It may seem like quite a while ago at this point but the world’s best indie festival, South By Southwest, was just a few weeks past, March 12-16, and everyone in the music industry will continue to feel its repercussions all year, especially those from Brooklyn! From the bands that made it big to those that seemed to crash and burn, everyone who attended took away some great musical memories, including Bushwick Daily! We had three writers (Danielle Thompson, Ileana Little, and yours truly) hanging out in Austin, snapping instagrams, taking notes, and absorbing everything we heard. Why? So we could come back to Austin and share our faves with you, of course! Check out our three takes on SXSW, featuring reviews of the best, most unique, and wackiest performances we saw at South By, and a whole list of great new bands for you to check out. Plus, we’ve created Spotify Playlist for you to click on and listen through!
Most of my SXSW was spent chasing the dragon that is seeing a favorite band – i.e. Ra Ra Riot, Shout Out Louds, The Thermals – in a venue far smaller than they normally play, but I was lucky enough to catch a few new (to me, at least) and amazing bands along the way.
The UK band Peace took the stage amidst buzz that R&B superstar Usher may or may not have been by the stage, cloaked in a giant bodyguard, waiting to hear their performance. Turns out he was, and his departure 45 seconds into their set should be no indication of the band’s quality. Lead singer Harry Koisser took the stage in peace sign sunglasses, frayed jeans, and a filthy striped sweater, appearing almost as the love child, in both image and sound, of John Lennon and Kurt Cobain. The band rocked their way through a 30+ minute set with minimal interaction with the audience, but those in the crowded venue loved them all the same.
On the flip side, in the category of SXSW band fashion, another UK group wowed the crowd in both music and presentation – Fear of Men took Austin’s Mohawk stage in style, with its two female members wearing Audrey Hepburn-esque little black dresses and jewels. The quartet played a melodic set to an overcrowded room that was far too charmed to consider the themes of isolation and fragmentation in their somewhat depressing lyrics.
I also enjoyed (or at least I think I did?) seeing Canadian band Metz. Amongst my crowd of 3, the band inspired the hatred of one, the overwhelming passion of another, and somewhere in the middle for the third. Without question, Metz made the most sound I have ever heard from a trio and, while sludge-punk might not be my personal music of choice, they were the most evocative group I heard over my festival experience.
There are millions of ways to describe a SXSW experience, but beneath all the free miller lights, energy inhalers, taco bell, oysters, whiskey drinks and other assorted freebies, what it comes down to is the quality of the music you see. While running from East to South to Central Austin, trying to make the next set of a band I’d mapped out, sometimes missing the mark by getting stuck at a German house party or watching an impromptu Bluegrass show in the front lawn of a house. The best performances I did see, however, were electrifying, and tell of the bright future of these most young, incredible buzz bands.
Delicate Steve is a thrill-inducing power rock band that’s mostly instrumental, driven by the energy of frontman Steve Marion’s epic electric guitar. On top of that great song, there are funky keys, relentless rhythms, and fuzzy melodies. These New Jersey natives are spearheading music’s new fusion sound. Depending on the song there are a ton of discernible influences – a little bit orchestral, a little bit oriental, sometimes delicate (ha) but most of the time rocking out hard – but they always create a mood and invite you to sit in it with them. Sexy, shimmery, and really powerful, they’re simply wonderful live.
Katie Crutchfield, aka Waxahatchee, has been garnishing a lot of press about the simple but great songwriting she pulls. A blend of lo-fi, folk rock, acoustic and country leanings, her music comes off as relatable, beautiful, and a revival of the woman songwriter trend that fell off in the mid ’00s. Her sound is mostly minimal, with an electric guitar and her delicate but unique voice. Maybe it has something about the way she pronounces words – it’s almost like she’s gargling them before she lets them slip out – but it’s addictive. Listen to her 2013 Cerulean Salt. Your ears will perk up and, no matter what, emotions will start flowing.
Blue Hawaii rose from the ashes of once-disbanded Montreal band Braids. It’s safe to say if you like Braids you’ll also love Blue Hawaii, which also showcases Raphaelle Standell-Preston’s intense vocal stylings, but the latter is based in electronics, and strips down the structures of the song to focus purely on rhythm and intention. The experimental approach Standell-Preston takes vocally – floaty and haunting, strong yet gentle, with original repetition and fluid lyrical narration – feels so right among guitar loops and escalating electronic beats. Live, they turn their set into a full-out electronic party set that makes you dance, more so than a listen through of their debut album, Untogether.
