Don’t mess with Texas

Dan Haugen

Odds are nobody reading this-or writing this, for that matter-will be attending this year’s South By Southwest music industry schmooze fest, which kicks off this Friday in Austin, Tex. But the annual showcase is still a good excuse for an optimistic local music columnist to write about some of the state’s rising stars.

Barring any last minute additions or cancellations, ten acts will be representing Minnesota at this year’s conference: Atmosphere, Dan Israel, Mason Jennings, Kid Dakota, Johnny Lang, The Melismatics, Ol’ Yeller, Rivulets, Selby Tigers and Triangle.

“The most important reason [for going to SXSW] is exposure,” Kid Dakota‘s Darren Jackson said. “You perform for a unique audience who could change the shape of your musical career.”

Jackson’s lo-fi indie rock group is one of two Texas-bound acts on the Chairkickers record label, run by members of Duluth slowcore band Low. This summer the label will be releasing Kid Dakota’s So Pretty LP, containing songs from last year’s self-released So Pretty EP, as well as three new songs. Jackson said he’s also shopping for a record label to release a second full-length already being recorded. Download mp3s at www.mp3.com/kiddakota.

The other Chairkickers’ band playing SXSW is Rivulets, actually just the performance handle of Minneapolis singer/songwriter Nathan Amundson. Rivulets’ self-titled debut, recorded at 20 Degrees Studio in Duluth with Low’s Alan Sparhawk, was released on Chairkickers in January. Amundson’s eerie and sparse, Low-like songwriting has led more than one person-myself included-to have “sworn he was from Duluth.” Download mp3s at www.mp3.com/rivulets.

Two other Minnesotans playing solo sets at SXSW are Dan Israel and Mason Jennings. Israel has won over local critics again with last month’s release of his second solo acousitic recording, Cedar Lake (Israel also heads-up local twang outfit The Cultivators). This will be Israel’s first SXSW performance, following nine straight years of rejection letters. (A committee handpicks each year’s line-up out of hundreds of applicants.)

“I’m very grateful that they let me in this year,” Israel said, “but I am still a little puzzled by the process.” Before he leaves, Israel also plays tomorrow night at Jitter’s in Northeast Minneapolis. Download Dan Israel mp3s at www.thecultivators.com/cedarlake/.

Mason Jennings is on his way to Austin in advance of his third full-length, Century Spring, due out the end of this month on his own Architect Records. The short disc-just over 30 minutes in length-unexpectedly incorporates more piano and electric guitar into Jennings’ songs than on earlier efforts. It’s an album of mostly love songs, void of politics and humor, except on the biting “Bullet.” Download audio samples at www.masonjennings.com and look for a full review in The Lens on March 26.

On the punk front, Selby Tigers will be at SXSW to drum up interest in their upcoming full-length, The Curse of the Selby Tigers. The album was recorded in December with Rocket From the Crypt‘s John Reis. They played many of the new songs at a Weisman Museum show that same month, and they sounded huge and rockin’. A music video for “Droid” is also in the bag, and can be seen on their website, www.selbytigers.com. The site also reports that “Motorway,” from their last record Charm City, is going to be included on Playstation 2’s new 2002 Winter Olympics video game.

Dan Haugen is the Lens music editor. Please send comments and correspondence to [email protected].