By Rebecca Bulnes
By Laurie Charles
By Chuck Strouse
By Lee Zimmerman
By Laurie Charles
By Falyn Freyman
By Hans Morgenstern
Singing in Spanish or rapping in English, Ozomatli exudes a sunny-side-up party gestalt that has, along with their tight playing and their facility with sundry musical genres, reportedly made the band a huge draw on their hometown's club circuit. (By the way, on the subject of Spanish-speaking bands, one hour before the Ozomatli gig, Miami's lone SXSW rep, Volumen Cero, played an energetic, searing set at Maggie Mae's West. More -- much more -- on them in these pages very soon.) One of the recently anointed, Ozomatli has been signed to a major label, with an album due out soon, and they could be massive in Miami -- provided someone tells the tall saxophonist that it would be wise to can his spiel about soaking up good vibrations from the Cuban people during the band's recent trip to the island. And not to flap a PC flag or anything, but given the united-colors-of-Benetton ethnic/racial composition of the group (Mexican American, African American, Asian American), you'd think that they could make room for at least one woman. Repete, s'il vous plait: Chum-ba-wam-ba.
Ozomatli's cultural and musical hybridization informed many of the acts at this year's SXSW, in part spurred by hip-hop and electronica bleeding into older, more rigid music forms. For example, at the Ritz, an old movie theater retrofitted to accommodate bands, the French sextet the Little Rabbits (strangely, not "Les Petits Lapins," as you might imagine, but then they sing mostly in appealingly fractured English) decorates its avant-everything sound with a turntablist, the vinyl snippets slicing through Franco-filtered garage rock, pseudojazz, psychedelia, and grunge.
At SXSW bands come, bands play, bands leave, many of them -- particularly the ones without major-label deals -- incurring significant expense. "It cost us $1500 to get here," Beat Angels frontman Brian Smith complains from the stage at the Copper Tank. "And we had to borrow $500 more." He elicits only a collective shrug from those in attendance, whose silence translates roughly as "Yeah, so what." But others, notably the ones from Europe, just radiate an aura of glee, happy to be here. Like the pop-jazzy Swedish quintet Cloudberry Jam, whose frontwoman beams as she thanks an enthusiastic audience at Maggie Mae's West for coming out to hear them "in our first American gig." Priceless.
Postscript: Not quite 24 hours after they performed feats of derring-do -- not forgetting the brutal rocking part -- Nashville Pussy's Cartwright and Suys stroll casually west on Sixth Street, main drag for the city's many clubs. Arms linked, they give off an air of domestic contentment, a he and she out for an after-dinner constitutional, nodding at the neighbors amid an enveloping cocoon of small-town tranquillity. All very Carousel.