SXSW 2017 Day 3: Zane Lowe & Sammy Hagar Share War Stories, Los Super Seven Reunite, Lady A, Yo Gotti Rock the House

ABC/Randy Holmes
Lady Antebellum perform on Jimmy Kimmel Live on Jan. 25, 2017. 

From Zane Lowe's morning panel to Beach Slang's accidental duet with a Michael Stipe impersonator to an Alabama rocker's elegant takedown of Trump, Thursday (March 16) was another packed day at SXSW 2017.

Billboard's on-the-scene reporters share standout moments from Day 3 of the music portion of SXSW, from the dive bars to the industry panels:

1:00 p.m. -- Beats 1 star Zane Lowe recapped his life, career and musical philosophy during a crisp, polished 40-minute keynote address in the Austin Convention Center. Aided by video stills and plenty of musical snippets, Lowe told the room that he “never had a choice” about going into radio; “It was in my blood,” as he noted, as the son of a father who was one of his native New Zealand’s pioneering pirate radio DJs. He also spotlighted the importance of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ 1979 release Damn The Torpedoes, which was “my first love, the first record that ever struck and emotional chord with me” as well as “the soundtrack to my parents’ divorce and my mother’s recovery. This, for me, was the master key.”

Part verbal memoir and part history lesson, Lowe’s talk went right up to the present day and the rollout of Frank Ocean’s “Chanel.” “We can see the artists in their fantasy and reality, and I think that is the future of music,” Lowe said. “Every artist has at some point dreamed big. Now they can dream big every time.” He also fessed up to a “disaster” with the Beastie Boys when he was younger – the only time, he said, that he ever asked a boss to not use one of his interviews. “They didn’t want questions,” recalled Lowe, who had done a great deal of preparation for the chat. “They wanted to talk about golf and bagels. I became a journalist, not a fan.” -- Gary Graff

1:56 p.m. -- At Antone's for Universal Music's MUSIC IS UNIVERSAL showcase (yes, they asked us to write it out, just like that), pop-leaning indie-rockers Mondo Cozmo played a set that cemented them as one of rock radio's big hopes for the festival: following a grind similar to that forged by Foster the People and Vampire Weekend (among many, many others) in years past, the L.A. band is playing almost a dozen high-profile sets over the course of the week, buoyed by radio play for their extraordinarily catchy single "Shine," which every supervisor here working on a coming-of-age movie must be chomping at the bit to sync. Proof of their possible future-stardom? The song that got the weakest response from the buzzy crowd at this early show was their one cover, Radiohead's immaculate "No Surprises." -- Jeff Miller

2:03 p.m.Sammy Hagar spent part of Tuesday night in Austin checking out Pussy Riot. “I was expecting something else,” Hagar quipped at the start of his feature interview in the Convention Center. “We left our daughter at home and everything.” His characteristically free-wheeling and friendly hour-long conversation touched on all aspects of Hagar’s life and career, from his poor upbringing to his time with Montrose and Van Halen to cars (his favorite is the Ferrari Boxer 512 from the “I Can’t Drive 55” video) , paranormal encounters and his business interests in restaurant and liquor, including his new Santos Mezquila blend with Maroon 5's Adam Levine. “People say ‘I love your tequila’ more than they say ‘I love your music,’” Hagar noted. “It doesn’t bum me out, but it’s weird.”

His advice for younger artists, “One of the reasons I came here…is ‘cause I really wanted to see what’s going on out there, what music is out there,” Hagar said of his SXSW visit. “It’s so difficult. It’s so hard to get a record company behind you. Record companies were so important during my era, ‘cause they would pay for you to go out on the road and they’d put you out with a big band opening for 14,000 people every night. So you really had a shot at exposure and they would get your songs played on the radio and make a video for MTV, all those things. It seems like that’s not there anymore. But there’s other avenues.” Hagar again voiced a willingness to do a Van Halen reunion with him joining the original band, including fellow singer David Lee Roth, while his own group, The Circle, will be on the road for 20 dates in June. -– Gary Graff

