Who are you excited about seeing at this year's Westword Music Showcase? Kind of a loaded question, isn't it? Depends on what time you ask, right? The lineup is pretty insane from top to bottom, even if we do say so ourselves. In addition to hosting the hottest acts in the city, the Showcase has a compelling cast of headliners on the Main Stage. From fresh faces like UME to emerging bands like Young the Giant and the Epilogues — who hail from our beloved home town — to established outfits like the Sword and Murder by Death, to esteemed heritage artists like Yo La Tengo and Del the Funky Homosapien, to this year's dance-tastic closer, Chromeo, here's what goodness awaits you.
8:40-9:55 p.m., Main Stage
When he's not busy getting his Ph.D. in French literature, David Macklovitch spends his time making music with Patrick Gemayel as Chromeo, where they assume the names Dave 1 and P-Thugg, respectively. After forming in 2001, the "electrofunk" band released its debut, She's in Control, in 2004 and had an unexpected hit single in "Needy Girl." Sounding like equal parts Atomic Dog-era George Clinton, Rick James and any number of R&B-inflected synth-pop bands of the '80s, Chromeo's synthesis of disparate elements manages to sound fresh and lively rather than like some kind of revival act.
Yo La Tengo
7:15-8:15 p.m., Main Stage
In thirty years, rock historians will look at the three decades prior to this moment and — if they don't laugh at the idea of an encompassing term like "indie rock" — identify Yo La Tengo not only as one of the genre's foundational acts, but also one that consistently challenged itself to make eclectic and interesting songs from the start of its career onward, with stunning live shows to match. Pulling together strands of influence from the Velvet Underground, Mission of Burma and Half-Japanese, Yo La Tengo has created a vibrant body of work informed by tenderness, emotional catharsis, intellect, sincerity and ironic humor.
Del the Funky Homosapien with Bukue one
5:50-6:50 p.m., Main Stage
It probably didn't hurt Teren Delvon Jones in getting a leg up in the world of hip-hop that he's Ice Cube's cousin. But by the time of his second album, 1993's No Need for Alarm, Del had struck out on his own, and as one of the founders of Oakland-based hip-hop group the Hieroglyphics Crew, he didn't need to rely on such associations. Del's music has often been a mixture of classic early hip-hop and downtempo sound-design experimentation, with lyrics that provide incisively poetic commentary on both society and the demons that plague their author.
4:30-5:30 p.m., Main Stage
These guys aren't the first metal band to go back to the roots of the genre and mine the fertile territory of early Black Sabbath. Even so, the Sword never got bogged down in the sludge, but rather shot it through with the aggression of thrash for a sound that dispenses with the swampy psychedelia of so-called stoner rock in favor of a faster-paced, sharper sound. Yes, these guys write songs that sound like titles of paintings by Frank Frazetta and the Brothers Hildebrandt with no irony intended, but the fiery music they make needs no distancing humor to justify its existence.
Murder by Death
3:15-4:15 p.m., Main Stage
Though often associated with the post-hardcore scene of the last decade because of groups it's toured with over the years, Murder by Death is, in fact, not a screamo band. Its countrified songwriting seethes with material about sinister forces threatening the narrator and humanity in general through a myriad of darkly creative avenues. The band's most recent album, 2010's Good Morning, Magpie, finds it making use of rhythmic textures and brooding atmospheres akin to what you might hear on a Black Heart Procession record, if that band had collaborated with Johnny Cash. Live, Murder by Death's haunted balladry takes on a visceral quality.
Young the Giant
2:15-3:00 p.m., Main Stage
Young the Giant may come from Orange County, but it's definitely not a pop-punk band in the vein of acts on Fat Wreck Chords. Rather, its infectiously triumphant, windswept songwriting is more akin to that of expansive, melodic-rock outfits like Coldplay. And it wouldn't be too surprising to see Young the Giant playing in stadiums soon — that is, if singles like "My Body," from the quartet's self-titled debut album, are any indication. Even a casual perusal of the band's live footage reveals a group of guys who really believe in what they're doing.
1:30-2:00 p.m., Main Stage
The Epilogues started out as an idea between guitarist and vocalist Chris Heckman and his friend, keyboardist Nathaniel Hammond. But once the full group started playing out live, it built its name with the kind of stage show you'd expect from a band with some money behind it, with a sophisticated light show and triumphant songs. In other words, like Muse before it had the money to put on the most elaborate stage shows of recent years. Also like that band, the Epilogues have a knack for fusing electronic pop with earnest rock music.
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12:45-1:15 p.m., Main Stage
Lauren Larson once told an interviewer that she stayed up all night at age thirteen learning to play Nirvana's "Aneurysm" and then quickly realized that she had to develop her own style. After a few years in the grindcore scene in Houston, Larson ultimately formed UME with Eric Larson and Eric Barrera. Clearly, UME comes out of punk with its wild energy, but its atmospheric, melodic sound reveals that the band couldn't be contained by sticking to any genre more specific than rock. Its most recent release, the Sunshower EP, showcases a band as fierce as it is vulnerable.