Ah, South by Southwest – What a glorious, messy, magical music festival. It’s held in Austin, Texas, but don’t let the big T deter you (sorry, Tejas). Austin is a funky town full of friendly folks, tattooed cyclists, glorious BBQ, breakfast tacos, a plethora of music fests, and a lot of innovative startups. Austin is a strange cross between Portland and San Francisco, with some hot sauce on top.
I attended my very first SXSW last year (not ashamed to admit I hadn’t been up until then; you gotta start somewhere), and while people love to exclaim that it’s “not what it used to be,” that it’s become “too corporate,” and it’s “way too big now,” all of these points are probably very valid, it has been around since 1987, after all. However, you can still have a good time. Why? Because more than 2,000+ bands flock to the city to play for everyone, each other, and everywhere. Plus, there are usually free tacos and beer. No complaints! You can also rock out to a Finnish goth band in a burger joint, see your guilty pleasure Danish bubblegum pop princess perform in laundry mat, mosh your way around a bridge at 3 am to the most hype-worthy of punk bands and meet a lot of interesting people. I did all of the above last year and it was perfect, despite the moans of what SXSW “used” to be.
This year? I opted to travel to Iceland and London instead and had merely 3 hours of vacation left by the time SXSW planning came about (a good 4-6 months in advance). Alas, it just wasn’t gonna happen. Am I moping? A bit, but that doesn’t mean I can’t jump on the SXSW bandwagon and write about the latest and greatest bands I hope those who are attending, have the chance to see. If you haven’t seen your Facebook and Twitter feeds blow up with SXSW updates yet, you will soon. The music portion of the fest is going on now (March 11-16th). So, whether you’re in the thick of the madness or listening from the sidelines, here are some of this year’s SXSW 2014 must-see (or listen to) bands.
p.s. Did you know that Coco Stereo is on da radio? You do now! “Cuckoo for Coco’s Pop Underground” airs on BFF.fm every Sunday, 11 am – noon PST. I played a special SXSW must-see bands edition last week. Here it is in all its gloriousness + a handful more I couldn’t cram in one hour.
Tei Shi – M&Ms
Black Atlass – Blossom
Cherry Glazerr – All My Friends
Quilt – Arctic Shark
Chance The Rapper – Cocoa Butter Kisses (ft. Vic Mensa & Twista)
Mutual Benefit – Golden Wake
FKA Twigs – Water Me
Glass Animals – Gooey
Sophie – Bipp (*update* It’s been discovered at South By that Sophie is a HE. Ah, the joys of SXSW)
Speedy Ortiz – Everything’s Bigger
Wet – Bad Idea
Cate Le Bon – Are You with Me Now?
Diane Coffee – Hymn
Hundred Waters – Cavity
Ex Hex – Hot and Cold
Must-See SXSW Bands Pt. 2:
Angel Olsen – High & Wild
Trust – Joyland
Sylvan Esso – Coffee
St. Vincent – Prince Johnny
Timber Timbre – Hot Dreams
Banks – Brain
Warpaint – Biggy
Julie Byrne – Young Wife
Kelela – Do it Again
No Joy – Hare Tarot Lies
Phox – Slow Motion
Today, I don’t have any plans to stay up until 4 am, drink cheap booze, eat copious amounts of meat or breakfast tacos and race around Austin, TX to watch 2,000+ bands play on a bridge, some steps, in a bar, church, garage, house, backyard, or in a burger joint… it’s weird. SXSW is officially over.
Although the mayhem of a music festival is utterly exhausting, it’s also rejuvenating in the sense that you fully submerge yourself into the deep end of a music-worshiping pool. At SXSW, you’re surrounded by thousands of bloggers, musicians, music industry folk, podcasters, writers, celebrities, and most importantly, but simply, fans. During these 6 whirlwind days, you’re immersed amongst a concentration of people who all share the same love and appreciation for music as equally as you do. It’s refreshing.
The festival exposes you to so many surreal opportunities, chances, music discoveries, and connections that you’d most likely never experience otherwise – It’s a truly magical experience. With that, here are 8 phenomenal highlights from SXSW 2013:
K-X-P at the Karma Lounge + Bob Boilen (Creator and Host of NPR’s All Songs Considered)
Helsinki’s goth LCD Soundsystem trio, K-X-P was absolutely electrifying and their performance was by far my favorite of the SXSW experience. Donning goth gear in the form of black capes and studded leather dresses, K-X-P pulsed long, intensely dark synth and heavy beats throughout the bar at 1 am. I also spotted Bob Boilen from NPR’s All Songs Considered in the room and introduced myself, as I’m a big fan. Quite extraordinarily, Bob mentioned me in his podcast that night, and coco stereo in his SXSW wrap up – Truly an honor! You simply never know who may rock out next to at SXSW!
