The Festival Fistful: SXSW

Festival season is upon us! The weather is warming up, the sun will shine for longer, and the wacky costumes come out. However, most importantly, the new music is back to fill our ears and hearts with joy. No better event signals the kickoff of festival season better than SXSW and the lineup is looking extra juicy this year. We could break it down so many different ways, but we still couldn’t do such a lineup justice. So, you’ll have to settle for this little breakdown. Our take on the top five acts, the biggest heavyweights, to throw down at SXSW. This is The Festival Fistful!

GRiZ Spearheads New Age Funk Revolution

This summer you won’t hear suburban hood-rats bumping Wild Cherry, James Brown, or Rick James in daddy’s Jeep, but don’t fret, funk didn’t die with bell-bottoms and black lights. It’s alive and well.

The prevalence and popularity of EDM (electronic dance music) has initiated a resurgence of funk. New technologies and innovative artists have exponentially diversified electronic music. The coevolution is unprecedented, and it’s rapidly changing our perception and definition of “music.”

Now, EDM has more sub-genres than jelly bellies have flavors, and, like those godforsaken things, most new genres are equally indistinguishable in their mediocrity. It’s gotten to the point that categorizing music solely as EDM is inconsequential. Currently, there’s house, trance, glitch, drum and bass, dubstep, brostep, breakstep, and 100 other steps that no one gives two shits about. If you can name more than ten off-hand, congrats! It’s time to check into rehab.

But I’m not here to tell you about Swedish bubblegum techno, I’m here to tell you about a burgeoning new genre referred to by the hipster masses as “New Age Funk,” or “Future Funk,” and even though you’ve “probably never heard of it,” it makes for some groovy dance music.

Funky white boy Grant Kwiecinski, better known by his stage name GRiZ, spearheads the euphonious revolution. The Michigan native electronically emancipated funk music in 2012 when he released Mad Liberation. The sax-studded album is hip-hop oriented, yet manages to blend funky breaks with ambitious drops, eccentric beats, and obscure vocals. With the contemporary drift towards trap culture, GRiZ’s sound is refreshing to say the least. The entire album is polished, however, the Notorious “Better Than I’ve Ever Been” lives up to its name in the fullest.

On March 31st GRiZ smashed the funk once again with Say it Loud, a nominal homage to James Brown’s 1969 release Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud. The innovative album is more adventurous than its predecessor and features: The Floozies, Manic Focus, Mike Avery, Talib Kweli, Jessie Arlen, Sunsquabi, Orlando Napier, and iDA HAWK.

Whether it’s The Floozies’ funky guitar licks and high energy percussion in “Need This,” or Talib Kweli’s smooth flow in “For The Love,” each feature adds a lil’ somethin’ extra to the GRiZ sound, yet the electronic mastermind never strays too far from his funky niche. Grant kicks off the album with “The Anthem” — a soulful, feel-good track with James Brown vocals and children’s chorus reminiscent of the Jackson 5. “The Anthem” will grab you by the hips and drag you onto the floor; the rest is guaranteed to keep you there till dawn.

Who Should Headline Super Bowl 50?

“To the window…”

Katy Perry took the field on an animatronic lion last Sunday night for halftime of Super Bowl 49 (or Super Bowl XLIX for all of you who still think we need to honor Roman Numerals for some reason). If you like Katy Perry dancing with cartoon Nazi sharks, you were most likely pleased. If you like Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliot then you were probably happy to see them step back into the spotlight for a moment. My mind was elsewhere, however, as I considered who might win the honor of performing next year when the Super Bowl celebrates its fiftieth anniversary as the nation’s greatest unofficial holiday. I came up with my 10 personal choices below. The stipulations include:

A). They can not have headlined a Super Bowl before.

B). They must be an American artist. I know we’ve had U2, the Rolling Stones and the Who rock out in years past but I think it’s safe to say a homegrown talent from the U.S. of A. will take center stage in San Francisco one year from now.

Please share your picks in the comments section.

10). Maroon 5:

Just kidding.

10). Chance the Rapper:

This would never happen but as long as I have a platform to advocate for Chance, you’re going to be hearing his name time and again. Acid Rap forever.

9). Kendrick Lamar and Imagine Dragons:

Remember them tearing it up the 2014 Grammy Awards? Who doesn’t want to see that again?

8). Nicki Minaj ft. Drake:

Nicki may have backed up Madonna during Super Bowl 46 but it’s time for her to take the spotlight. We’ll have Drake come along for the ride just for the comedy potential of seeing her tease him on the biggest stage possible.

7). The Grateful Dead

The quintessential San Francisco band. If they were even ten years younger, this choice is a no brainer.

6). Rihanna

Rihanna is too talented and unique to care about living in Beyonce’s shadow but a Super Bowl halftime show would cement her status as an icon.

5). R.E.M.

The greatest American rock band of my lifetime reuniting for a one night only event. Anyone who listened to Michael Stipe open for Patti Smith last month in New York knows he can still croon. The set list basically writes itself: “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?,” “Losing My Religion,” “Man on the Moon,” “Strange Currencies,” “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine).”

4). Jay Z and Kanye West ft. Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and Busta Rhymes

Jay and Kanye do their thing before a “Get By (Remix)” finale for the ages. Any questions?

3). Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey, Janelle Monae, and Miley Cyrus

I wrestled with each of these artists occupying a spot somewhere on this list. Can you imagine the dynamics at play? I have no idea how this would work. It could be one of the most unforgettable pop moments of the 21st century or a train wreck inside of a hurricane. Either way, everyone on the planet will be watching.

2). Outkast featuring the Black Keys

Pair the legendary hip hop duo with the reigning kings of rock and roll and salivate at the prospect of hearing “B.O.B.” with a heavy metal twist or watching Big Boi freestyle over a lick during “Gold on the Ceiling.”

1). Prince

So remember when I said you can’t be on this list if you’ve already headlined a Super Bowl? Well, rules don’t apply to Prince. He delivered the greatest halftime show performance in history back in 2007, subverting expectations that he would play mainly classic hits like “1999” and “Let’s Go Crazy.” Instead he whipped out a little Queen, Hendrix, Ike and Tina, and even the Foo Fighters, knocked over the microphone and jammed out with the Florida A&M University Marching Band. To all the Beyonce fans out there who are demanding a recount right now, let me remind you that Prince finished this set by playing “Purple Rain.” IN THE RAIN. That wasn’t spontaneous – he made it happen. Prince makes Beyonce look like Wayne Newton.

Not only does he still have his entire back catalogue in play but this time around Prince has some new hits which he showcased during an epic SNL appearance back in November 2014. But you know he’s probably going to find new ways to surprise us all over again before releasing a cavalry of majestic white birds weeping into the night during an explosive finale of “When Doves Cry.” When it comes to the Super Bowl, Prince is the King.