3:20 pm -- Sometimes the daytime SXSW shows absolutely crush the evening’s, and that was definitely the case on Thursday. So after catching Zane Lowe’s rose-colored but inspiring keynote early in the afternoon -- he combined his own history with the past 25 years of music and the music business and it actually, somehow, wasn’t corny but was actually very cool – we hustled up Red River to Cheer Up Charlie’s and the Brooklyn Vegan showcase, which deserves an award for indie-rock curation: The entire show was strong, but in the two hours we were there we caught formidable sets from Downtown Boys, Weaves and Priests. This was our third time round with the Downtown Boys -- a self-described “bi bilingual political dance sax punk party from Providence” -- and as always they brought loud, full-tilt punk-rock aggro loaded with unambivalent left-wing political lyrics from singer Victoria Ruiz and guitarist Joey la Neve de Francesco, and multiple blasts of between-song Trump-trashing from both. During the show an adorable little boy, maybe 4 years old, with a buzzed-back-n-sides haircut was watching near the stage perched on a man’s shoulders; Ruiz brought him onstage and sang an entire song while he stood next to her, pleased if perplexed, before returning to the man’s shoulders to loud applause. -- Jem Aswad
 
3:45 p.m. -- Meanwhile, on the tiny venue’s indoor stage, Toronto’s Weaves were tearing through a blistering set based mostly on material from their self-titled 2016 debut. Frontwoman Jasmyn Burke’s deliberately oddball lyrics and goofily catchy melodies -- one song has a chorus that goes “You are koo-koo, you are koo-OO-koo”; another is called “Shithole” -- are a focal point, but despite the band’s conventional guitar/bass/drums lineup it’s musically ambitious and monstrously tight. Guitarist Morgan Waters and bassist Zach Bines race through intricate riffs while drummer Spencer Cole stretches the time signatures almost but not quite to the breaking point, cramming as many fills and off-beats into a measure as possible; you see the bandmembers grinning at each other often as they stretch the songs as far as they can without falling into chaos. On the last song Burke, Bines and Waters walked right out into the middle of the crowd and convinced almost the entire audience to sit down on the floor with them and sing along -- it sounds corny but it was fun to watch. -- Jem Aswad

4 p.m. -- Part of the fun of any festival is walking past a band you've never heard, getting sucked in and discovering you love them. Such was the case with Party Static, a Dallas five-piece whose chaotic dance-punk issuing forth from Beerland (a dive bar whose bathroom sign demands "employees must wash their hands ass") yanked me in on Thursday afternoon. The band's grooving punk, punctuated by the occasional no wave-y breakdown, is excellent on its own, but dual frontwomen Laura Harrell and Kjersten Funk – who shout out nearly every lyric in tandem with a flippant sneer – bring Party Static to a level of brilliant randomness. – Joe Lynch

4:20 p.m. -- As soon as their set was done we headed back outside to catch punky DC quartet Priests, whose latest album Nothing Feels Natural scored a whopping 8.5 on Pitchfork but frankly didn’t quite dazzle our ears to that degree. After seeing them perform, we get it. Fiery singer Katie Alice Greer -- who wore an amazingly cool shirt/dress that had a giant photo of Desperately Seeking Susan-era Madonna giving two middle fingers on the front, back and sleeves -- has a stage presence that’s both sultry and aggressive, dancing, stomping or just staring at the crowd with a snarl on her face that’s either comic or annoyed or both, perfectly matched by her powerful, equally snarling vocals, while the band powers along in a bass-heavy, post-punky groove. Enormously entertaining and highly recommended. -- Jem Aswad

4:24 p.m. -- Every SX has a moment or two where you're walking the street, your legs are tired, there's a venue to your left, you just want to sit down, and you hope that whomever's playing is at least decent -- and then they blow you away. That moment today came from Gutxi Bibang, a London three-piece equal parts Queens of the Stone Age and Jimi Hendrix (seriously, one song started with a "Foxy Lady"-style octave lick before evolving into a thrashy tempo-shifting coda). Ferocious and melodic, the band showed both tightness and confidence at Bangers' Stubhub throwdown, even as their audience was as interested in their craft brews as they were in the raging guitar licks. -- Jeff Miller

