Carla Bozulich rocked SXSW socks off. Plus: Mia Doi Todd, Devin the Dude and Bun B, Leyna Noel
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SONIC REDUCER Carla Bozulich is a force of nature. And nature in all its sweetest Central Texas manifestations crisply twittering songbirds, spring sun glinting off the tin-sided porch, a slight breeze blowing in from the Colorado River responds gently in kind, encircling the half-renovated cottage where she'll be playing a small house show on the outskirts of South by Southwest. The former Geraldine Fibbers leader piles out of the van along with the rest of her virtuosic, dusty, somewhat road-dazed ensemble Evangelista. We're a long way more than a decade from the time Bozulich's disintegrating '90s alt-rock combo opened for Iggy Pop at Austin, Texas's largest intersection for thousands of SXSW onlookers.
"I have a potential with my voice of I don't know how to say this without sounding really ridiculous but I've frightened bears away from attacking," Bozulich says, laughing slightly, tucked into a porch a few weeks back and tackling each question with the driving eloquence of a woman who's spent plenty of time behind the wheel of her passions. "Wild dogs at another time when I was with Tara." She imitates the hounds barking meekly then crawling away, whining. "I just consider it something that I was born with, and a lot of times when I sing, I'm kind of holding it back because it's sort of too much. So I just kind of decided when I started doing Evangelista that I was going to sort of work on a project where I didn't hold back and I would try to use it to really inspire people to blow off the kind of trendy, lethargic, like, boundaries you know, the boundaries you don't cross in terms of not embarrassing yourself!"
We've ducked onto the porch as Scary Mansion plays in back to talk about Evangelista's new album, Hello, Voyager, Bozulich's second on the great Constellation imprint her first, titled Evangelista (2006), was the indie's first non-Canadian release and the stunning show she gave the other night. It was likely one of the best of the fest, with Bozulich howling into her mic, pacing the stage during the new LP's title opus, uncoiling sharp, eloquent shards of noise, and hopping in place with a contented smile as her band a relatively new incarnation that includes longtime bassist-collaborator Tara Barnes, cellist Andrea Serrapiglio, and guitarist Jeremy Drake generated a moving, glorious din. "The west is the best and the wind knows my name," Bozulich told the heavens and you believed her.
Unfortunately the heavens opened up and poured down misfortune last November while Evangelista toured Europe. "I got hurt really bad in Paris. I was hit by a random madman on the street, who broke my cheek," Bozulich recalls of the incident, which occurred while she was singing and being interviewed on the street. Her face still feels shattered. "It was completely random. In a nutshell, he hit everybody, but he broke my cheek." But instead of crawling home to a friend's couch and recuperating, she decided to stay on the road. "It was a weird decision, but looking back I'm really glad I did," she says. She saw Pompeii, Rome, and Tuscany, though her face was purple and swollen, and it was, she allows, "hard to sing." Yet, she adds, "I was having the adventure of my life."
Bozulich's tactic in the face of disaster perfectly parallels her desire to venture out on a limb in every way. "I don't take drugs or drink and haven't for many years," she confesses. "So for me the ultimate high I've discovered after all these years is really I have to say embarrassment, doing something that might not be supercool. It separates a room, and there will be some people who will be like, 'Yeah, fuck it! I'm sick of this, too. I really want to express who I really am.'" And in a sense Evangelista's music is a very specific response to wartime disenfranchisement, written by an artist who describes herself as a "really, really far-left progressive, politically, and I feel like music is one of our only ways that we can organize. Fundamentalists still have that leg up on us. They aren't afraid to join together."
Bozulich has done it before: fronting her old group Ethyl Meatplow during which the shy girl who once sang behind drum kits "really learned to be a badass" she changed lives: "People still come up to me saying really great things like, 'We conceived our child in the bathroom at an Ethyl Meatplow show.' And there's several people who have said, 'I came out of the closet just from listening to Ethyl Meatplow' and that's political. That's great!" She stares out at the fast-food drive-throughs that surround even this tiny show, and the sweet recording deals, massive crowds, and Iggy Pop opening slots don't seem like much after all. "I've just been very lucky, you know."
CARLA BOZULICH'S EVANGELISTA
Thurs/27, 7 p.m., free
2455 Telegraph, Berk.
Also Fri/28, 9 p.m., $10
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St., SF
FILL 'ER UP
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