Variety and accessibility didn’t exist on today’s level when The Beatles played Ed Sullivan 50 years ago. In the age of variety, it is nearly impossible to pinpoint singular representations for an entire generation. To say one group of artists define our times is naïve, yet to think nothing can set one generation apart from another is also inaccurate.
The 2nd Annual Maverick Music Festival is obviously not San Antonio’s first music festival of its kind, but it is an event that reflects the music of 2014. This is the type of show that San Antonians would typically have to drive up to Austin to see, but next month San Antonio will have another opportunity to show it can support nationally-touring artists that aren’t Top 40 celebrities.
San Antonio is a diverse city, with many tastes and cultures, yet has had a reputation as a hard & heavy music town for years. In 1978, Sex Pistols played one of only seven shows in the United States at Randy’s Ballroom on Bandera Road. Legend says Ozzy Osbourne was banned from SA for supposedly urinating on the Alamo 32 years ago this February. The popular ’90s band, The Butthole Surfers, formed in San Antonio in the early ’80s. My first concert was White Zombie at the Sunken Gardens back in 1995.
In May, Spurs Sports and Entertainment (SS&E) along with AEG and 99.5 KISS are hosting the second installment of the Rivercity Rock Fest at the AT&T Center. This concert has “yesterday” written all over it: celebrity musicians like Kid Rock and major label rock stars like Deftones at a corporate-managed arena.
The Maverick Music Festival, however, will be held at a public owned space downtown and will host headliners that get zero commercial radio play yet have a wide enough fan base to pack venues across the country. I asked festival director Blayne Tucker if he was confident these bands would do well in San Antonio without a radio presence.
“We didn’t have any empirical data to go off of, but after traveling all over the country as Gary Clark Jr.’s tour manager, it’s obvious what music people respond to,” Tucker said.
The Maverick Music Fest takes place March 21-22 in downtown San Antonio at La Villita. This two-day music festival is headlined by quintessential 80s synthrockers the Psychedelic Furs (Pretty In Pink), Phantogram, Twin Shadow & the hip-hop duo Run the Jewels (El-P and Kller Mike). Three stages will not only see indie or electrorock bands, but also local and regional artists such as The Black Angels, Piñata Protest, Carlton Zeus, Juantanamos and more. The concert’s lineup reflects the current atmosphere in San Antonio, full of rising stars on a steady climb and no overnight or mid-afternoon sensations.
Win two tickets to this year’s Maverick Music Festival by commenting on this article with which artist you’re most looking forward to see at Maverick Music Festival. Winners will be selected next week and contacted via email/Facebook.
Indie, Chillwave, Nü Gaze
During the first decade of this millennia, several new sub-genres developed and matured partly due to music blogs and Internet exposure. One example of these new categories was something listeners and critics hesitantly have called ‘chillwave’. It’s a micro trend whose lo-fi & DIY aesthetic caught on like wildfire. MMF performer Ernest Greene’s project Washed Out was at the trend’s center. Other ‘chillwave’ artists like Toro y Moi, Memory Tapes and Air France also broke on the scene around the same time. Washed Out’s song “Feel it All Around” may be more recognizable as the opening theme song to the cable television program “Portlandia.”
Here we are a half decade later and Ernest Greene’s music has evolved beyond lo-fi exploits, yet his newer songs still maintain that spacey, ethereal feel of early bedroom productions. Washed Out performs before Friday’s main headliner, Phantogram.
Phantogram’s new album “Voices” is phenomenal. It explores more of the electro-rock shoegaze we expect from the duo out of upstate New York. Once again Sarah Barthel’s voice, while sounding youthful, has a sultry feel that soothes. The album is loaded front to back with solid, well developed songs and was produced by John Hill who is credited with producing the smash hit “LES Artistes” by Santigold as well as songs for M.I.A. like “Born Free.”
“Voices” features Phantogram’s versatility with Josh Carter singing a few songs that sound like they could have come straight out of a Sparklehorse/David Lynch collaboration. In songs like “Fall in Love” and “Howling At The Moon” soulful samples are mixed with hip-hop beats and become as infectious as a J Dilla record.
Watch out Houston, Here comes San Antonio hip-hop
The other headliners slated to perform at the Maverick Music Fest include heavy hitters in the ‘indie-music’ world like Twin Shadow, The Joy Formidable and YATCH, but the lineup also features hip-hop and R&B by Run The Jewels, SZA (pronounced Sizza) and local hip-hop artist Carlton Zeus.
Killer Mike and El-P are well established as individual artists but as a duo, Run the Jewels produced one of the most talked about rap albums in 2013. The two are expected to release a much anticipated follow up some time this year. Run the Jewels has never played in SA, so “it’s a huge score for SA hip-hop heads,” says local hip hop artist Ariel Faz.
As all boats rise in SA, so does San Antonio hip-hop. Beautiful Lou and Western Tink’s “Mobbin No Sobbin” was one of SPIN Magazines Top 40 hip-hop albums of 2013. Other San Antonio artists like Third Root, Milli Mars, and Chisme have been grabbing local headlines, and Guuru Sagod recently won the Freshman pick on MTV U to have their locally produced video on regular rotation.
Earlier last month, Carlton Zeus released a video for his song “Alpha Child” and frankly, it’s quite impressive. With help from local producers and film crew, they created a music video that’s puro San Antonio. Carlton Zeus ”will be holding it down on Saturday in support of his new album” said Ariel Faz of Chisme. “He has a fun live show (that’s) definitely worth showing up early for.”
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For two days La Villita will once again be transformed from a quaint historic enclave into a modern music concert event. Music venues that can handle an event on this scale are in short supply downtown. TrafficKing Events will once again have to build stages and have a sound system brought in, but this is an expense Tucker says is worth every dollar.
“Music is an aural experience, without good sound and production” you’ll get a subpar event, he said.
I’ve attended festivals here in San Antonio over the years such as Ozfest, Tattoo The Earth and Lollapalooza. These concerts were held in empty, desolate environments like an open field and a parking lot. La Villita is surrounded by character and history in the middle of our urban core, equipped with shade and transportation options. The Maverick Music Festival is a step up for our city’s arts and entertainment industry, and bringing music back downtown fuels the goal of everyday living in the city center.