So, it wasn’t until maybe 18 months after Flo Rida came out that I realised his name was just “Florida” split apart. Genius. Here Mr. Rida (the dude that can turn ocean to drank) jumps on Avicii’s “Levels”, and it’s well…. you’ll just have to listen. (DoML)
We divided and we conquered. Team B3SCI took to the streets of Austin, TX this past March for the annual SXSW Music Conference. Among the seemingly infinite amount of shows we caught by bands from all over the planet, B3 was there with non-stop coverage including exclusive interviews, take-away performance sessions, and even our B3SCI Presents first ever SX-party! So check out from SXSW 2013 some of what you missed, you remember, and what you straight up forgot about with this firsthand look back:
Sunday, March 10th
Seryn @ Holy Mountain
I must confess that I had never heard of Seryn before SXSW. On Sunday night, after a long day of trekking about, I ended up walking into Holy Mountain. As I walked in, and took a gander at the surroundings, the bar was about half full and easily navigable. As I made my way in, the band began to play; I could feel the pulse of the kick drum as the sound waves of the low end penetrated the walls, the layered vocals came through with a bright passion, the accordion mixed with the guitar and bass and complemented the percussion, creating a powerful sound that instantly grabbed me. The growing attentive audience seemed to be in on something that I’ve been missing out on. Seryn has an appreciation for skilled musicianship, that can not be replaced by a programmed loop, and their thoughtfully crafted songs are more orchestral than folk-like. It’s not hard to become a fan of Seryn. By Desiree Autobee
Monday, March 11th
Poolside @ Mohawk
I’d say the best time to go to SXSW, and not feel pressure, is the day before the music portion is officially set to start. The place to be that Monday evening was Mohawk – it was a breeze to get in and it was slated with a really great lineup. The perfect band to compliment the calm before the SXSW storm was Poolside. With chill beats and solid bass lines, their songs are ripe for a groove or two. It seemed like the entire crowd sunk their bodies into each song, willingly giving up their control for the opportunity to be transported into the rhythmic world that Poolside has so expertly created. By Desiree Autobee
Vacationer @ Mohawk
If ever there was a way to escape a bad day or a general need to have a relaxing good time, I’d recommend seeing a Vacationer show. Their midnight slot at Mohawk on Monday night was packed and it set a great tone for the remainder of SXSW. Vacationer sounded just as good live as they do on the album. Kenny Vasoli does a great job as a frontman, translating Vacationer’s subtly subdued electro-pop sound into a performance that is every bit as energetic as the music is laid-back. Vasoli was genuinely appreciative of the crowd that night, mentioning the band had played SXSW the year before without much notoriety; extensive touring since then with bands along the likes of Tennis, Body Language, and Niki & The Dove, as well as music placements and coverage by the music community has catapulted Vacationer’s fan base – deservedly so. By Desiree Autobee
Tuesday, March 12th
Dan Croll @ Cheer Up Chalie’s
Dan Croll hit it out of the park Tuesday afternoon at Cheer Up Charlie’s. His electronic-fused singer/songwriter pop was truly infectious and took hold of the audience. He and his band played tight, sounding great in addition to being charming with banter in between songs. Croll has become a true professional in the short time that he’s made an impact on the music scene. By Desiree Autobee
Zak Waters @ Cheer Up Charlie’s
Zak Waters is a force to be reckoned with. From the moment go, he and his band made you almost forget it was the middle of the afternoon on a Tuesday. Waters’ high energy matched the high danceability to his soulful music and the crowd couldn’t move from stage-one (previous performance) to stage-two (where he was) fast enough; Cheer Up Charlie’s turned into a midday dance party. I saw many bands play at SXSW, Zak Waters was a standout. By Desiree Autobee
Guards @ Empire Control Room
New York’s Guards have been creating a stir. They delivered a stellar set at the Empire Control Room on Tuesday despite crappy sound in a room that seems mostly perfect for hardcore punk or metal bands. In a live setting Guards have a straight forward, energetic, hard pop approach that supports consistently good songs. Their debut album is yet to drop, but last song of their set, “Ready to Go” is a single that is putting people on notice that this is a band to watch. By Bruce Rave
Young Girls @ BD Riley’s
Roaming about on 6th St., I followed my ears into BD Riley’s Irish Pub. The scene was a bit strange at first, as I walked in and felt as though I had interrupted a PTA dinner convention, but the music was in wonderful stark contrast to the visual before me, and sounded like it should have been coming from a sun-kissed Levi’s commercial (or similar,etc). It became easy to forget about the people around me and the chaos outside, and to focus on the warm, retro-garage pop being played. Young Girls aren’t young girls, rather they are a quartet of young men, and their music makes you want to take a sick day and head out to the beach. Song after song, they played their hearts out and created a hazy west-coast vibe in the middle of SXSW. This Texas band is one to watch. By Desiree Autobee
Wednesday, March 13th
Blondfire @ B3SCI PRESENTS @ MAGGIE MAE’S
Amidst non-stop touring in support of their numerous successful and recent releases, around noon, Blondfire kicked off the B3SCI Presents dayparty at Maggie Mae’s with a line out the door. Erica Driscoll took charge of her four-piece band, initiating the first daytime of SXSW music with a high energy output of hits and fan favorites like “Where The Kids Are,” “Waves” and “Trojans.”
