SXSW Thursday: The Strokes, Robert Ellis, Lia Ices, Toro Y Moi

Videos by American Songwriter

Robert Ellis
The Belmont, 2:30 p.m.
22-year-old Houston Robert Ellis has joined the ranks of New West Records, the label home of Steve Earle, Kris Kristofferson, and Buddy Miller. On Wednesday night at a house party north of downtown Austin, Ellis took bass duties with an electric country-blues band that nearly tore down the rickety house. Ellis’ debut album Photograph shows a precocious taste for classic country and a supple George Strait voice. But Ellis’ live show really reveals his virtuosity. At New West’s party at The Belmont, he and his country rock outfit ripped through originals and did an impromptu version of Paul Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years,” which let Ellis showcase his versatile voice. If this young Texan is the future of country music, the future looks good.

Mt. Kimbie
Pitchfork #Offline, 3:45 p.m.
This British duo use a few samplers, a guitar, and live drum elements to create a dense, fascinating world of stoner electronica. Cut-up vocal samples show the hard-to-avoid influence of dubstep, and Mt. Kimbie have clearly taken copious notes on Burial’s dark, nightmare soundtracks. But this duo also embrace uptempo bangers, and their last song was a 135 bpm love note to UK club.

The Strokes
Auditorium Shores, 8 p.m.
There was no way to sustain the buildup for this free show at Austin’s Auditorium Shores. Thousands flooded across the bridge and when entrance lines seemed unbearable, a few hundred kids crashed down the fences. To this frenzy came The Strokes, a band that’s just getting their footing back for arena-scale shows. “Austin is it,” singer Julian Casablancas offered after the band reemerged for the encore. During the band’s final song, “Last Nite,” Casablancas seemed to finally come alive and fireworks erupted across the river.

Lia Ices
St. David’s, 11:30 p.m.
If there’s anywhere you would want to see Lia Ices, it’s in a church. Her difficult-to-render songs come to vivid, biblical life with pounding tribal rhythms and Ices uses every ounce of her voice with total cunning and control. It’s amazing to see an artist come onto the scene so fully formed and mysterious.

Toro Y Moi
512 Patio, 1:00 a.m.
Chaz Bundick seems to be the toast of SXSW 2011. For his headlining slot on the Carpark/Paw Tracks showcase on the 512 patio, it was a packed mass of dance-lovers that included an exuberant Aziz Ansari. Toro worked instant crowd-pleasers like “Still Sound” as well as the more chillwave-leaning stuff from his debut. The cramped patio was the perfect place for a debauched ‘80s funk fest, and Bundwick reveled in it, letting the energy nearly drown out his contemplative lyrics.

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