SXSW 2017 Recap
Thank you, Austin. Russ Borris recaps SXSW 2017. (photos by Sarah Burns, Brian Gallagher and Gus Philippas for WFUV)
The SXSW Music Festival descends upon Austin, Texas every March with hundreds of bands from all over the world playing show after show in venue after venue in hopes of being discovered. That's not to suggest that all of the artists at SXSW are on the newer end. There are a fair share of veteran acts who join in on the fun and overall insanity of the conference too, and this year, I managed to take in a good amount of the new while catching some favorites as well.
Last week was incredibly busy, but I'm thrilled to have been in Austin and can't wait to share even more of the new music we discovered down there. There are a lot of great SXSW performances to share with you too, and you'll find them all at wfuv.org/sxsw.
My first night in Austin began with one of my favorite discoveries of the week, the British and Icelandic band Dream Wife. The all-blonde group (some natural, some not so much) absolutely blew me away. Lead singer Rakel Mjöll has a Cheshire Cat smile, singing with both mystery and abandon. She commanded the stage with the presence of a seasoned veteran, despite remarking that this was the band's first show in the United States. Guitarist Alice Go shreds and bassist Bella Podpadec adds groove and purpose to every song. Other highlights from Tuesday included more U.K. acts like Slaves, Fizzy Blood and Let's Eat Grandma. I also caught a solo, acoustic set from our friend Son Little and another great performance from Hurray for the Riff Raff.
We kicked off FUV's video shoots at Hotel San Jose with Holly Macve, Slow Dancer, Charly Bliss and The Wild Reeds. It's always motivating to start the day with some great new music in an incredible setting. I made sure to see a solo set from Holly later that day, as well as a performance from Slow Dancer, which was made even more beautiful by the venue of Central Presbyterian Church. NPR Music featured an incredible line-up for their showcase at Stubb's, so I made sure to catch some of New York City's own PWR BTTM as well as Sylvan Esso. Both artists are poised to have a huge 2017.
As with any SXSW plan, things change, and I made a late decision to walk over to the other side of town to see the Liverpool band She Drew the Gun at Tap Room at The Market. Lead singer and songwriter Louisa Roach sings politically charged yet poetic songs with passion and purpose. Holy alliteration, Batman. Holy great band, too. Definitely the highlight of the night for me.
Our day started at Hotel San Jose again, this time with Sundara Karma, The New Pornographers, Alex Lahey and Cameron Avery. Alex Lahey performed solo for our video, but I caught her with her band later in the day at The Aussie BBQ and was even more impressed by her super catchy and clever songs. I also saw Cameron Avery in a full-band show, which really showcased his voice and the song arrangements of his debut solo album, Ripe Dreams, Pipe Dreams. While The New Pornographers played a great, stripped-down, trio version of new song "High Ticket Attractions" at Hotel San Jose, they did a much punchier take at the Radio Day Stage. Their set did not include Neko Case, but did feature a mix of new songs and old favorites.
Two favorites of Thursday night were lo-fi legend R. Stevie Moore and super-talented musician Jason Falkner, who just released a new collaborative album called Make it Be. Off-kilter pop might be one way to describe their set, which was backed by the U.K. band Happyness. My top discovery of the day goes to Jealous of the Birds, who I saw perform at Bethell Hall at St. David's Church. Hailing from Northern Ireland, Naomi Hamilton sings with a softness not unlike Feist, but she is clearly her own artist. Her set was hushed but confident and featured the warmest electric guitar playing I've ever heard. She even threw in a Neil Young cover of "Out on the Weekend" for good measure.
By the time Friday came around, I'm pretty sure my phone had logged me taking about 40,000 steps since getting to Austin. That made our SXSW Radio Day Stage powered by VuHaus an even more welcome venture, since we'd be in one central location at the Austin Convention Center for a good part of the day. As we'd hoped, it was an amazing afternoon of music with sets from Hippo Campus, Lizzo, Chicano Batman, Valerie June, Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears and Spoon, who packed that room with more people than I've seen at the Radio Day Stage in all of my years going to SXSW. Once the broadcast was over, it was time to grab one last meal in Austin with Team FUV, catch a few more shows (D.C. punk outfit Priests, PWR BTTM, The Lemon Twigs) and cap off the night and the conference with a 1 a.m. set from Future Islands.
Until next year, Austin...