are always — always — "black" and "DJ." In addition to those two, this year we noticed that "white" appears an awful lot, too, as does the name John. Michael, Paul and Jesse are also pretty popular. Go figure.