SXSW Entry #4: Kali Mutsa, Alex Anwandter, Astro, Natalia Lafourcade

Thursday night’s array of SXSW showcases felt like being transplanted into a real-life Fonogramaticos. And that’s not even including shows from Il Abanico, Juan Cirerol, Bam Bam, and Neon Indian, which we were unable to catch due to conflicts. But what we did see…oh man.

Kicking off the night at the bottle service maven Buca Lounge was Kali Mutsa. After fervently applying her makeup in the ladies restroom (according to Gio’s girlfriend), she and her band came out like bohemian gypsies who were really trying to get picked for Let’s Make a Deal. The show was a bit subdued at first, which is weird considering the band was clad with just a mic, accordion, clarinet, and fiddle (and barefoot, nonetheless!). But Mutsa made the best of the small crowd, crouching every verse with dead-eyed stares and flippant histrionics. In between songs, she pleaded with the crowd to dance while taking swigs of beer as if it were contraband. Despite all this, and the fact she spoke 4-5 languages during the entire set, the crowd was pleasantly surprised. I’m now convinced that Kali Mutsa is alien genius like Abed from Community.

After a brief Jimmy Johns break (free smells!), we made our way to Alex Anwandter’s set at the “Latino hotspot” Maggie Mae’s. Anwandter was in peak form, with his mid-'90s Morrissey close-cut and satin jacket. But he also knew what his people wanted to hear. Pick your favorite song from Rebeldes. He played it. Anwandter milked the favorable crowd for everything it was worth, as he even went into the crowd to dance with the audience at various points. For the Anwandter-worshipping fans in attendance, it was a gig from heaven, and for everyone else, a rocking set.

After these two barn-burning shows, it was inevitable that Astro would disappoint for the mere fact that it was…a rock concert. Dudes with guitars on stage playing their hits. Not that people weren’t feeling “Manglares” and “Ciervos,” but it just didn’t hit over the head like Mutsa and Anwandter did. There was a bit of catharsis with “Maestro Distorsion” as the closing number, but overall it was merely solid. I did appreciate how everyone in Astro has the exact same haircut, though.

Closing the night back at Buca Lounge was Natalia Lafourcade. Ditching the (literal) bells and whistles, Lafourcade played an acoustic set armed with a piano, guitar, and vocal loops. Her charisma was in full force, connecting with her legion of devotees by playfully asking for free drinks and taking song requests even as the show crept into the 2 am hour. The setlist itself was a mix of her favorite Hu Hu Hu tracks (“Azul” will NEVER get old) and random oldies, such as “En El 2000” and “O Pato” (!), and the crowd hung on her every word. It appears that Lafourcade seems fairly comfortable in her role as a sort of torchbearer for Mexican indie, and one can hope that her upcoming covers album will reflect this. In a sense, this kind of set was the perfect palette cleanser for an epic (and very loud) night of music.