NO CEREMONY /// NOC @ B3SCI PRESENTS @ MAGGIE MAE’S
For their first ever show in the United States NO CEREMONY /// delivered a stirring representation of ambient pop music without hesitation. The Manchester collective performed as a trio, and their electronic set up was accompanied with live vocals, guitars, bass and a variety of percussion. Stunning graphics displayed via mounted projector on stage with the band, accenting yet another layer of depth behind the elusive band. I went on to see /// NOC three more times during SXSW and thus are one of our favorite take-aways from the festival.
Ghost Beach @ B3SCI PRESENTS @ MAGGIE MAE’S
Having seen Ghost Beach perform before, I knew to expect a high energy, electro-pop blow out from the band at Maggie Mae’s for B3SCI’s showcase. The New York duo absolutely rocked the house and have since become a favorite of mine. Playing different songs from their self-titled EP and 2012 release Modern Tongues, Ghost Beach proved to be on the lips of a lot of people at SXSW. It also helps that they would go on to play 8 showcases during the conference. Worth noting, the band had recently taken an ad space in Times Square promoting a social experiment of theirs that asks artists if they are for or against piracy. It’s pretty cool, check it out here. By Brian Litwin
Phil Beaudreau took to the rooftop at Maggie Mae’s with Grammy Award winning producer Dawaun Parker for a first time ever live performance on Wednesday at SXSW. You wouldn’t have known it though. The LA based duo root back to Berklee U in Boston and they had a certain chemistry on stage. Performing early tracks surfaced from Beaudreau’s anticipated debut, Ether, like “This Is Why,” “Anyway,” and “Take It High,” in addition to unreleased material, the two worked the stage. The group’s collaboration of progressive urban beats and new school soul is a winning sound for pop in our books. You can check some footage of their performance here.
Gold Fields @ B3SCI PRESENTS @ MGGIE MAE’S
Gold Fields didn’t merely play the B3SCI Presents SXSW party, they stormed it. The energy of their live show surprises those who only know their Black Sunday album, which the band toned down to display their electronic nuances. Their set-closer “Moves” was the most dynamic single song I heard played all week in Austin, and many people were talking about this band’s live shows. By Bruce Rave
SKATERS @ B3SCI PRESENTS @ MAGGIE MAE’S
SKATERS seemed to have a lot to say in Austin this year. The band is hot off the heels of their “I Wanna Dance” single with some major press surrounding it. Live, the band is loud, tight and singer Michael Ian Cummings was as charismatic as dare we say.. Julian Casablancas. But more than anything, the self described plasma-punks delivered the goods. Not like your too-frequent NYC guitar band, SKATERS have a direct quality. A sound that’s to the point, one that will last well beyond most basements in Williamsburg. A recently announced national tour with Portugal. The Man might serve as some indication of this bands potential and future trajectory.
The 1975 @ B3SCI PRESENTS @ MAGGIE MAE’S
One of the most exciting acts of SXSW 2013 was Manchester’s The 1975. Being big fans of this band from their early days, it was surreal to see them headline the first ever B3SCI Presents SX-event. It became clear that The 1975 raise the bar when it comes to performing. With live shows a big part of their message, the band spared no expense showcasing their major festival ready material, intricate arrangements, explosive performance and impressive musicianship. Besides the musical inclination, there is a timelessly dramatic quality to their sound, offering elements that a diverse climate of fans can relate to. With their pleathera of jukebox ready tunes, and a capitivating live performance to boot, The 1975 were a standout of SXSW for many that we talked to. Keep an eye out for a debut album from the lads dropping later this 2013.
Trails & Ways @ B3SCI PRESENTS @ MAGGIE MAE’S
Passion & belief, the two things that, for us, define a lot of Trails & Ways live show… and really much anything about the Bay Area band’s trajectory up to now. The band’s connection to their (excellent) material and to their performance is really remarkable. A singular and unique mix of indie pop, Brazilian music and R&B; songs like single “Nunca” and the sunny yet literate “Border Crosser” come off in comparable quality to the records, but with that added art-as-experience (and aforementioned) belief and passion. Trails & Ways are a band that has to make (this) music and has to make records like this. To experience it is really very powerful.
Flume @ Red 7
21 year old producer Harley Streten, has garnished a lot of attention in recent months. From releasing tracks that have exploded all over the internet and in turn making his self titled album Flume a platinum record in his home country of Australia, the hype behind him has been large. The line to see Flume at Red 7 was huge, and a lot fans waiting knew they weren’t going to get into one of the evening’s hotter showcases at the venue as well (CHVRCHES was playing just 30 minutes after in the larger patio area). Harley came out a bit slow, but things picked up quickly. He dropped familiar tracks to those who follow him like “Insane,” “On Top,” “Left Alone” and a crowd favorite “Holdin’ On”. By Brian Litwin
Autre Ne Veut @ Empire Auto Club
Arthur Ashin aka Autre Ne Veut has made waves with his new release Anxiety on Software Records. With a lot of hype comes a lot of expectations and at the Empire Auto Club Autre Ne Veut met all of them. Ripping through the album’s two singles “Counting” and “Play By Play,” he had the entire audience in awe. Though the experimental pop singer’s music is not very intense, the live performance is. Autre Ne Veut was all over the stage literally throwing himself into falsettos and dropping down to the ground with the heaviness of the lyrics. I can easily say that this was the best performance I saw at SXSW. By Brian Litwin
CHVRCHES @ Red 7
Of the last to be announced by SXSW, CHVRCHES (pronounced churches) might have won ‘the most buzz’ award at this years SXSW. The Glasgow three piece is an electropop group, consisting of Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty. The trio fulfilled much of the hype surrounding them at Red 7 that Thursday night. Having gained numerous fans online and the attention of indie all-stars Glassnote Records, CHRVCHES came out calm and collected. Bouncing between the select amount of songs they have, they had the Red 7 crowd grooving, playing hits like “Recover” and “The Mother We Share.” By Brian Litwin
Thursday, March 14th
SIR SLY @ HYPE HOTEL
Given the explosive success for bands like Foster the People following SXSW 2011, Sir Sly were high on my list of bands to see in Austin this year. Like the aforementioned, the trio are from Los Angeles and only had 3 songs out before the conference. The differences are though plenty still, and definitely in tone and image. Sir Sly have a darker sensibility to their pop music. Near equally as melodic, their live show is also more refined. Sir Sly delivered a solid set of new material proving that they too are ones to be watched out for in 2013.
