If you’ve already had handle on one of these five bands, that’s great, feel free to hipster-shame me online or in person since your music radar supersedes my own. However, if you haven’t gotten down with any of these beautiful gems, then I beseech you to bathe in the purifying waters of SXSW discovery, which will undoubtedly supplement your music playlists like an anabolic into the gluteus maximus.
Memory Keepers (Austin, TX)
Fuzzy, scuzzy and psychedelic with a strong undertow of addictive melodies, Memory Keepers is a local band that has flow stealthily under the radar yet clearly has the goods to emerge as a force. Literally the first band to play on a 30 band bill at Hotel Vegas for the Side One Track One vs. Austin Town Hall showcase, Memory Keepers played an amazing set that impressed the eight people present.
Castlecomer (Sydney, Australia)
First appearing like a burned out and haggard arrangement of Aussie musicians nursing a hangover, Castlecomer ended up being a daytime highlight at the Aussie house. Power pop with winding guitars and a pulsing rhythm section, Castlecomer emanated charisma and a livewire energy that started a dance party in an unlikely place.
Drama (Chicago, IL)
Heaven is waiting until 1am at an obscure SXSW venue and then getting hit with the best performance of SXSW 2019. DRAMA is a soul electronica duo that I knew I would like within 30 seconds of their first song, but ended up worshipping by the end of their set. Had every other note of music at SXSW been terrible, this set would have made the hell week well worth it.
Haiku Hands (Melbourne, Australia)
Brash and bawdy with afrobeat rhythms cascading around Spice Girls-esque delivery, Haiku Hands brings in your face power pop with some feminine thunder from down under (meaning Australia). A high energy stage presence with dance-laden beats gave this trio an extra glossy sheen at the Do512 showcase at Barracuda.
Bixiga 70 (Sao Paulo, Brazil)
A 9-member group crammed onto a tiny stage at Lucille on Rainey for the Brazilian showcase ended up being one of the most bombastic and funkadelic performances at SXSW. Afro-Brazilian dance and an empowered horns section brought an urban and unfiltered energy which caused a pseudo-samba dance party bursting with posi-vibes.
Some unforgettable, magical and outrageous SXSW moments that make traffic, billboards and FOMO all worth it.
1.) Amyl and the Sniffers Doing Poppers Onstage
Lead singer, Amy Taylor, had smashed her mouth on her mic at the Thrasher showcase so she was already bleeding midway through her raucous set when she announced onstage “I heard there was a guy in Austin who makes his own poppers and calls it Double Scorpion” On cue, a guy in the front row holds up a bottle of poppers for her to sniff, and then the entire band proceeds to put down their instruments to line up and do poppers, delaying their set until they got a whiff, and then returned to said instruments and launched into the next song.
2.) City Morgue Causes Bizarro Mayhem
Zillakami, one half of City Morgue, was arrested when he landed in Austin on an outstanding warrant. However, he nearly incited a riot revving up the crowd at City Morgue’s Thrasher showcase. Moshing and stage diving left numerous fans bleeding, yet still smiling, while a dystopian crowd slammed into each other gleefully raging to the morbid trap-metal. When a fan is moshing around while holding a chucky doll, you know the scene is apocalyptic.
3.) Otoboke Beaver Attacks/Rides Audience Member
An all-female punk band from Kyoto that attacks the crowd with their music, literally attacked a crowd member at their showcase at the Main. Their aggressive music stylings and fast-paced delivery bubbled over to where guitarist, Yoyoyoshie, jumped on to a large fan in the front row and literally rode the fan around while shredding her guitar. The fan who had the guitarist’s legs wrapped around his head seemed to be more than fine with what had happened to him.
4.) Bands Firing Members Onstage
Some cringe worthy band turmoil took place at the unofficial showcases at Dozen St. bar on the East side. Band names will be withheld to save them the embarrassment but midway through a set, a bandleader informed his guitarist that his guitar was out of tune and instructed him to tune it. The guitarist was unable to tune his own guitar and literally walked out of the venue trying to find someone to tune his guitar. Upon not being able to tune it, the lead singer told the poor guitarist to leave the stage and that he was fired. Ouch! I was also informed by a house bartender of another firing, where a guitarist who had been playing out of key their entire show was given a lesson onstage by the lead singer, guiding his hands to the appropriate frets, until he gave up and fired the guitarist. SXSW-harshed on two counts!
5.) David Fricke Appears Out Of The Ether
If you are a music journalist, a Rolling Stone magazine fan, or just haven’t had your head in the sand for the last fifty years – you would know the name David Fricke. The former Rolling Stone editor and music review god suddenly materialized at the Brazilian music showcase at Lucille and jammed out to psychedelic vibes of Boogarins. The absolute legend was hanging out with Austin Chronicle cronys, Raoul Hernandez and Michael Toland. The guy who gave Cobain’s last interview, shined a light on 70’s punk and guided the world’s best rock magazine through its golden years was head nodding to the music just like the rest of us.