SPIN at Stubb’s: Kendrick Lamar, Trinidad James, Solange Heat Up SXSW 2013
Hot and packed like a jalapeño sausage, the 2013 edition of SPIN’s Stubb’s throwdown was the most intense yet. A pan-genre display of our favorite rule-breaking young artists — Kendrick Lamar, Solange, CHVRCHES, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Parquet Courts, and a show-stopping special performance by Trinidad James — it was as steamy and bright as the Austin sun. Anchored by a lineup of head-spinning DJs — Jackmaster, Oneman, and Machinedrum — and bolstered by amazing weather, this was truly a year to remember. Don’t believe us, just watch!
Special thanks to our sponsors, Crispin Cider, Embassy Suites, esurance, SESAC, and Smirnoff Master of the Mix.
Shaggy punk gnats Parquet Courts were the first band up, ambling onstage at one in the afternoon, looking like they’d just crawled out of bed and desperate for a coffee. Good thing, too, because they put on a delightfully peevish performance for all the earlybirds. Opening with “Master of My Craft,” from this year’s jumpy SPIN Essential Light Up Gold, the Texas-by-way-of-Brooklyn band started causing friction immediately. Co-frontmen Austin Brown and Andrew Savage snided and sneered on vocals and scratched and kicked on guitar. Bassist (and former SPIN intern!) Sean Yeaton shook his head “no” and galumphed on the low end while drummer Max Savage played a modified motorik beat like he was pissed about getting passed on the Autobahn. That, and other highlights like the bitterly nostalgic “Borrowed Time” sound cranky, but the music is so committed in its curmudgeondom, and the arrangements so dynamic (the band sounds like it’s playing on a listing boat, everything sliding and crashing around), that the effect is ultimately a positively, joyful one. It’s like if those two old grumps from the balcony on The Muppet Show had a clever punk band. How could you not like that? DAVID MARCHESE North Stage: Machinedrum
North Carolina DJ and producer Machinedrum works on the poppier side of dance music, having remixed Solange and produced for Azealia Banks. He started off on Saturday afternoon playing jittery bass music with foggy R&B vocal samples, but as the crowd filled in he widened his scope. He played tracks that bent more towards London’s dancehall influences, and even went straight to the radio with a heaping spoonful of D’Angelo’s “Brown Sugar.” JORDAN SARGENT Indoor Stage: Oneman
The 26-year-old London-based DJ Oneman slid his UK bass-driven aesthetic towards populism on Saturday. He spun the broken dubstep beats one would expect, but also played to the crowd of Kendrick and Solange fans with rap and R&B tracks. His picks showed a keen eye and a personal, developed taste. He spun Chief Keef’s “Kobe” — a Finally Rich bonus track, and one of the teenager’s more underrated songs — as well as Jeremih’s “Rated R,” a choice deep cut from his latest mixtape. But Oneman’s best choice was the instrumental of Twista’s “Overnight Celebrity,” a classic Kanye West beat that you rarely hear out anymore. J.S. Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Where Parquet Courts was all sardonic aggression, UMO just let it flow, man. Singer-guitarist Ruban Nielson, bassist Jake Portrait, and thunder-footed drummer Riley Geare started out playing paisley pop songs (“So Good at Being in Trouble” and “Ffunny Ffriends” being the catchiest) and then go all amoeba. Geare, the key to the whole band, starts pounding out unpredictable accents on the kick drum, Nielsen plays spiraling clusters of guitar, and Portrait oozes and rolls on bass. They’d do this for minutes at a time, their jamming floating them further out into space, the music subdividing and reforming. Then they’d glide back down to earth and sing a melody that made you smile. It’s not easy coming in for such smooth landings from such great heights, but Unknown Mortal Orchestra made it sound like a psychedelic breeze. D.M. Indoor Stage: Jackmaster
Jackmaster has been throwing parties in Glasgow and spinning records since he was a teen, leading to a steady rise in profile. His usual game features uptempo tracks that run the gamut from house and techno to bass, with a professional touch that showcases his come-up as an employee at the renowned record store Rub-a-Dub. J.S. CHVRCHES
