NPR Music Staff
Saturday at SXSW, things go over the edge. Language fails. The mind shimmies free from its moorings. Maybe it's the fatigue. Maybe it's the crowds. You could argue that the constant waves of sound that rattle eardrums over five days in Austin jars something loose inside a person's brain.
Whatever it was, as the final night of SXSW drew to a close, any attempts by our All Songs Considered hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton to hide their exhaustion and loopiness were unsuccessful. In one club, Robin heard music from 20 years in the future (played by a band called Marijuana Deathsquads). On the dirty floor of another venue, Bob Boilen found a bracelet inscribed with the word "Dream" that convinced him he's just a brain in a jar being injected with chemicals to make him happy. Take heart Bob, a fellow traveler had the same idea.
Thankfully, NPR Music's Stephen Thompson and Frannie Kelley helped to keep things tethered to reality, maybe because they finally got to see performers they'd been pursuing all week. Stephen caught a breezy, 12-song, 13 minute set by Tony Molina and Frannie saw Louisiana rapper Kevin Gates, whose energy and aggression were palpable. Robin caught his SXSW white whale in Ages and Ages, who he's been trying to see without success since the 2011 festival.
Bob caught up with Kishi Bashi and The Kite String Tangle, but his moment of revelation was the U.K. group Melt Yourself Down. One night after seeing the saxophone and drum trio Moon Hooch, this was a group with a similar setup plus a singer, and the effect was "Moon Hooch times ten." We're not sure we trust Bob's brain-in-a-jar to do that kind of high-level math, but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt for now.
You can hear that whole conversation in the audio player on this page, and read highlights from our staff in Austin below. Listen to our discoveries in a playlist of music by the best bands we heard at SXSW 2014 at the bottom of this page. And you can find a lot more of our SXSW coverage on Twitter, (@nprmusic), Instagram and Facebook.
Malaysian officials are asking more than a dozen nations to help find the jetliner that went missing last weekend. The search area for the Boeing 777 was widely expanded Saturday; investigators are now looking for potential motives among the plane's crew and passengers to disrupt the flight.
The new call for help comes after ships and planes spent days looking for signs of the plane in the South China Sea. New radar and satellite data has led investigators to conclude the plane took a westerly turn from that area, likely after someone intentionally disabled its transponders and other equipment.
The new data shows that the plane flew for more than six and a half hours after it ceased communicating with air traffic control.
"The search was already a highly complex, multinational effort. It has now become even more difficult," Malaysia's Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Sunday, discussing the status of the search for the Malaysia Airlines flight that had been scheduled to travel from Kuala Lampur to Beijing with 239 people aboard.
Officials now believe "the plane may have either flown northwest towards Central Asia or southwest towards the southern Indian Ocean," NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Beijing.
"From focusing on shallow seas, we are now looking at large tracts of land, crossing 11 countries, as well as deep and remote oceans," Hussein said. He added that Malaysia is asking those countries for satellite and radar data that might show signs of the plane's flight path.
From The Wall Street Journal:
"Officials in government and industry have regarded the southern corridor into the Indian Ocean as the more likely path of the 777, but haven't ruled out the northern arc.
"The track from northern Thailand to Kazakhstan crosses some of the most heavily militarized airspace in the world, including western China. According to [an] industry official, many of those nations "would have MiGs up in the sky before you even knew it" to intercept any unidentified flying object."
The mystery of the flight's fate — and that of the people on the jet — has prolonged the anguish and uncertainly of relatives whose loved ones boarded the plane. It has also led to speculation that the jet might have landed instead of crashing. As we reported Saturday, our colleagues at WNYC have created a map of the more than 600 runways that could potentially receive the plane, although experts say such a scenario is highly unlikely.
The authorities are hoping that information from the newly refocused investigation into the plane's crew and passengers might narrow the potential search area. Police are examining a flight simulator found during a search of the home of the flight's pilot yesterday; they searched the house of the co-pilot, as well.
Investigators are also talking to the plane's ground crew, Hussein said. He added that the pilot and co-pilot of the flight did not request to fly together. Hussein also said that there have been
Prime Minister Najib Razak announced the shift in the inquiry yesterday, citing a review of the data by Malaysian authorities working with the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration, as well as Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch.
