Weekend's best live bets: Joy Formidable, Girls, Miranda Lambert, Kelly Clarkson and more
Catch the Joy Formidable tomorrow night at the Bluebird.
With pretty much the entire music world holed up in Austin this weekend for this year's edition of SXSW, it's amazing that there's any musical options to choose from this weekend at all, much less decent ones. Alas, though, there are still plenty of compelling reasons to leave the house. Girls get the Gothic going tonight, while the Joy Formidable brings its jubilant brand of indie rock to the Bluebird Theater tomorrow night. Over at 1STBANK Center, meanwhile, the arena hosts a pair of back-to-back shows from Miranda Lambert and Kelly Clarkson. Page down for this weekend's best live music bets.
Christopher Owens and Chet White formed Girls in 2007, when the two met in the Bay Area. Owens, who was brought up in the Children of God cult, had effectively been cut off from the kinds of cultural knowledge most kids experience before the age of sixteen. Once he had access to more music, he made up for lost time and, like White, experienced the whole punk and hardcore thing before moving on to music with more emotional nuance. As Girls, Owens and White have written dreamily evocative pop songs crossed with threads of experimental guitar rock and R&B. Even in its sweetest moments, there is an urgent tension to the the music that draws you into the act's emotional wake. Incandescent, psychedelic melodies haunt the songs of these Girls.
Jay Munly's presence can be a bit frightening at times. And with some of the Lupercalians wearing black robes and cone hats and others wearing burlap hoods at their shows, the whole experience treads on the verge of being downright creepy -- probably not something you'd want to take your five-year-old daughter to. But if you wanted her, or anyone else, to get a completely different take on the children's tale Peter and the Wolf, written over seventy years ago by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev, just park her between a pair of speakers and have her behold the dark glory of Munly & the Lupercalians' Petr & the Wulf. There's still some of the gothic country of Slim Cessna's Auto Club, of which Munly is co-frontman, but sometimes the twang is stripped away in favor of a completely different musical experience that can be as joyous as it is sinister.
Miranda Lambert has struck a delicate balance: Together with kindred artists like Jamey Johnson, she's made country music palatable once again to the sanctimonious scads of big-city, Tea Party-loathing dissenters, infusing the genre with a newfound sense of authenticity missing since the days of her legendary outlaw forefathers. At the same time, she's managed to write earnest, heartfelt, everyman ballads like "The House That Built Me," as well as gritty, angst-filled anthems of empowerment like "Gunpowder and Lead" and "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" that resonate with rank-and-file fans of modern country, affording her truckloads of crossover appeal and street cred -- not to mention a serious leg up on her contemporaries.
Ritzy Bryan and Rhydian Dafydd pretty much grew up together in North Wales and formed their first band, Tricky Nixon, while living in Manchester. When that outfit split up, in 2006, the two wasted little time in putting together what would become the Joy Formidable when they moved back to Wales. Over the next five years, the three-piece created a bright sound comprising broad vistas and sweeping dynamics, pushed along by a notable urgency and exuberance. Immediate comparisons could be drawn to the shimmering electricity of Split-era Lush and the wiry guitar experimentation of Medicine, but this act seems to hurl itself into the music with a startling forcefulness worthy of its name. Its most recent album is titled The Big Roar, which is entirely fitting for a group that doesn't promise anything it can't deliver.
It's taken time and experience for Eric Rachmany to learn how to be comfortable in the spotlight. Rachmany, frontman for the Santa Barbara reggae outfit Rebelution, is soft-spoken and humble, a songwriter who's uncomfortable writing lyrics about his own experiences. Rachmany says he's dealt with the duties of fame in different ways, from writing songs from different perspectives to incorporating a saxophone player in the band's live shows.
After winning American Idol in 2002, Kelly Clarkson scored a contract with RCA Records and released her debut, Faithful, the following year. Since then, the singer-songwriter went on to release another four albums, including last year's Stronger, which has hints of country, R&B in it as well as pop. Arguably the most successful artist the Fox flagship has ever spawned, Clarkson has a distinctive, instantly identifiable voice that bolsters the believability of her woman-scorned songs of empowerment.
Colorado native Manuel Lopez discovered a fondness for Latin music after he stared playing congas in his early teens, and then found his way to the drum kit. Together with pianist Peter Ellingson and bassist Eduardo "Bijoux" Barbosa, Lopez's trio delves into a variety of repertoire from old Cuban standards to more modern arrangements. The trio plays at Dazzle every Sunday evening.
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