HAERTS @ RED EYED FLY
There was little known about Haerts leading into SXSW 2013. With no pictures of the band available on line, and only one song, “Wings” (of which is great) available, the packed back patio at the Red Eyed Fly anxiously awaited the band’s set. And the multi-cultural collective based out of NYC Hearts delivered on expectations, doing so with a dynamic performance of new material. With enough contemporary elements to maintain a progressive sound in today’s musical ecosphere, my favorite elements of the band harkened at their classic rock roots, summoning CSNY, Fleetwood Mac, and Neil Yong to name a few.
MØ @ RED EYED FLY
MØ (pronounced meh I’m pretty sure…) was a favorite surprise of the week. Also, with only a few tracks released to her name, the Danish female indie popstar in the making took to stage with an attitude that beemed nothing short of confidence. Her music is almost as unique as her name and presence: high energy, tons of odd contortions, and really really good. Excited to see what the future holds for this young artist that definitely knows how to operate outside of the box.
Phosphorescent @ Willie Nelson’s Ranch
I had the incredible opportunity to get away from the chaos of SXSW and join some of the locals at Willie Nelson’s Luck, Texas ranch for the Heartbreaker Banquet showcase. Topping the bill for this small capacity outdoor venue were Jim James and Michael Kiwanuka. Though buzzing artist Phosphorescent is who caught my eye. The booze was free that day, the weather was incredible and the fans came by the mini-van full, making a perfect setting for the Matthew Houck lead group. It was more than appropriate for Phosphorescent to play at Willie Nelson’s Ranch considering his 2009 release was titled To Willie, and his most recent album Muchacho, is getting rave reviews. The single off Muchacho, “Song For Zula,” might just be one to see some radio play in 2013. By Brian Litwin
Toy @ Cedar Street Courtyard
This was the first-ever US gig for this Brit band. They had just arrived in Austin the late night before. Their single is “Motoring” and that is a perfect description of Toy’s live show, which literally motors along. They play tight and are capable of longer jams, for example their performance of tracks like “Kopter”. Toy anticipate an extensive US tour upon approval of longer-term visas. By Bruce Rave
The Neighbourhood @ ASOS Lounge
Having exploded as one of the most talked about bands of the past year The Neighbourhood came well equipped to their first ever SXSW. Cohesive is actually a good way of putting it. The Neighbourhood is a band without identity crisis. Their look is as dapper punk as their music is similarly pop. Indie rock with the lush overtones of the pacific coast crashed through The Neighbourhood’s set of most spectacular, alternative radio friendly songs. Much more to come from The Neighbourhood.
Peace @ The Mohawk
The Birmingham, UK band Peace are still very new to the rock and roll limelight. They have a compelling, slightly dark, slightly off kilter style and look that totally works. Peace had some tight songs such as “Wraith” and “Bloodshake,” but also stretched out on a dark jam every now and then. Peace are psychedlic Brit rockers for the radar. By Bruce Rave
Palma Violets @ The Mohawk
These UK newbies showed that their pre-album NME hype was well deserved. Palma Violets had NME’s #1 track of 2012 with “Best Of Friends”. This band has an onstage confidence that would lead us to believe they’d been topping the charts for 5 years. They completely nailed “Best Of Friends” live, while the entire set hammered us with consistency, power, and intensity. By Bruce Rave
Disclosure @ 1100 Warehouse
The Disclosure duo, consisting of brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence, was a must see at this year’s SXSW. Everyone was at this show, industry players, fans, bloggers and even fellow DJ duo Bondax. The set was pure fire, blasting their singles “Latch” and “White Noise” and at the same time infusing live elements like drums, vocals and bass. People didn’t care that it was well past midnight for the beginning of their set, and that the venue was far removed from the more congested 6th street. They all came to see one the top draws of the whole festival, and Disclosure didn’t disappoint. By Brian Litwin
JAKE BUGG @ HYPE HOTEL
Jake Bugg took to arms with just his acoustic guitar at the Hype Hotel for a brief set late Thursday night. Possibly because things were delayed, and it was something like 2am, but the young lad from Knottingham brought his mod folk song sensibility to the eager crowd. The writing wisdom of the 18 years old Bugg is pretty incredible, combining influences from Dylan to Ashcroft. Only a microphone and a guitar is all Jake Bugg will ever need.