After UMO vacated the stage, Scottish trio CHVRCHES admitted they were anticipating stumbling upon a remnant of the prior night’s show: “I was hoping to find something Dave Grohl left behind,” Lauren Mayberry said sweetly. “Even a sweaty towel would be fine.” Her charm didn’t end there — with her white Bikini Kill T-shirt neatly tucked into a pair of jean shorts, she resembled a precocious teen, and later told the crowd to “stay strong, stay sweaty,” and even thanked SPIN because we “brought Chuck Klosterman to me.” The band’s seven-song set of sweet electro-pop was just as appealing. Flanked by Iain Cook and Martin Doherty on synths, laptops, and backing vocals, the two-year-old group shifted the afternoon’s vibe into dancier territory with the gently throbbing songs about heartaches that combine Robyn’s earnestness with Purity Ring’s minimalism. Its lynchpin: the title track from their upcoming Recover EP, a beautiful head-nodder about the different paths an ailing relationship can meander down in its waning days. CARYN GANZ Solange
It’s perhaps unfair to focus on Solange’s next-level wardrobe and glowing beauty and captivating charisma over her actual songs, but such is the damnable fate of the abundantly blessed. First off, nobody steps to Solange’s pantsuit game — peach chiffon with diamond sparkles and hot pants(!) to accentuate her statuesqueness — and breathtaking, razor-point pumps. When she got to swaying in funky choreographed unison with her guitarist — who was sporting an all-white ensemble and black gaucho hat — it was frankly ridiculous. So there’s that. As for her set, it was a sultry swirl of ’80s synths and programmed beats, in addition to bass/guitar/drums, that oftentimes felt like it was gonna break into a Shalamar or the Time classic, but instead built to Solange’s current one-two punch: her cover of Dirty Projectors’ “Stillness Is the Move” (which samples Erykah Badu’s “Bag Lady” sampling Dr. Dre’s “Xxplosive”) and “Losing You,” the polyrhythmic crowdpleaser that amped up both crowd, band, and Solange, whose dancing got nastier and her vocals more forceful. CHARLES AARON Kendrick Lamar
The night’s headliner, Kendrick Lamar, who just a year ago performed with the Black Hippy collective under a small white tent on the deck of a frat-boy bar down off Cesar Chavez Boulevard past the food trucks, is now the hottest MC in the game, with a No. 1 album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, and industry-wide respect. Locking into a groove of casual call-and-response with the enthusiastic, hand-waving crowd, he ran through tracks from both good kid and mixtape Section.80, in addition to his verse from A$AP Rocky’s “Fuckin’ Problem,” which had a contingent of bumping-and-grinding ladies to my left screaming, “Girl, I know you want this dick,” and breaking up laughing. As always, Lamar’s lyrics came in masterfully controlled bursts of both seriousness and playfulness, songs often ending with him reprising his lyrics a cappella, which brought the crowd to a hush. Then before you knew it, “big shit” was poppin’ once again, as if we were being transported to a rowdy backyard barbecue, blinding sun and blue sky included. C.A. Trinidad James
Scheduled to play a short “special guest” set after Lamar, Trinidad James was a bit tardy and brows started to furrow, but not for long. When the Atlanta boho-loco trickster finally bounded out onstage, he even rivaled Solange for fashion-forward ridiculousness — the dude really does wear “all gold everything”! The checklist: gold and comically oversized backpack, gold teeth, gold rings, gold watch, gold-rimmed glasses, gold earrings, gold chain, black t-shirt with the chemical symbol for gold — etched in gold! And when he announced, “I fucks with everybody if you don’t give a fuck what anybody have to say,” you knew all was well. James climbed on speaker cabinets, wandered into the crowd, and took iPhone photos, as he and his crew threw multiple t-shirts to the rabid fans upfront, eventually even launching the ginormous gold backpack (which was claimed by a burly hippie with a bushy, tendril-y beard). He cranked out “One More Molly” and “Givin No Fucks” and ran out of time before “All Gold Everything,” but nobody was beefin’. For a supposed one-hit wonder, James looked like a bonafide, legitimately eccentric star. Or at the very least, one hell of a rolling one-man party. Woo, indeed. C.A.