SXSW 2018: NPR Music Showcase feat. August Greene, Tank and the Bangas, and Okkervil River

words and photos by Alex Freeman | Friday, March 16th, 2018

The NPR Showcase during SXSW always has a nice blend of acts for those who like a little variety in their music. On Wednesday, March 14th, the headliners spanned from coast to coast, with some of the them having appeared on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series. Bob Boilen, who hosts that YouTube video series, made an appearance to introduce the bands.

First up, indie band (and former Austin residents) Okkervil River got toes tapping at their folk-infused set. With shaggy John Lennon-ish hair and spectacles, guitarist and lead vocalist Will Sheff played his heart out to a full crowd at Stubbs, one of Austin’s best outdoor venues.

Next up was a highly anticipated set by Tank and the Bangas, a New Orleans funk/soul outfit. Tank’s smooth vocals and sassy moves hearkened back to Lizzo, who took the same stage almost a year ago. The jazzy backdrop and Macy Gray-like vocals gave the venue a sexy vibe, which set the crowd up nicely for the final performers.

Supergroups are a unique aspect of SXSW programming, and the NPR Showcase spotlighted August Greene, which is the brainchild of front man Common, who was joined by producers Robert Glasper and Karriem Riggin. Known for their recent Emmy-winning song “Letter of the Free” in the Netflix documentary 13, which focused on racial inequality in the American prison system, the group had a nice mix of live hip-hop instrumentation for Common’s sultry lyrics. With not quite the same lip biting appeal of LL Cool J, the LA-based artist showed he could still turn heads with his stage presence and lyricism.

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