4:30 p.m.Sammy Hagar continued his SXSW revelry at the Sunset Room near the Convention Center, where he taped an interview with Daryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels for his Rock & Roll Road Trip show on AXS-TV. D.M.C. gave Hagar pointers on wearing Adidas without laces (footie socks are apparently the secret) and coached him through rapping technique through Run-D.M.C.’s “It’s Tricky.” The two then joined the Texas band Blacktop Mojo for a fierce rendition of Montrose’s “Rock Candy,” with D.M.C. freestyling rhymes and responses. “I don’t know if my fans are gonna want to kill you or love both our asses,” Hagar told the rapper. The answer will come when the show airs later this year. -- Gary Graff

4:55 p.m. -- Down the street at Barracuda, ex-Swearin frontperson Allison Crutchfield -- not to be confused with her twin sister Katie of the equally awesome Waxahatchee -- and her strong band the Fizz served up a set heavy on songs from their debut LP, Stranger in This Town. Allison’s L-shaped keyboard setup meant that she was basically singing certain songs to the window facing 7th Street rather than the audience, but the group delivered a strong set regardless… -- Jem Aswad

5:40 p.m. SXSW tends to befuddle brains both on and offstage, and when Jay Som took the indoor stage at Cheer Up Charlie's to deliver her eclectic, dreamy bedroom pop, she seemed to be an early victim of SXSW vertigo. "That song was from my new album which came out… last week? I don't even know when my album came out," she laughed. "But it came out." Regardless, her live act didn't suffer from any festival dysphoria – the new tracks, which glisten with a '90s alt-pop sheen on wax, felt additionally muscular and enveloping in person. -- Joe Lynch

6 p.m.Los Super Seven made a triumphant return after more than a decade away at the  annual South By Southwest party hosted by the Texas Chapter of the Recording Academy on the back lawn of the Four Seasons hotel. The all-star group had been put on ice by a lawsuit over ownership of the band name, which was recently resolved in the group’s favor. So it was a celebration as Rick Trevino, Ruben Ramos, Max Baca, Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin and others took the stage for a 35-minute set. “It’s like grabbing a real old antique car that hasn’t been started in a long time, and once it turns over everything’s fine,” Trevino said after the set. He played a new song, “I Am A Mexican,” which he wrote in 2013 for a new album coming this year --  and which clearly has additional weight now – while the group finished with a lusty romp through the Sir Douglas Quintet’s “She’s About A Mover.” -- Gary Graff

6:05 p.m. -- After an excruciatingly slow cab ride across the bridge to South Congress, we pulled into the female-centric “We Are One” showcase, presented by Tom’s shoes and Girlschool, where we caught sets from L.A. quartet The Regrettes and Madam Gandhi. The former are a group of stylish teenagers (three girls and a dude drummer) who are on Warner Bros., have an awesome Hairspray-inspired video (for “Hey Now”) and delivered a set of solid pop-rock and were seen chatting animatedly with a major TV booker shortly after their set -- you heard it here first. Madame Gandhi has an absolutely kickass drummer -- she’s toured with both M.I.A. and Thievery Corporation -- who recently released a solo EP, which includes the killer single “Her.” During her set she bounces between a sampler, a vocal-looping device and a gorgeous golden drumkit, delivering songs with female-positive lyrics that at times get a bit preachy but have a solid and positive intent. We’re likely to hear much more from this NYC-raised, L.A-based, multitalented artist. -- Jem Aswad