Friday, March 15th
Alpine @ Red 7
The debut LP from Alpine was released in their native Australia last year. It’s not often that a band can make a quality album from beginning to finish, but Alpine has done just that. The band apply that same level of craftsmanship to their live performance as well. During one of their SXSW shows at Red 7 on Friday, I noticed a few fans up front (myself included), the band played to a mostly fresh crowd, as the troves poured in during their set. Each song Alpine played built upon the previous, gaining momentum and energy as the set went on, turning a room full of unsuspecting ears into a room full of grooving SX-goers. Alpine have a unique formula for blending rock, pop, vocal and synth elements, seemingly creating new song forms altogether. Frontwomen Phoebe Baker and Lou James artfully combined demureness with high energy, for a dynamic performance that the band and the audience came alive from. By Desiree Autobee
Merchandise @ Red 7
Punks turned Artful Punks, Merchandise most definitely brought the Punk to SXSW. They rather fortuitously (or not, depending on your perspective) also brought pieces and parts of the more updated elements of their sound to their brief late afternoon set at Red 7. Aside from the weirdness (read hilariousness) of the band members accents sounding EXACTLY like some of my family from Tampa, FL., Merchandise’s performance was loud, noisy, fast and really really good.
Different Sleep @ Hudon’s on Fifth
If you read B3SCI, then you know that Different Sleep’s name pops up on the frequent. There is good reason for that. For being a sophomore in college, Rafa Alvarez amazes us constantly with his downtempo, chillers. I got a chance to chat with him and catch his set at Hudson’s on 5th. His set was dope and expect to hear my exclusive interview with him on the streets of Austin via B3SCI sometime soon. By Brian Litwin
San Cisco @ Maggie Mae’s
Keeping it in the British Commonwealth, Australia’s San Cisco has improved exponentially every time I’ve seen them perform. This very young band scoarched an onlooking crowd with tightness and energy at Maggie Mae’s on Friday. Highlights included “Awkward” and “Rocket Ships” from their Awkward EP. With talented 19 year old singer Jordi Davieson at the helm, San Cisco are proving themselves highly popular with the young girls, and they also did very well playing just before The Vaccines at a show that I had caught in LA not too long ago. By Bruce Rave
Beware of Darkness @ Blackheart
Beware of Darkness is a young LA trio that rocks hard. For a power trio this band is inventive. Think Zeppelin meets early Bowie. Like many of these more promising bands, they have yet to release an album, but their song “Howl” is a winning single. Frontman Kyle Nicolaides shows major star potential. By Bruce Rave
BONDAX @ LA ZONA ROSA
Things got down really quick at La Zona Rosa when UK DJ duo Bondax, George Townsend and Adam Kaye, took over the decks. At this venue near the river, fans got to experience what the UK has been digging for quite some time. Switching between who was at the helm, George opened the set with Moon Boots’ remix of “Gold,” which set the party off right. Throwing in some deep house and smooth samples and closing the set with the original version of “Gold,” Bondax really put their foot down on Austin. Review By Brian Litwin
Savages @ 1100 Warehouse
We’ve heard “Husbands” a lot. It’s one of those “buzz singles” that’s not easy to miss. “Husbands, husbands, husbands”, it’s all right and ok; the single plays fine enough. The walloping we got with the London band’s 1100 Warehouse set, though, was a complete surprise, and most definitely one of the strongest sets we experienced during the whole of SXSW. Heavy, and in the best sort of highly focused, highly compressed, highly syncopated kind of way; Savages live set deviates tremendously from their records. And most notably, the instinctiveness of crop-cut singer Jehnny Beth, and the quietness, rage and laser intensity through which her performance and vocal is really special, and easily one of Savages’ best assets.
FIDLAR @ FILTER CLIVE BAR
I can’t think of a better place for FIDLAR to have played late Friday night than FIlter’s Clive Bar on Rainy Street. The house party vibe is all set. It’s a house, the band is in the back yard, the beer was flowing everywhere, you could barely move an inch in any direction and the band tore the roof off (if there was one). A rock and roll band for another generation of musical youths, FIDLAR bring the party wherever they go. See this band live.
Charlotte Church @ VEVO Control Room
Yes, that Charlotte Church. The PBS “Girl With The Golden Voice of an Angel” turned trashbag pop star/tabloid pariah’s return to music ran through SXSW and a performance at the oddly named VEVO Control Room. Well… the set, the material, the performance were all phenomenal (really phenomenal). The notion that Ms. Church can sing has never really been questioned and the vocal she gave during this show was truly something special. Charlotte’s new Bjork meets Earth Mother meets Portishead meets ? sound, and the structure of her songs, really gives her the ability and opportunity to perform and showcase the outstanding quality of her singing. It’s almost as if singing in a pop format is something that she’s only now first realizing.
Ryan Hemsworth @ 512
We made it rain Pokemon cards in the club. Though beat dropper/rainman Ryan Hemsworth didn’t repeat that deluging down of Charizards & Bulbasaurs for the crowded 512 Rooftop, the Halifax native did well to translate to a live setting his realer than Real Deal Holyfield mix of electro booty rap mixes and Legend of Zelda-referencing space bass jams.
Rudimental @ Hype Hotel
You could spot all the real Britons assembled at Hype Hotel for electronic/R&B crossover act Rudimental’s late night set by who knew how to dance to drum & bass and who didn’t. Moving in time with a drum & bass rhythm is something that has alluded us Americans for what seems like millennia. Rudimental, who went 9-deep on stage, did well enough to keep all the Solange (next act on stage) kids checked into the Hype Hotel engaged and interested in material they were likely hearing for the first time. The energetic 30-40 minute set was definitely highlighted by the big energy (these Brits work on stage) performance of new single “Waiting All Night” and the impressive vocal of singer Ella Eyre.