K-X-P – Melody
Empress Of at the Hype Hotel
12 pm is early by SXSW standards, but it was Empress Of‘s first appearance on the festival circuit and it was well worth the price of a little lost sleep. Empress Of is not only adorable, but possesses a magnetic voice and purges raw, refreshing talent that made her performance appear seamless. Her voice quavered when introducing herself, but she happily bounced along to new electro-pop gems we were all eager to hear, as she currently only dons three. Humble, yet extremely talented, Empress Of stole the hearts and ears of many.
Empress Of – Don’t Tell Me
M for Montreal /Arbutus Records Showcase at the Swan Dive
I could write a novel’s worth of blog posts purely about this showcase as I never left, and it was 7 hours long! The lineup included Mac DeMarco, Sean Nicholas Savage, Majical Cloudz, Pat Jordache, Blue Hawaii, Doldrums, and Braids. If it wasn’t already obvious that Montreal is kicking serious ass in the music realm, it should be now.
Though Mac DeMarco, everyone’s favorite goofy crooner/rocker isn’t an Arbutus Records artist, he is from Montreal and a dear friend to these musicians. This was the 3rd time I’d seen DeMarco (who was still wearing the same garbs) at SXSW, and not purposefully, he just seemed to be everywhere. However, this was by far his best performance, as he seemed to be in true bizarro form amongst friends. At one point mid-performance, DeMarco scrambled up a wooden beam and began swinging from the ceiling rafters which throughly pissed off venue owners, yet pleased the crowd to no end.
Mac DeMarco – Ode to Viceroy
The intriguing, ever-ecclectic and highly talented singer/songwriter Sean Nicholas Savage got on stage with just a keyboard and a microphone. He took his shoes off, swayed his hips, sang his best hits and the audience melted, or maybe that was just me.
Sean Nicholas Savage – Lonely Woman
Blue Hawaii‘s performance was by for the most surprising and mind-blowing for many. The duo filled the white washed venue with pulsing synth and Raphaelle Standell-Preston’s sweet, melodic, falsetto voice strikingly resembled Grimes. The crowd danced hard, especially Devon of Majical Cloudz who was front and center.
Blue Hawaii – In Two
With a drummer and two keyboard/synth backups, Doldrums ferociously played his hypnotic, experimental electro beats (out of a suitcase), belted lyrics while crowd surfing with ease, and placed a dance inducing spell over the entire audience. Never had I seen such a massive conglomerate of pulsating, jumping and gyrating humans at SXSW. Everyone in the audience completely lost themselves in the music and it was incredible to witness/experience. The energy was at an all-time high.
Doldrums – Egypt
The most endearing aspect of the showcase, however, was witnessing the camaraderie, support and love each of the Arbutus and/or other Canadian artists showed for each other. I also spotted DeMarco obviously, as well as Born Gold and Mozart’s Sister amongst others. The entire venue was filled to the brim with artists who watched, cheered and danced harder than most to their fellow musicians’ music.
Rhye at the Pitchfork Day Party
I had the guilty pleasure of proving multiple people wrong at the Pitchfork Day Party, by exclaiming “Rhye‘s a guy y’all!” when many were smacked with the realization that Rhye is indeed a man. I mean, his name is Mike Milosh and he owns that dreamy, silky, seductive and sultry voice. Rhye explained that he and his band, including a phenomenal violinist and trombone player, had just flew in from Berlin and were on their 40th hour of being awake. Yet, they still played an astonishing set of what Milosh referred to as sexy “night time music” during broad day light.
Rhye – Open
Girls Names at the Flamingo Cantina
Though their faces were quite complacent, Girls Names rocked long and hard, and not an eye could pry away from their quint essential post-punk Brit rock, (they are from Belfast, after all). There wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, crazy, or gasp-worthy necessary to make this a successful set, Girls Names simply provided steady, hefty, refreshing rock n’ roll.
Girls Names – Hypnotic Regression
Ólafur Arnalds at Peckerheads
I was completely unaware of this ambient Icelandic group/producer until my good ol pal, Bob Boilen had suggested the show. The bar, rightfully named Peckerheads, was clamoring with noise from happy drunkards and thumping beats from below, but Ólafur Arnalds urged people to take a seat and enjoy the beauty he was about to embark upon us. Accompanied by an intense violinist and cello player, Ólafur’s soothing, melodic and beautiful instrumental music quieted the crowd and made people exclaim, “wow.”