6:43 p.m. --Cash, grass, or ass, no one rides for free -- and Willie Nelson himself would certainly approve of the way the transaction went down with LA-based garage rockers The Shelters (on a rare break from their 11-show SXSW schedule), who graciously allowed us to hitch a ride with them up to Nelson's Luck Ranch for the annual Luck Reunion festival. This year's sub-headliners (under Willie himself, of course) was a supergroup consisting of Conor Oberst, M. Ward, and The Felice Brothers, who played solo songs and collaborations for nearly two hours. Oberst brought up tourmate Phoebe Bridgers for a heartbreaking rendition of his classic Bright Eyes ballad "Lua," and, during his fest-closing set, Nelson ended up in a seemingly spontaneous duet with Billy Joe Shaver on the latter's topical "Willie The Wandering Gypsy And Me." Three stages were laid out all over Nelson's ranch, so those mainstage attractions weren't the only draw: Langhorne Slim packed the tiny church on-campus, with onlookers literally plastered against the windows to get a look, and the surprise guest on the second stage was Elle King, who proclaimed, "This is my favorite f---ing hang of the year!" Ours too, probably. -- Jeff Miller

7:48 p.m.-- The Recording Academy party hit a sober moment when Texas Chapter executive director Theresa Jenkins informed the crowd of the Trump administration’s move on Thursday to de-fund the National Endowment for the Arts. Jenkins read Academy President Neil Portnow’s statement vowing to lobby Congress to continue the funding, while Austin City Limits majordomo Terry Lickona noted that the de-funding move extends to public television and radio. “We don’t like that. Don’t get me started,” Lickona said before introducing the next act. -- Gary Graff

7:55 p.m. -- Hanson and some friends from their native Oklahoma whipped into “Delta Lady” to kick off a tribute to another of the state’s heroes, the late Leon Russell, during the Recording Academy party. “Leon left a huge hole, but he also left a lot of songs that will last forever,” Taylor Hanson told the crowd of mostly Recording Academy members. “We’re honored to just scratch the surface.” The troupe hit most of the right moments, with drummer Zac Hanson singing “Roll Away The Stone,” Isaac Hanson and John Fullbright sharing vocals on “Home Sweet Oklahoma” and Fullbright leading a jaunty take on “If I Were A Carpenter,” “Tightrope” and “Stranger In A Strange Land,” the latter also featuring Austin saxophonist Carlos Sosa. Taylor Hanson ended the show with a solo “Song For You” and promised to champion Russell, who died Nov. 13 at the age of 74, for a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in the coming year. The performance was accompanied by a live painting of a Russell portrait that will be auctioned to benefit MusiCares. -- Gary Graff

8:07 p.m. -- Aussie metal trio Black Rheno's debut album is called Let's Start a Cult, and based on frontman Milla's Thursday night performance at B.D. Riley's, they just might be able to. While the two-piece instrumental portion of the band worked deafening riffs into a cacophonous, wanton release of testosterone, lead screamer Milla bellowed into his mic, squirted fans in the face with their own water bottles and perched himself precariously atop wobbly bar tables. He even hopped onto the gate separating the bar from the street and screamed the Aussie headbangers' indecipherable lyrics to confused but delighted passerbys. -– Joe Lynch

9:30 p.m. -- The last performance of the day worth mentioning was Nick Hakim’s set at the ATO Records showcase at the Cedar Street Courtyard. His forthcoming album, Green Twins (out in May), is a stoner-soul classic, combining his mellow voice with easy grooves in a way that makes him likely to appeal to both the alt-R&B crowd and the Bonnaroo-ish festival crowd. While the vibe works beautifully on record and he’s come a long way since we first saw him at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn around two years ago, if the dude’s live set gets any more chill he could be declared legally dead.  -- Jem Aswad

9:52 p.m. -- Chicago's Melkbelly took the stage over a half hour late on Thursday night, but they had a damn good excuse – after driving 26 hours, their tour bus broke down, and, as frontwoman Miranda Winters told the crowd, "Somehow we got here." That was lucky for SXSW, because no one band in music today is combining alluring melodies and compositionally detailed noise-rock with as much precision and joy. Melkbelly's music bubbles over with love for harsh-as-hell rock that pleasantly blasts you out of your mind and allows you to forget daily troubles like "do I have enough money in my bank account?" or "wait, what's my name again?" -- Joe Lynch