SATURDAY, MARCH 16TH
Blue Hawaii @ HYPE HOTEL
Riding a wave of chill infused daytime disco, Blue Hawaii are at the front of a movement that is only becoming more popular. The male/female duo did an exempilary job of delivering their material in a live setting. Their combination of live sampling manipulation and vocal performance was both exciting and intriguing in a live setting.
Shlohmo, Mount Kimbie, Baauer @ 1100 Warehouse
Things got down right dirty at the 1100 Warehouse for the Ray Ban – Boiler Room sponsored party on the last night of SXSW. With a lineup such as the one that the Boiler Room had curated, things were bound to get weird and possibly blow up in everyone’s faces. Chief Keef was supposed to be a main draw for the show, but knowing his history and legal issues, he did not show up. The reason is still up in the air, but really, who cares. Before things even got started, you could tell the production team and people from the Boiler Room looked worried at potential technical difficulties bound to happen. Unfortunately, this was the overall theme.
Hitting the stage first was the young LA based, oddball producer Shlohmo. With all that was going on at the venue and with visuals all over the walls, Shlohmo’s beats were a perfect soundtrack to the night. Flipping through different mixes, the crowd already excited just by being in the Warehouse started really feeling it. Joining Shlohmo on stage for a track were The Underachievers, sharing only one mic.
Lunice then hit the decks, throwing together a monster set, making way for Mount Kimbie. The London duo of Dominic Maker and Kai Campos had been ‘the’ electronic act in 2010. On this night, with again all the technical issues, they played some old tunes and some new tunes. The Austin audience started to feel their unique and “post-dubstep” sounds. For their only performance at SXSW this year, they definitely made it worth it.
The smoothest set out of all of them was Baauer’s and RL Grime’s back to back. The bass was extra heavy and as the decks switched back and forth, the crowd got rowdier and rowdier. Harry Rodrigues, Baauer, and Henry Steinway, RL Grime, are both young, talented bass engineers who have incredible futures in front of them. Of course, Baauer has seen more fame with the viral craze of his hit “Harlem Shake,” while RL Grime has made a nice name for himself in the music community as well.
This party, on paper, was one for the ages, and it was, but all the issues it had hampered the overall success of it a bit. Skream closed out the show with a set, and this video [above] kind of says it all… Review By Brian Litwin
HAIM @ STUBBS
One of the most exciting acts that I’d seen come out of SXSW 2012 was Haim. Low and behold, a year later, and the sisters lead group were packing the house at one of SXSW’s largest capacity venues. Haim have done justice to their hype. There songs are anthemic and have the perfect new wave of pop, indie production and classic rock sensibility. Speaking of classic rock – ehemmm, Fleetwood Mac, the collective even shamelessly, and appropriately, covered them during their set. Haim delivered the perfect cap to a SXSW festival that had been most insightful and musically rewarding.
*See below for more pictures and a mix of tunes from our favorite artists at SXSW this year!
Kids These Days @ Hype Hotel
MS MR @ Hype Hotel
TOY @ Latitude 30
Citizens! @ Tap Room
NO CEREMONY /// @ B3SCI Presents. Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room
B3SCI took to the streets of Austin in March for the 25th annual South by Southwest. We braved/raged through the musical flurry of performances, ridiculous entourages, grid-locked streets, fantastic rumors and more while covering some of the world’s top breaking talent. Below are some choice highlights from our experience (during festival highlights here), including our most recent Virgin Mobile Live broadcast featuring tunes from festival acts as well interviews with Fast Years, Tashaki Miyaki, PAPA and Saint Motel tracked on the streets of SX.
WEDNESDAY March 14, 2012
Roll the Tanks @ RED 7
Millennial music-host royalty Carson Daly kicked off Wednesday evening at his Last Call showcase with punked-out pop rockers Roll the Tanks. After a flattering introduction from Daly himself, Roll the Tanks and their Never Mind the Bollocks-informed post 90s-fueled power-pop set a familiar tone. Some songs had a definite Weezer-type approach, in a cheeky sort of way, and when combined with the energy of decades worth of nostalgic punk, and for that the band made some new fans. Sans some technical difficulties, the band powered through a well versed set of savvy- for-commercial-voltage rock music.
SOFI @ Parish
SOFI is a contemporary pop artist. A type that might foreshadow a new wave of SXSW popular artists. Sophie brought her brand of Lady Gaga electro-heavy pop to Parish on 6th street with a strut. It was a spectacle of dancers, poles, lights, a mic, and some backing tracks. That about covers it, a few timely electro pop songs and a hot stage show that clearly attracted some die-hard fans. The bass-driven atmosphere worked so well that I wondered about the possible scheduling conflicts with the Winter Music Confrence just a Gulf of Mexico away.
The Knocks @ Parish
The Knocks knocked it. The NYC duo finessed their gadgetry with a heaviness and energy that translated directly into a hall of moving bodies, a/k/a a serious party. In today’s Sea of electronic noise these dudes can mix in something like the B-52s with a freshness that doesn’t sound self conscious. The Knocks’ show works because of the duo’s dynamic urgency in performance.
Friends @ Hype Hotel
Take a quick glimpse at Friends. If your hipster radar isn’t freaking out at this band then get it’s battery checked. When Friends rhythmic and tropically based glam-pop grace the stage you should be ready to see a fashion show along with your concert. Not unlike everything that is endearing about novelty disco, the band’s minimal sound is an urban jungle. Lead vocalist Samantha Urbani jumps into the crowd like it’s her loft party. Once this band dials in there’s no stopping the impending Studio 54. Friends’ catalogue can be spotty at times but they do have some songs that stick; like it’s that sort of abstract, new wave-flavored stick that can only come from deep record collection gold like the Thompson Twins.
