The Bands of SXSW (or at least 2.3%)

The title pretty much says it all. I saw a cubic butt-load of bands at South by Southwest — upwards of 40, but probably way more. I heard that there were over 1700 bands at SXSW this year, so by my calculations I saw about 2.3% of the music being performed.

My full list follows, with a few notable highlights emboldened and expanded upon. Mind you, most of these sets were part of showcases and hence on the short side of 30 minutes, and I certainly didn’t stick around for the entirety of every set. Nonetheless, it was pretty incredible to hear this much music in such a short span of time.

  • Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso UFO – best freak rock of the show…Japanese space oddity thrash that boggles the mind and tests the ear drums
  • Bachelorette
  • Balkan Beat Box – best dance party of the festival, these dudes threw down a mix of eastern european big band, hip-hop and groove that defies categorization and reminded me of how Ozomatli first took the stage by storm
  • Barcelona
  • Bear in Heaven
  • Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore
  • Billy Bragg
  • Birds & Batteries (SF)
  • Born Ruffians – kind of in the vein of the whole Vampire Weekend preppy afro-pop, these Canadian youngsters really impressed with their angular yet smooth song-writing, great vocals and a clean, hollow-body rhythm guitar tone throughout the whole show (who else does that?).
  • Broken Bells
  • Cheeseburger
  • Dawes – plain and simple, tasty alt-country with some nice, soaring vocal hooks
  • DEVO – this actually wasn’t a performance but rather an interview which was more like performance art. DEVO, Inc. has hired a advertising company to market DEVO music like any other product on the shelves, like, say, a package of Charmin toilet paper. The interview included an riotous powerpoint and a live focus group about what DEVO’s new album should be called. These guys may not have been in the limelight for the past few decades, but they haven’t missed a beat
  • Eisley
  • Ferocious Few (SF)
  • Frankie and the Outs
  • Haper Blynn – best power pop of the festival, and maybe the most polished all around performance with great keys, awesome 3-part harmonies and wonderfully concise and catchy songs. I will definitely go see these guys again
  • Hottub (SF)
  • Hurricane Bells
  • Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights
  • Kashmir
  • Lou Barlow (of Dinosaur Jr. fame) – solid, dye-in-the-wool indie rock from one of the genre’s pioneers that simultaneously felt unique and fresh
  • Man/Miracle (SF) – of all the San Francisco bands I saw in Austin, these guys impressed me most with some great indie-afro-rock song-writing full of twists and turns and solid vocals delivered with confidence and intensity
  • Minus the Bear
  • Morning Teleportation – best psychedelic rock of the festival….these vintage fashion enthusiasts are young yet, but their high-energy delivery shows great promise
  • Or, the Whale
  • Quasi – did’t realize they rocked so hard…impressive.
  • Royal Bangs – probably the biggest surprise find…a trio of drums, guitar and keys whose ferocious grooves and pounding drums set to some tasty loops reminded me of a southern soul version of Nine Inch Nails. if that kind of thing is possible.
  • Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – I’ve loved this retro-soul band forever but never had a chance to seethem…they didn’t disappoint. Sharon has a beautiful stage presence and her band is tight, tight tight!
  • Shearwater – kind of alt-country-ish, but probably the best voice I heard all festival…haunting, really.
  • Shinobi Ninja
  • Spoon – these guys get better and better live, what else can you say?
  • Superlitio
  • The Beets
  • The Dutchess and the Duke – eschewing the PA for an intimate set against a rowdy bar backdrop, this Americana duo really impressed me with their harmonies and passion and provided what was probably the most intimate performance I experienced the entire festival.
  • The Lemurs
  • The Low Anthem – part of the new folk movement that the young kids these days adore, replete with hand-pump organ, upright bass and dueling bowed saws…good stuff
  • The Ready Set
  • The Very Best
  • The Walkmen
  • Titus Andronicus
  • Visqueen – maybe my favorite new find of the whole festival…kick ass indie pop-rock from Seattle lead by the beguiling and bad-ass Rachel Flotard.

4 thoughts on “The Bands of SXSW (or at least 2.3%)

  1. Well put, my friend! Such great variety and talent in such a short amount of time. We rawked together for many of those, and its fun to catch up some that I missed. We need to hang again soon.

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