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10 hot live music shows to keep you warm in February — before SXSW heats up

Austin Photo: SXSW 2012_Free Shows_St. Patricks Day_The Cool Kids
The Cool Kids Photo By Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson
the Rebirth Brass Band
Rebirth Brass Band Photo by Jeffrey Dupuis
Austin Photo Set: News_alejandra_best album of 2012_jan 2013_lord huron
Lord Huron Courtesy of Lord Huron Facebook
Cody Jasper on bench
Cody Jasper/Facebook
Ethnic Heritage Ensemble
Ethnic Heritage Ensemble Ethnic Heritage Ensemble/Facebook
Eleanor Friedberger
Eleanor Friedberger Photo courtesy of Eleanor Friedberger
Jess Williamson
Jess Williamson Photo by Daniel Cavazos
musician Angel Olsen headshot
Angel Olsen Photo by Zia Anger
together PANGEA band standing in front of Sloan's Laundry
Austin photo: Event_Erin Ivey and Friends
Austin Photo: Events_ToscaTangoOrchestra_Anniversary
Austin Photo: SXSW 2012_Free Shows_St. Patricks Day_The Cool Kids
the Rebirth Brass Band
Austin Photo Set: News_alejandra_best album of 2012_jan 2013_lord huron
Cody Jasper on bench
Ethnic Heritage Ensemble
Austin Photo: PhotoEssay_Utopiafest_Dr.Dog_01
Eleanor Friedberger
Jess Williamson
musician Angel Olsen headshot

While the wider musical world starts building SXSW spreadsheets and RSVPing for showcases, we in Austin have an action-packed and artistically diverse slate of February performances to savor before all hell breaks loose come mid-March.

CultureMap Austin has already written about a few, including Fred Frith’s February 1 concert at North Door and Gina Chavez’s February 15 CD release party at Stateside at the Paramount Theatre. But here are 10 more compelling performances at 10 different city venues to keep you warm through the last full month of winter. Remember — this list represents only the tip of Austin’s February live music iceberg. You can find even more great listings here.

1. together PANGEA, February 5 at Mohawk

These Los Angeles garage-rock shredders come from fine Burger Records stock. But their new album, Badillac, attracted the attention of major label Harvest Records thanks to the twisted strains of grunge, punk and even metal that frontman William Keegan sprinkled into the band’s full-frontal assault. Expect a high-octane, no-holds-barred rock party when together PANGEA hits Mohawk February 5.

2. Erin Ivey with Tosca String Quartet, February 13 at The Belmont

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Austin chamber-folk chanteuse writes a stunning collection of “lullabies and lightly dark fairy tales,” then crowdfunds $10,000 to record it with the internationally acclaimed Tosca String Quartet, which has worked with David Byrne, Bonnie Raitt and Arcade Fire, among others. Like so much in Austin, Ivey and the quartet’s February 13 CD release party for Whisper of the Moon will be a true one-of-a-kind experience.

3. The Cool Kids, February 15 at Hotel Vegas

Sir Michael Rocks and Chuck Inglish take rap back to its Golden Age roots while mixing in a healthy dose of swag-tastic modern attitude. Like a latter-day Run-DMC, their beats are stark, their lyrics are acerbic, and their collective fashion sense is impeccable. Although The Cool Kids have charmed critics since its first mixtape dropped on Myspace in 2007, a bad label contract nearly doomed the duo. But last month, Rocks and Inglish announced the unexpected release of their Shark Week full-length, accompanied by a nationwide tour sure to fire up hip-hop heads.

4. Rebirth Brass Band, February 15 at ACL Live at Moody Theater

Nothing embodies the modern spirit of New Orleans better than a good brass band. And nobody mixes funk, jazz, blues, soul, rock and hip-hop as well as Rebirth, which celebrated its 30th anniversary last year and stands head and shoulders above the Big Easy’s crowded brass band field. Expect this party-starting ninepiece to bring a honking, hard-charging taste of Mardi Gras to Austin on February 15, the unofficial start of the Carnival season.  

5. Lord Huron, February 17-18 at Emo’s

Ben Schneider’s Lord Huron project started around 2010 as a side project from his art director day job. Early material mixed mystical indie-folk with intriguing ambient elements, but lately, Lord Huron has skewed more toward sparse, rural tunes clearly indebted to harmonic masters like My Morning Jacket and Fleet Foxes. But there’s something expansive, haunting, almost Sergio Leone-like about Lord Huron’s music. And those atmospherics will be on fine display when Schneider and his four-piece backing band play two consecutive nights at Emo’s.  

6. Cody Jasper, February 20 at Continental Club

Cody Jasper’s Texas roots run deep. He was born and raised in Amarillo. His great-grandfather played guitar with king of Texas swing Bob Wills. And his forthcoming debut album, the release of which he’ll fête on February 20th at the Continental Club, was recorded in Dripping Springs. But Jasper’s sound pulls from all over the South: sumptuous Stax-style horns, scorching slide guitar solos à la Stevie Ray Vaughan and a splash of outlaw country that’s surely a nod to good friend Shooter Jennings. “If it wasn’t for Shooter,” Jasper says in recent press materials, “I would still be trying to decide if I was country or rock ‘n’ roll.” Thank the Lord he decided to embrace them both.

7. Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, February 19 at The North Door

Pedro Moreno’s Epistrophy Arts booking firm/cultural organization swung back into its avant-garde groove by bringing Fred Frith to Austin on February 1. But its follow-up show, the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble on February 19 at The North Door, is a similar coup. Formed nearly 40 years ago by Chicago innovator and one of jazz’s best-kept secrets, Kahil El’Zabar, the group has included some of improvised music’s biggest luminaries. What sets the Ensemble apart, however, is its embrace of traditional African art forms, which laid the groundwork for jazz in the first place. Be Known, a riveting documentary about El’Zabar, came out last month and will hopefully lead to wider attention for his most legendary collective.

8. Dr. Dog, February 21 at Stubb’s

These psych-poppers have always existed on the fringes of indie rock’s mainstream: beloved by hardcore fans, acclaimed for their lo-fi recording techniques and embrace of multipart harmonies, but never firmly embraced by the critical or commercial establishment. That’s okay, though — Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken’s songwriting dossier runs thicker and deeper than that of most contemporaries. And there’s nothing more joyous than a sweaty, celebratory live Dr. Dog show. Expect them to melt hearts and blow minds on the big stage at Stubb’s.

9. Eleanor Friedberger, February 23 at Cactus Cafe

Eleanor Friedberger made her name creating complex, contextually rich indie rock with her brother Matthew in The Fiery Furnaces. But once that band went on hiatus and Eleanor went solo in 2011, her music immediately took on far more intimate, introspective characteristics (her last album was even called Personal Record). Luckily, Friedberger’s passion for well-written narratives remains. Paired with her current emotionally blunt approach, it should fit perfectly into the comfortable confines of Cactus Cafe.  

10. Jess Williamson and Angel Olsen, February 25 at Red 7

Yes, we’re excited to witness Angel Olsen and her otherworldly voice tackle material from her new album, Burn Your Fire for No Witness, for the first time with a full band. But we’re equally intrigued about opening act Jess Williamson, a local whose own recent record of haunting indie-folk, Native State, has received rave reviews from major outlets like Pitchfork. Both women traffic in isolated, often lonely music that sounds like it's sung directly to each listener. Seeing on the same bill should be rare treat of possibly epic proportions.

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