POND @ Hype Hotel
Pond fucking rock. I walked into the band’s first set of SXSW and was shocked at what I saw; definitely something to see. The Perth band (worth noting, come from some Tame Impala blood) are one of the most charismatic bands I’ve seen in a minute. From fixing his hair on stage, the swinging of microphones, the sneering, the dinosaur-raptor like convulsions… front dude Nick Allbrook has a strong comfortability on stage to say the least. A sort of stage presence that walks the line of over-the-top and sheer genius. Pond’s sound encompasses a striking blend in qualities of classic rock. When the band’s ambitiousness and stoner, punk, and classic rock influiences congregate, the resulting product is a high level brand of rock and roll. POND leave an impression, enough of one that lead us to three more gigs throughout SXSW this year. More to come.
Gary Clark Jr. @ La Zona Rosa
What kind of artist is Gary Clark Jr.? Is he a AAA radio staple still looking for that crossover hit? Is he the blues guy on your favorite festival circuit? or his he that guy that you and your dad can both rock out to? (Clapton fans were looking at you.) He’s probably a little bit of all the above. Gary Clark Jr. has the talent regardless of any label to be slapped on him. . His more popular songs like “Don’t Owe You a Thang” and “Bright Lights” stole the set at a song level but it was the sheer charisma of young G.C. that stole the show. Take Gary Clark featured on a guitar solo, take him featured as a vocalist.. our word, take him anyway that you can get him.
THURSDAY March 15, 2012
Lee Fields and The Expressions @ Hype Hotel
In the everdeep sea of soul pop legends, Lee Fields is a pearl. Coming to and from in a career of ups and downs, twists and turns, this man is still at his best. Dressed from what seems a Ross’ out of rural Nebraska, Little J.B. adeptly worked his crowds. He’s a pro. “I still got it” he sings from “…the new CD” (Faithful Man – get it) and he’s not kidding. Fields’ band, The Expression add an energy that other artists Field’s age wouldn’t be able to keep up with. Late in the set, ‘On a whim’ Fields directed his faithful band into an unrehearsed performance of their new song “Hanging On” from ‘the new CD’ (Faithful Man – get it). While getting down to the funky soul tones of Lee Fields, it was pretty hard to not notice that the dude loves singing to the ladies. Lee closed the set with “Faithful Man” which is the title track from the the CD. After letting fly his blood curdling screams of infidelity, Fields came back for a rare mid-day SXSW encore by audience demand.
BRETON @ Latitude 30
BRETON performed their first set on US soil at Lat 30 during SXSW, the perfect venue for those ‘different’ sounding brits (to of course American ears), and as expected, were greeted with mixed reactions (playing both for and against their favor depending on how you like to look at it). The projects team delivered a set of electro pop that’s all their own. There’s a youthful energy in the band’s near Vans-tour style presence. With a new skool approach to pop instrumentation, Breton are likely to introduce electronic music to a few youngins or two. With BRETON’s remix work already catching fire, this band seems to have the right formula as was further evident in what we heard original material-wise.
Love Language @ Cheer up Charlie’s
In scurrying to make an interview we missed a set from Moonlight Bride but in the process we were pleased to stumble on a great set from Merge Recordings act Love Language. The band’s soothing middle of the road pop rock brought me back to the days of bands like The Stills. Love Language seemed to play because they live for it.
Alabama Shakes @ Hype Hotel
Athens, AL based four piece Alabama Shakes were definitely a band to see on most everyones list during SXSW. The good news is that the band played like 8-10 sets so that you couldn’t miss them. Regardless, frontgal Brittany Howard puts it all out on the table. Even after all the hype, all the Lefsetz, all the usual ‘ha-bub’, you still can’t take your eyes and ears off of Alabama Shakes. This is a band clearly eager to explore the depths of their musical creativity. With newer songs in the dylan’esque transition Beatles style and less of the swamp tinted pentatonic rock (which many have come to love from them), Alabama Shakes still at their heart have a soulful swagger. They are aiming for the top, which is what separates them from much of the hype. A career is about longevity. For now, Alabama Shakes are destined for festival billing but whether or not Alabama Shakes will deliver further (say an iconic album for the books) remains to be seen. Only the strong survive.
Tashaki Miyaki @ Cheer Up Charlie’s
Tashaki Miyaki are a band with little to be known about. IS there something wrong with a band wanting the music to be what everything is all about? Isn’t that the way it should be? Adding a bass player helps with the live show of some generous covers appreciation. The band’s downtempo sound (which might sound familiar to some) is a signature stamp. Songwise – Buddy Holly, Bob Dylan, Sam Cooke, The Everly Brothers… the singing-drummer duo has an appreciation for the singles era. An era where an artist’s tastes could be appreciated in a less time intensive fashion. Kinda ironic how the attention spans of music fans in the 50’s have never rang more true today. Tashaki Miyaki’s shoe gaze and wash of Lucy’s vocal coos and Rocky’s fuzzed guitar is a winner combination for us. Lucy sings and plays like its all she knows, beautiful consonant octaves at the third or fifth.
Dirty Beaches @ Cheer up Charlie’s
The shameless and expressive musical rantings of Dirty Beaches. I don’t know how Alex Zhang Hungtai can replicate the emotions performance after performance that he pours into each of his live shows, but I am always grateful for the chance to experience it. There is difficulty in always finding the pocket dealing with a more abstract/impulsive sound palette; but this dude is dialed in.
