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SXSW: Debo Band ready for its closeup

Posted by James Reed  March 16, 2012 07:23 PM

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Proving it's never too early for hard-driving Ethiopian funk music, Debo Band (above) taped a segment for NPR Music earlier this afternoon. Squeezing into a corner on the back patio of Joe's Crab Shack, the troupe's 11 members (minus one who couldn't make this trip) hail mostly from Jamaica Plain. It was the first stop on a long day for Debo, which hopes to make a splash at SXSW this year in advance of the band's July debut on Sub Pop Records imprint Next Ambiance. They'll be at Sub Pop's showcase at 9 p.m. and then hustle their way to an appearance at globalFEST's lineup.

Already Debo Band has made some influential fans. Bob Boilen, the host and creator of NPR's All Songs Considered who has been championing Debo since catching the group at globalFEST in January, arranged this afternoon's NPR taping. Boilen watched their performance from afar, nodding in approval and later raving about the band's contemporary take on Ethiopian pop. There are worse ways to spend a lunch break.

From there, it was a brisk walk down South Congress Avenue, which feels like the classy cousin to the anything-goes madness of 6th Street. They share one thing in common, though: Music seeps out of every door. Behind the Yard Dog Art Gallery, Bloodshot Records held its annual showcase of bands determined to raise some hell, from honky-tonk revivalist Wayne Hancock to alt-country spitfire Lydia Loveless. Beers definitely not optional.

Back across the river, I caught the tail end of Lost in the Trees' performance, solely on Boilen's recommendation. Good tip, Bob. With a new album out on Anti- Records, "A Church That Fits Our Needs," the North Carolina band, led by Ari Picker (below), unfurled a glowing set of chamber folk.

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As for tonight's lineup, I'll be shadowing Debo Band for a feature that will appear in the Globe next week. I'm also hoping to check out THEESatisfaction, Scott Matthew, and Spoek Mathambo. From R&B to indie rock to South African hip-hop within three hours -- that's why you come to SXSW, right? Follow the fun on Twitter: @GlobeJamesReed.

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Sarah Rodman is a staff music critic for the Boston Globe.

James Reed is a staff music critic for the Boston Globe.

Jonathan Perry is the Globe's Scene & Heard columnist, covering local music.

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