11:05 p.m. -- Punky folk-rock outfit (or are they a folky punk rock outfit?) Girlpool hit the stage at ANTI- Records' showcase wearing, bar none, the best t-shirt of SXSW: "Make a woman cum for once." Additional brilliant touch: It was paired with camouflage cargo pants. #BowDown -– Joe Lynch

11:48 p.m.Charles Kelley led Lady Antebellum and some notable friends into Florida Georgia Line’s “H.O.L.Y.,” for a third time, to wrap up a special CMA Songwriters Series performance at Austin City Limits Live at Moody Theater – a two-hour plus event that was both hugely entertaining and as enlightening as the best South By Southwest panels. The trio, making its first visit to SXSW, was accompanied by frequent songwriting collaborators busbee and Nicole Galyon, swapping and sharing 18 songs mostly Storytellers-style and, clearly, not sticking strictly to Lady A material. Galyon, for instance, sang her Miranda Lambert hook-up “Automatic” while busbee offered droll tales about writing Pink’s “Try,” Maren Morris’ “My Church” and Keith Urban’s “The Fighter,” explaining the latter as “being in London writing a country song with an Australian” and even doing a convincing take on Carrie Underwood’s duet part until Lady A’s Hillary Scott took over.

Lady A also used the opportunity to premiere songs from its upcoming Heart Break album – due out June 9 – including the gentle title track, the vibey “Army,” which was co-written with busbee and Galyon, “Big Love in A Small Town” and the soulful new single “You Look Good." Galyon also unveiled a new song called “Boy” that Kelley said Lady A wanted but was claimed by another artist, while busbee played “Every Little Thing,” which he wrote for newcomer Carly Pierce. A wealth of Lady A favorites filled out the show – including “Need You Now,” “I Run To You,” “Bartender” and “American Honey” – and the vibe was loose enough that Kelley even jumped off the stage with a microphone during the encore to allow a fan to ask the band questions. Kelley also promised that he, for one, planned to attend Ryan Adams’ show on Friday night in the same venue, prompting some comic Ryan/Bryan Adams schtick between he and busbee. -- Gary Graff

12:32 a.m. -- After sharing that every time they hear the words "thank you" they think of Missy Elliott's "Pass That Dutch" breakdown, PWR BTTM's Liv Bruce urged every local at the band's midnight Cheer Up Charlie's set to write their senators and keep protesting to fight the discriminatory bathroom bill in order to help "make people like me feel welcome here." Hootie hoo to that. – Joe Lynch

12:58 a.m. -- When Yo Gotti hit the stage at Mazda Studio at Empire, there were plenty of fans waiting outside, still hoping to get in. By the time "Down In the DM" dropped, a number of them still weren't inside, but they didn't let that dampen the night. Instead, 20-some people started dancing, smoking and singing along in front of the venue, starting an impromptu block party using the music issuing from the venue as the soundtrack. -– Joe Lynch

1:16 a.m. -- Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires -- an Alabama rock band whose frontman boasts a thick Southern drawl -- might not seem like the most likely candidates for delivering an academic takedown of Trump and Steve Bannon at SXSW, but this world always needs to see another stereotype shattered. Calling out the new administration's increased deportation efforts as well as its "xenophobia and patriarchy" over a crushing mixture of hard rock, punk and even a little boogie, frontman Bains pointed out "there's a reason they keep doing this -- to keep the rich richer and the poor poorer." It was a good reminder that for as much as the powers that be like to pit groups against each other, it's also a mistake for the resistance to slip into the us vs. them, red vs. blue State view of America. As these guys can attest, there are plenty of angry Americans upset with the president who come straight outta Dixie.  – Joe Lynch

1:34 a.m. --There's no way the punky, Replacements-esque Beach Slang knew what they were going to get when they asked an audience member to sing "Boys Don't Cry" with them at Cheer Up Charlie's, but they couldn't have picked any better than Jeremy Levy -- the Michael Stipe of LA tribute band REMitation. Obviously, Levy knew every word of the Cure's classic, with Bleach Slang frontman James Alex incredulously looking on before joining in for the third verse, leading to a bro-hug when the song wrapped.  -- Jeff Miller