Colleen Green @ Vegas Hotel
Colleen Green makes timeless strung out chic pop. The simplicity of her songs is a heavy contrast to the reflective themes that she conjures up in powerful doses. The short set of tracks was rocked at a full capacity; a bit of her pedal, a bit of Happy birfday Jeff! and a bit of moody power chord pop; perfect for this off beaten path Hotel Vegas venue.
Kendrick Lamar @ Stage on 6th
K Dot had control of the house from moment one as he rolled through an energetic albeit brief set, comprised mainly of highlights from his much lauded Section.80 mixtape. There was a heaviness and rasp in Lamar’s voice that revealed a bit of fatigue (The guy has been literally all over Austin the past few days) but there was no let up in performance quality as the L.A. rapper 100% knocked it out.
Nicolas Jaar @ Central Presbyterian Church
22 year-old American-Chilean musician Nicolas Jaar kept the lights down low for his headlining slot at Central Presbyterian Church for Pitchfork’s party. Reading the room, the trio brought experimental electronic jazzish composition to a packed room of enthusiasts looking for an intimate experience outside of the chaos down on 6th street. Saxophone, laptops, strings, drums, no instrumental territory was off limits. Atmospheric in all of it’s aspects, lush, strings, electro, world beats, Jaar’s music generates a big sound both controlled and intellectual.
FRIDAY March 16, 2012
Ed Sheeran @ Cedar Street
Ed Sheeran kicked off Friday morning SXSW 2k12 with something fierce. Armed with only his guitar, the UK dude tore it up at the Filter mag party.
Tristen @ Cedar Street Courtyard
It was at the same venue that I ran into Tristen last year at SXSW. How could those hauntingly beautiful tones not draw us back in? Her’s is a brand of poetic folk rock that touches every music lover’s inner country music. Tristen’s voice, in performance, floats as if were made for neo-trad pop. Tristen are a band comfortable in their own skin. Big.
U.S. Royalty @ VML House
Good old classic rock that’s not afraid to let its roots shine through. When shredding and belting vox out like American Royalty, we mean US Royalty… we mean dubbaya.
PAPA @ Cheer Up Charlie’s
PAPA sound great. PAPA were tight, in the pocket, on their soul. And for their fourth show of the day the band were dialed in to the frequency of the circus of Austin around them. Mid-set frontman Darren Weiss even did handstands. (seriously is was pretty fucking hilarious). He said, “it does taste like chicken” and proceeded to lay down more of the soul-informed rock vibes from the band’s A Good Woman Is Hard to Find EP, and also offering some hints towards what to expect from a forthcoming new album release.
HAIM @ VML House
HAIM drew second looks at the Virgin Mobile Live house early Friday evening. The 3:1 lady lead collective sounded big. Crossover type big. Like advert campaign big. It will be interesting to see how and if this group will develop. It wasn’t that any of the musicianship on display was anything that would blow your mind, it was more the profound feel the band convey that drew us in. We will be watching what happens next with HAIM in 2012.
DJ Jacques Green took to the decks for those lucky enough to catch a glimpse between all the action of band’s outside.
Fast Years @ Fire House
Fast Years are like the Motley Crew of jangle pop. Four cool looking dudes with a great feel for pop-informed rock music. While the fog machine (and LASERS) inside the Fire House was a bit over the top (almost choked then blinded us to death), the band still seemed to manage it. It was guitarist Mikah’s birthday and it was clear the partying on stage during set was no doubt part of the day’s celebration. With a nice collection of songs in the can, the group can look forward to hitting the road and honing their set for the masses.
Willy Mason @ St. David’s Church
Willy Mason is a good answer to AAA rock-leaning fans of artists like Noel Gallagher. Mason’s a sure bet expert collection of folk and classic rock songwriting was on display throughout the entire performance; each song telling a better tale than the last. Mason rocked the church with his fantastic band and his make-shift 19th century player-kick drum; a novelty on site but it actually added a musical depth to the mix.
Daughter @ St. Davids Church
Another band with a lot of hype leading in to SXSW were Daughter. Daughter have a uniquely intimate style to their songwriting. Lead singer Elen Tonra brings you into her vulnerable world with lyrics sung like they can only be said through song. Guitarist Igor Haefeli put on display one of the most beautiful/tasteful exhibitions of guitar work I’ve seen in years with such a mature sense of instinct and control. Should Daughter continue down a road of great songship, legions of fans await.
Michael Kiwanuka @ St. David’s Church
Michael Kiwanuka brings gospel-informed writing back to the mainstream of crossover songwriter pop. Like Jack Johnson, Michael Kiwanuka can pick up a guitar and potently tell a quiet story to masses of media-bombarded music consumers. Presences like his make for timeless moments and hit records. Kiwanuka is a budding talent with likely incredible things on his horizon.
Dinosaur JR. @ Fender Party
Strolling back to my hotel room Friday night, I heard a gnarly version of The Cure’s “Friday I’m In Love” echo through the streets. Fuck it I’m at SXSW. I followed my ears and (surprise!) I found Dinosaur Jr. rocking the 80’s classic. Not much to say about Dinosaur Jr. except it’s the only thing that could have picked me up at 2am. The trio play like they just discovered rocking out with each other in their garage yesterday.