If you’re nostalgic for the rock’n’roll of the ’60s and ’70s, look no further. Foxygen will quell all your needs while simultaneously sticking a rainbow-striped lollipop in your mouth. Rambling like the Rolling Stones, funky and floaty like The Kinks, psychedelic like Pink Floyd, lyrically rolling in the San Francisco grass, they embrace the old while still applying new age creative vibes of weird-new-america experimental artists like Ariel Pink and John Maus. It’s so hard not to think of 100 bands while listening to their most recent release, We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic, which aptly describes their sound and vision. At SXSW, they were a lot of fun if a little distracted, embracing their newfound fame in a way that frontman Sam France seemed a little unable to handle. They recently cancelled the remaining dates of the tour to preserve the “creative integrity of the band.” I was glad to catch them on the first night of SXSW at the Hype Hotel, where their music was performed with intent and in a fun Doritos-fueled setting.
Perhaps my favorite take-away band of the whole festival, Hundred Waters is a female-fronted experimental pop band from Florida that is in a league of its own, creating music that really doesn’t exist in the USA. Driven by soothing and sometimes extraordinary vocal harmonies, the soundscape of each song revolves around rhythmic, chanting verses that blossom like a bunch of wild lilies, one at a time, which the instruments fill like grass around them. This sound is silky and dreamy, but so organically driven it sounds like it should be performed in a church. Just listen to their album already! It’s called Hundred Waters EP.
Other bands that made my SXSW memorable included Lord Huron, Haerts, Thee Oh Sees, Caveman, and The Walkmen.
On Wednesday Daniel Johnston performed with Lost Boy? and Common Prayer of Brooklyn in Okay Mountain Gallery. Jung Kim, New York City based photographer and printer, presented a traveling photo exhibition titled, Daniel Johnston: Here, covering a span of the five most recent years of his life. Both sets, each only one song, were intimate and beautiful. Johnston and his guests complimented the melancholic, heartrending, and raw emotion in his lyrics and their instrumentals that were depicted throughout the photos in the gallery. The combination of the two left you feeling a bit doleful and quiet, forcing you to take in and reflect what you had just witnessed.
Brooklyn Vegan hosted a showcase at The Main and JR, a conjoined indoor/outdoor venue on Thursday, also known as the Old Emo’s. Fifteen bands from Detroit to Montreal and back to our beloved Brooklyn made up the daylong event. I caught Brooklyn bands Widowspeak and Beach Fossils who gave familiar, yet stellar performances. Widowspeak’s set included steady, layered, rhythmic guitar and hazy vocals. They played a smooth, melodic set that encompassed the warm, dreamy, rock and roll American aesthetic that they emulate so well. When I asked how their SXSW was going so far, drummer Kyle Clairmont Jacques described it as “luxury vehicles, leather interiors, mimosas, bellinis, sun-kissed, sun-stained, alcohol poisoning, inflatable mattress” and a plethora of other nonsense words. They definitely had fun. Beach Fossils hopped on next. Within the first two minutes, lead guitarist/vocalist Dustin Payseur jumped off stage and into the crowd, riling them up into a mosh-bopping frenzy. The lo-fi, fuzz-pop band gave an energetic and momentous performance that concluded the showcase.
Anamanaguchi played their last show at SX at The Grackle, a little outdoor spot on the far east end of 6th Street, the main stretch for shows. Though the show was a little early that Saturday (1PM is a little rough when you’re on day five of jam-packed shows and drinking), the audience had no problem flailing their arms and hopping around to the New York indie-chiptune band. Anamanaguchi was probably the most eclectic band I saw that week. Described as “hyper-active, hyper positive 8-bit jams that epicly wail with guitars and drums” they definitely pumped you up for the remainder of the day.
The Burger Records Showcase, Burgermania, was also on Saturday. For those who aren’t familiar with Burger Records, it’s an independent record label and store based out of Fullerton, California. A flood of bands played three different stages from 2PM-3AM. Shannon and the Clams, The Audacity, The Lovely Bad Things, The Garden, Sam Flax, King Tuff, Cumstain, Summer Twins, Colleen Green, FIDLAR, Peach Kelli Pop, Fletcher C Johnson, Nobunny, and Pangea were just a few of artists on the bill. One of my favorite bands that played that day were dark experimental, surf-punk band, The Garden. Comprised solely of twin brothers, Fletcher Shears (drums) and Wyatt Shears (vocals/bass), they brought hard, weird, roughly 1-minute songs. The Lovely Bad Things was another memorable act. The four-piece band took a crack at each instrument every few minutes, allowing for variety in their garage, pop-punk sound. If you like The Pixies, then you’ll easily get into these guys. The day was truly about rock ‘n’ roll. Along with the live music, the merch table included cassette tapes, records, koozies, stickers, books, and buttons from many of the bands.
It’s safe to say we had fun. Listen to the Playlist HERE!