SXSW: Yelle, Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head, BBQ



[Wednesday afternoon at SXSW 2009– from Yelle (above) to barbecue:]

Rock bands are great and all, but I started my day at the “BBQ the Texas Way” discussion at the Austin Convention Center and came away thinking barbecue might be a metaphor for life – at least the way panelists were lamenting how the general homogenization of society is destroying barbecue traditions. Other things I learned at the noontime chat moderated by author Joe Nick Patoski (“Willie Nelson: An Epic Life”): Indie-rock snobs are no match for barbecue snobs; mesquite vs. hickory is quite a rivalry; Bobby Seal, the Black Panther, once did a book called “Barbecuing With Bobby;” and Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Texas, does not provide forks for its patrons. “They’re at the end of your arms,” proprietor Rick Schmidt saays. “You were born with them.”

Now to the music:

sxsw0318-carolinebuiCarol Bui (at Friends) – I missed the band I intended to see and instead came up this Washington, D.C.-based songstress fronting a pretty dynamic post-punk trio. Bui laid out some nifty guitar chops and, from what I could tell, some lyrically heavy material, but playing in a storefront in the glare of the early-afternoon sun did the set no favors.

Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head (at Maggie Mae’s) – A fresh-faced crew from Portland, Ore., they aren’t bringing anything new to indie electro-pop, except maybe their boundless energy (and wacky name). That was enough for the adoring crowd at the Spaceland-sponsored party, but it isn’t hard to imagine either the music wearing thin very quickly or the players outgrowing it even quicker. Maybe next summer the kids will go to soccer camp instead of disco camp.

Yelle (at Maggie Mae’s) – Charm, great beats, lithe stage moves, a French accent … 26-year-old Julie Budet, aka Yelle, has it all. Her trio took over where Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head left off and injected some sorely needed European sophistication into the proceedings. “Dance Or Die,” her bandmates’ T-shirts read, and almost everyone seemed to take it as a moral imperative.