SATURDAY March 16, 2012
The War on Drugs @ Mohawk
I ran into Michael Kiwanuka watching The War on Drugs. He seemed captivated by the band. Can you blame him? The War on Drugs are easily one of the next great American folk rock legacies. Frontman Adam Grundencial delivers dylan’esque rambles with brilliance. Guitar riffs played an important role in the songs as well; vocal and instrumental melodies met with a rootsful backing.
POND @ Maggie Mae’s
By the time we caught our third set of Pond I was convinced to have some conclusion. Especially after catching a second set in a venue better suited to host MMA on Pay-Per-View, and awful sound. Frontman Nick Allbrook took to the crowd in an early St. Patties Day jabber something like, “Busting is it? We’re Pond from Brixton. I’m Irish…” as they slammed into their blues rock, Led Zeppelin like wall of sound. The upstair patio at Maggie Mae’s took notice. Pond had the right amount of tameness this time, like their appearance at Hype Hotel two days earlier, and about 40% more tame than the ‘cage-match’ show the day before. With each set tactically different than the last, and this one being 20 some minutes in length, Pond held a captive audience. The band brought the pace back for “Broke My Cool”, a classic rock like ballad that showcased Allbrook’s voice more so than his personality; at moments Jagger-like in its’ tone-deffness. Perth’s Pond, have character. Some of the most character I’ve seen in a rock band in a minute. Add the Tame Impala backstory and a hearty new album, and we’ve got a band that might have us at fan status.
Bob Mould @ Mohawk
Bob Mould tore in to a complete performance of Sugar’s Copper Blue at the MOG party at Mohawk. Again he proved the album’s a classic, Sugar was epic, he’s a genius. Mould’s attitude and deamenor simply reads something like ‘fuck it’. The trio on stage killed the songs like they just wrote them yesterday. There’s something to admire about musicians that never loose the sight for and passion in their roots.
Clock Opera @ Hype Hotel
Clock Opera are a good reference point for contemporary indie pop rock bands. The five piece out of London put on a solid set of, mostly air-tight, rhythmically driven songs, and dis-enfrachised lyrics with non-traditional melodies and structures that you can’t get out of your head. Plus the band occasionally rock out on household kitchen ware! The crowd partied at the Nialler 9 showcase with an uptempo set of Clock Opera songs from their previous EP’s as well as their forthcoming Ways to Forget debut LP release.
Ceremony @ Red 7
This was a punk rock show. Posers take note. Provocatively genuine microphone gestures, moshers who mosh like it’s a profession, shit breaking on stage. The Bay area band ripped through an arsenal of material including cuts from their latest Matador release, Zoo. See this band but stand in the back.
Odonis Odonis @ Red 7
O^2 bring out the inner garage rock in everyone. The muddied abrasive, but still melodic, guitars frame songs with lyrics that live forever (when audible.. which is kind of the point). In fact it inspired me so much that I was compelled to buy one of the band’s cassette tapes (yes, that’s right a cassette tape). This Toronto trio will rip your head off it you’re not ready for them. The music, as energetic as it was loud, was played HARD with a washy mix of heavily fuzzed guitars. The band’s song structure is simple and on the punkier side of garage music. “Handlebars” stood out as a favorite with it’s British-y sneer and kowabunga cool vibes.
Forest Fire @ Red 7
Forest Fire are a band waiting for that big moment. With an almost Monkees quirkiness to them, the band must be on deck for the next Austin Powers movie. Plus lead singer Mark Thresher clearly knows a good parka when he sees one (James Brown would probably give it an 8.5)! Following the stage after Ceremony could not have been a good feeling for this band who might as well had been playing hippy rock in a field of daffodils. Still good pop is good pop music, and where stage experience lacked the, band made up for in melody and pure song.
The Velvet Teen @ Red 7
After what seemed a soundtrack from hell, the Velvet Teen launched into their much anticipated set. The jagged chords of “Radiapathy” would soon lead the crowd’s delight. A new track presumably from their forthcoming 6 years in waiting LP was mainly rhythmic and had no guitar. In fine Velvet Teen fashion, a departure from anything expected next out of the band. Judah Nagler got the crowd into it “come on Austin”! but there wasn’t much selling needed to be done.
Django Django @ Latitude 30
One of the most hyped acts at SXSW this year seemed to be Django Django. Lat 30 was packed to catch a glimpse of these popular new wave revivalists. The London collective rocked a new school DEVO type vibe. And like DEVO, in our opinion, DD either strike out or hit a homerun with what they are doing. Django Django are the type of band that relies on a penchant for strong tunes and consistency and have a successful career waiting where a boppy aesthetic makes for pleasant listening. It will be interesting to follow what 2012 (and potential music licensing, these are tunes that scream advert placement) will have in store for them.
D/R/U/G/S @ Latitude 30
The Manchester based beatsmith D/R/U/G/S filled in for Maverick Sabre who unfortunately couldn’t make it to Austin. While musically a major departure from the originally scheduled act, D/R/U/G/S took the stage, cast on left-arm and ready to deliver an electro induced set of dancey mayhem. Synced with his custom visuals, the DJ rocked through a set of intricate sound layers and manipulation. The music was great and his freshly minted remix on Lana Del Rey’s “Blue Jeans” stood a set highlight
2011. What wasn’t to love? The rise of weirdo R&B, the fall of chillwave, the end of R.E.M. We started the construction of this list over a month ago. One truly epic and extensive Google spreadsheet later, we arrived at this Top 50. We sorted and sorted and sorted, listened through a TON OF STUFF, “traded jabs” on whether James Blake or Jamie Woon put on the tougher persona, etc. Thanks for reading and we hope y’all enjoy the list!