Ólafur Arnalds – Only the Winds
Giraffage on the Exploded Drawing Party Boat
I somehow managed to start day 1 of SXSW, typically the tamest of all, in the most blissful way. A crowd of people piled onto the Exploded Drawing double-decker party boat and we floated down the river into the sunset, all while sipping on cucumber/kale margaritas and dancing to the seriously sweet beats of 10+ DJs. Giraffage, the moniker of San Francisco-hailing producer, Charlie Yin, had the quickest, and most nimble fingers of them all, and he induced everyone to jump up, and all the ladies to get down.
Giraffage – Close 2 Me
Parquet Courts, Merchandise & Destruction Unit on Pedestrian Bridge at 3 am
Granted, this was technically a Chaos in Tejas event put on by BrooklynVegan, but racing to watch indie punk rockers Parquet Courts, Merchandise and Destruction Unit rock hard on a bridge at 3 am seemed so utterly SXSW. The bridge was literally rockin’ while the crowd was rollin’ into each other during a frenzy of excited mosh pits that lasted well into early morning.
Parquet Courts – Stoned and Starving
In the effort to make this wrap up reasonably succinct, out of the 50+ bands I managed to see, other stand out performances included: Baths, DIANA, Autre Ne Veut, Mozart’s Sister, CHVRCHES, Austra, Ryan Hemsworth, and MØ. And while everyone in attendance may be missing SXSW already, it’s never too early to plan for next year. Until next time, adios Tejas!
The anticipation and chaos for this year’s SXSW music fest in Austin, Texas (March 12th-17th) continues to grow at great lengths. The amount of parties, new bands added, RSVPs, lineups and showcases consistently flow in at alarming rates; and it certainly isn’t over yet. The increasing excitement is contagious and overwhelming, especially when you envision just how much amazing music (and people; 60K to be exact) will embark upon the Tejas capital, and all at once.
To contribute to the ever-growing hype, here is a compilation of (40+) absolute must-see acts/bands at this year’s SXSW. Granted, no one’s ever gonna see ’em all (one can only hope!), so these top 6 absolute must-sees are ones you should seriously kick yourself if missed:
p.s. coco stereo will be representin’ in full force at SXSW, March 7th-16th – Let’s get our dance on together!
Yeeehaaw! It’s officially official: coco stereo‘s goin’ to SXSW! In a series of amazing (and in some cases, extremely lucky) events, everything seemed to come together oh so perfectly and I will be in Austin, Texas for the Interactive + Film and Music festivals. So now that universe has aligned in my favor, I present to you a plethora of new jams from hype-worthy bands:
James Blake, the 24-year-old London-based, “post-dubstep” electro producer has been blowing the blogosphere away this week with his return. Blake recently released an amazingly smooth, crooning, falsetto-hinged and emotionally driven new track, “Retrograde,” which debuted on BBC Radio 1. His sophomore album, Overgrown, is due out April 8th. Listen and watch the video for “Retrograde,” James Blake‘s dynamic return to the music realm:
G3NESIS is a brand spankin’ new and thoroughly addicting female rap/hip-hop group consisting of Kelin Kaardal and Genesis Mohanraj (formerly of Juice). The Vancouver-based duo don just a handful of tracks, “Yes Daddy” being their newest and strongest of the lot, and I’m already eager to hear more.
G3NESIS – Yes Daddy
It’s no secret that people have gone ape-shit crazy for the UK hailing electro-pop trio, CHVRCHES, since their conception merely 6 months ago. The group only dons (now) three songs, their latest track, “Recover” found below, yet their fairytale story of Indie stardom is still going strong and they’re headed to the US. They’ll also be playing with MØ in LA at The Echo, for a spectacular combination of electro-pop hype-mania. Be sure to look for them at SXSW and listen to their catchy new synth-tastic release “Recover.”
CHVRCHES – Recover
Lorde is an up-and-coming New Zealand native singer-song writer with an apparent talent and knack for creating catchy pop-tracks that’ll appeal to just about anyone. She’s released a strong debut EP, The Love Club, which you can stream in completion on SoundCloud. Listen to “The Love Club” and “Royals,” two tracks I just can’t seem to get enough of:
Lorde – The Love Club
Lorde – Royals
iamforest is moniker of Vancouver-based chillwave producer Luke Hartle. His latest beauty of a single and release, “Structures” is full of ambient bliss, yet still maintains a strongly defined beat. Find iamforest on SoundCloud, and/or listen + download his tracks on bandcamp.
iamforest – Structures
Azekel is an East Londoner and alternative R&B producer who may be giving Frank Ocean a run for his money. Have a listen to Azekel’s debut single, “That Feeling,” which officially releases, February 25th.
Azekel – That Feeling
Coma is the alias of pop-infused electro synth masters, Marius Bubat and Georg Conrad. They’ll be releasing a new album, Technicolor, due out in April via Kompakt, and “Hoooooray” is their first single from their debut LP.