Razak refused to call the plane's disappearance a hijacking. But as the AP reports:
"Malaysian officials and aviation experts said that whoever disabled the plane's communication systems and then flew the jet must have had a high degree of technical knowledge and flying experience, putting one or both of the pilots high on the list of possible suspects."
Background checks of all the passengers are still ongoing, police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said Sunday, according to Reuters.
For months, a military stalemate has defined the war in Syria. Now, a new strategy is emerging as Western allies and Gulf states step up support for rebels in southern Syria.
Along Jordan's northern border, Syrian rebels say they are unifying their fractious ranks, urged to unite by Western and Arab intelligence operatives who work in a covert command center in Jordan's capital.
Rebel sources confirm pledges of stepped-up deliveries of arms and intelligence sharing. The idea is to support more secular groups in Syria's south, to pressure the Assad regime from rebel strongholds along the southern border.
Saudi Arabia has long been covertly supplying arms to the rebels. "Saudis would like to change the balance of power inside Syria," says Labeeb Kamhawi, a Jordanian analyst. "So the best way to make sure this happens is to make Saudi presence inside Syria on the ground noticeable to everybody."
On a Jordanian highway, more than two dozen trucks line the side of the road. These are Saudi trucks; the sign on the side says, "The Saudi National Campaign — Support for Brothers in Syria."
There is an official logo on each one. These deliveries have gained momentum since talks between the regime and rebels collapsed in Geneva earlier this year.
Sources in Jordan say these trucks are filled with humanitarian aid, and that's what's new: Saudis are now moving humanitarian aid into southern Syria.
It's an open secret. "They don't even bother to hide the fact that they are sending these huge trucks to Syria, because they cannot hide them," Kamhawi says.
In this conflict, food has become a weapon of war. The Syrian regime has denied food and medicine to rebel areas in a tactic international aid groups call "surrender or starve."
A recent UN resolution called on Syria to allow unfettered access to aid, even demanding deliveries across neighboring borders. But so far, the regime has resisted official cross-border operations.
The Saudi deliveries can change the balance on the ground, says a Syrian activist, who withheld his name to protect family still in southern Syria.
"There is no food," he says. "Lots of bakeries are not working, people are getting sick."
He says civilians welcome the food and medicine, but rebels want allies to fulfill a pledge of military support as the regime continues to gain ground.
For now, the rebels get light arms and more anti-tank weapons, U.S. officials say, plus cash for rebel battalions. That has raised hopes for the promise of heavier weapons.
"They think that these promises might be true this time and there is something different with these promises," the activist says.
In Jordan, as the war enters its fourth year, the flow of Syrian refugees remains steady. The overwhelming majority are women and children. The UN's Kilian Kleinschmidt, who runs the Zaatari refugee camp — the largest in Jordan — keeps count.
"We are having every night, 300 to 700 people coming into the camp," Kleinschmidt says. "Of course, it's challenging. The camp is full."
New camps have been opened for an influx that has overwhelmed this country. The Saudi aid openly going to southern Syria could stem some of the tide, but it comes with risks, Kamhawi says.
"If Jordan allows even humanitarian aid to go into Syria without coordinating this with the Syrian government, then the Syrians would look at this as being an act of aggression," he says.
Jordan's covert role as a base for Western and Arab allies arming, training and now openly feeding rebels puts the country on the front line of the war.
New violence has erupted in central Nigeria, where a dispute over grazing land has reportedly sparked a raid that officials say killed more than 100 people.
Details are still emerging about the attack, which struck several villages on Friday. The BBC says heavily armed men attacked three villages, where they looted and destroyed homes and burned their victims' bodies.
NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports for our Newscast unit:
"Nigerian police confirm that cattle herders believed to be from the Fulani ethnic group attacked three villages late on Friday.
"This was in an area where longstanding quarrels over land, ethnicity and religion have erupted into deadly violence in the past.
"Most Fulani-related clashes are concentrated in central Plateau state, pitting semi-nomadic Muslim herders against sedentary, often Christian, farmers in recurrent and murderous killings.
"Thousands of civilians have been killed in recent years in growing animosity that is aggravated by mounting rivalry over grazing land and water resources, mixed with ethnic and sectarian disputes.
"The latest incident follows a separate such attack in northeastern Katsina state this past week."