Coming down from the ‘high’ of SXSW has made for a befuddling few days back in Brooklyn. I went to the festival for the first time this year – totally alone…and damn! I am so happy I did! Every morning commenced with free coffees, Bloody Marys and countless promotional snacks being tossed into my straw bag. While I had a jam-packed spreadsheet of shows to catch, I was often deterred by wayward sounds that lured me into unexpected showcases. was the first show I caught at Austin’s beloved Swan Dive bar. Dreamy harmonies and transcendent synths were the perfect compliment to my morning adrenaline buzz. Philadelphia group were hands-down the most insane live performers of my SXSW week. The boys pounded the stage so hard that the soles of their tennis shoes flopped in defeat. The group has a playfulness on stage – the three guitarists shred together in what can only be described as perfect chaotic garage band choreography. Seriously, these guys are so sick I had to skip other shows just to catch them again the next day. Still, little came close to the sheer magic of my final night in Austin, when hometown heroescurated a spectacular lineup at DIY “venue” (essentially a tent pitched in somebody’s yard) The Owl. Because the universe loves me, one of my favorite bands on the planet, Detroit’s , happened to share the bill. Courtesy of my buds from Bushwick’s own, I received an unexpected lift during the band’s set and went soaring into the crowd (I even found this pic, which serves as proof, while trolling around the interwebs). Not too shabby for my first South By experience. My highlights were scattered across many venues and many parties, the main destinations between pitstops for kimchi fries, free breakfast tacos, and way too much free booze (thanks, ). The most stunning performance I saw was at The Spin Party, from up-and-comers , the Baltimore-based “synth rock” band. Their sound is pure genius, with raw and archaic vocals, dance-based beats, and subtle orchestral synth fills. The performance touched me with its genuine energy, power, and intention of the songs and Sam Herring’s stage persona. The Beehive’s excellent bill featured Kishi Bashi, High Highs & others, but the first band of the day were the ones that stole my heart. The NY-based , whom I’d never heard of, left me feeling invigorated. The band’s tribal beats, pop buildups and powerful chanting vocals made them a standout. UK’s , one of our , didn’t disappoint in their first ever US performance at the Hype Hotel, a club-like warehouse run by . With an enriched psychedelic sound and beautiful, haunting vocals, their SXSW performance was hypnotizing. LA/NY band blew my mind with a rare house party performance at a coop in North Austin (only at SXSW). Their Psychedelic Motown sound is soulful, genuine, and perfectly poppy; it really hits somewhere deep with listeners. Lead singer Shaun Fleming’s performance was full of raw energy and his vocals were truly flooring. Also on the bill that night were Garden & Villas, Slow Magic, & Supreme Cuts. The showcase on the last night of South By was one of the most anticipated showcases of the festival. Packed with bands like La Luz, TogetherPangea, Gap Dream (all on our ), and tens others across four stages, I knew I would walk away with some new faves. I didn’t expect to get hooked on a band fronted by a just-turned-17-year old called from LA. The band seem like the posterchildren for , where they premiered their awesome single “Teenage Girl.” Their sound has the indifferent and vaguely emo vibes with which only teen musicians can properly infuse their music, and lyrics that are playfully small-minded (pizza monsters play a role), but with postpunk and surf rock influences, their quiet, drawn out songs present a precious vulnerability, and some definite potential to grow into. See you next year, SXSW!
Three BD music writers voyaged to SXSW, took a bunch of gorgeous photos, and documented three very different experiences while down there. Samantha, who favors the soft, sparkly, sentimental side of indie pop, came out of the fest with new faves The Districts, Tei Shi, P Morri$, Pure Bathing Culture, and Torres. Loren, our resident hardcore and punk enthusiast found love in new and old favorites Krill, Habibi, Ex-Cult, Coachwhips, and Tyvek. Maria, reigning editor with a passion for psych rock’n’roll and weird indie, lists Future Islands, Cherry Glazerr, Diane Coffee, Yellerkin, and Wolf Alice as her festival faves. Here is our SXSW done three different ways – with an awesome playlist to boot!
Samantha Smerconish: At SXSW You’re Never Alone!
There was the night I stayed out late to catch DJ basement dance parties like P Morri$. There was the afternoon I ran into some of my favorite New Yorkers during Torres‘ set.There was the hazy morning spent a picnic table with new friends taking in the sultry layered-styles of Tei Shi. But even with a roster overflowing with both established talent and incredible up-and-comers, my biggest takeaway was this: There’s a palpable air of warmth throughout SXSW, meaning even if you go by yourself, you’re never at a show alone. The camaraderie and appreciation amongst the artists was even more endearing. Bands watching other bands, shaking hands and buying merchandise to support one another? Da cutest.
Loren DiBlasi: In Pursuit of Sonic Excellence
After YEARS of hearing about how I just HAD to visit Austin during SXSW (“free booze,” “free food,” “TACOS!!!”), I finally caved. With my number one homegirl and talented Bushwick Daily photographer Ankita Mishra in tow, I traipsed around town in pursuit of sonic excellence (and free beer, because obviously).
Over the course of four incredible yet thoroughly exhausting days, I hung out with friends both old and new, made pals with some super-cool locals, and succeeded in the ultimate goal of finding my favorite music deep in the heart of Texas. I was lucky enough to catch some really great stuff, including Potty Mouth, Krill, Coachwhips, Protomartyr, Beth Israel, Grass is Green, Habibi and Future Islands. Voracious Tennessee punks Ex-Cult were most definitely a highlight. I moshed like a champion during their epic midnight set at Hotel Vegas, acquiring a few new (and well-deserved) bruises in the process.
Maria Gotay: 4 years In, The Dream Is More Magical Than Ever
I first attended SXSW with a badge four years ago and have gone the DIY route for the past three years, bringing with me different groups of friends every year. This year it felt like I ran into a friend at every corner, whether it was a college bud from Spires, a friend I met while locked outside a Morgantown loft from The Mystery Lights, a friend of a friend I spent Halloween with one year who went on to be part of Total Slacker, or a friend I used to get into all sorts of trouble with from The Dirty Fences. It was amazing to keep running into these and other friends – bloggers, fans, groupies – all separately joining forces to help make SXSW happen. Seeing longtime acquaintances everywhere felt enchanting and powerful, everyone living out their dreams, together for this one magical week in the city that allows for musical fantasies to come to life. The crazy car crash that happened on Thursday night also left the city in a kind of surreal daze, thankful for every unpredictable moment of the fest.