It’s been a week since I returned from the dreamland that is Austin, Texas during South By Southwest Music Festival. Every year I get nervous that it’ll be different and some how won’t live up to the year before BUT every year I have been proven wrong; Sure, it has become so much bigger and “Too commercial, brah” but where else in the world can you have a cultural experience like this completely FOR FREE? It’s such a crazy mix of amazing intimate shows, huge mega parties, and brand-sponsored events that you will have the time of your life and barely spend a dime which makes you forget that everything is a walking/driving/eating/drinking advertisement; I know I know, how very un-Oregon, free-range, gluten-free, paleo hippie of me but this girl likes her free stuff. The reality is that I’m not buying a Mazda vehicle just because they drove me around Austin a bunch of times for free. I’m not suddenly a vodka drinker just because the Titos and Deep Eddy were more readily available than water last week. I’m no longer steady drinking Don Julio craft cocktails by the bucket because, well, I’m no mixologist and I probably (Read: definitely) had too many of those last week. I’m not running to Whole Foods to buy Beanitos Lime and Sea Salt Bean Chips…okay fine, I am actually totally sold on those and they may have been a life saver because of the aforementioned plethora of free booze. SXSW pro tip: ALWAYS TAKE THE SNACKS; they’ll come in handy later when you’re in a line at 2 pm and realize you only had a liquid breakfast. Whoops!
Now I think we all know it’s not the free food and drank that brings me to Austin every year. I’m a music junkie who always has a long list of must-see artists that I stress out about trying to fit into my daily schedule; scratch the word “stress”, I’ve just been informed that drinking more margs whilst seeing other amazing bands and passively missing other shows cannot be defined as stressing…duly noted. Every year I leave the festival feeling refreshed, despite a lack of sleep, and inspired by the incredible shows and quality humans I’ve met. Since I’ve been back in town for a week post-festival a lot of people have asked, “How many shows did you see?”, “Which bands were your favorites?”, “How are you so cool?” etc. etc. This post is about to answer the first two questions for the masses because that last question…hasn’t been asked yet.
Who I saw this year in no particular order:
Ghostface, Raekwon, BADBADNOTGOOD, TOTEM, Torey Lanez, KING, Lucius, THEY., Miguel, Lukas Graham, JAHKOY, Alunageorge, D.R.A.M., Vince Staples, The Lucas Bros Comedy, a Questlove DJ Set, Ruby Woo, Louis the Child DJ, Honne, Coast Modern, Transviolet, Gallant, Poliça, Just Blaze, Rock City, JP Hoe, Tigers are Bad for Horses, Tabi Bonney, Chaz French, Maggie Rose, DJ Spicoli, Wale, Visto, BJ the Chicago kid, Anderson .Paak, Haelos, Powers, Will Joseph Cook, Låpsley, Allan Rayman, St. Lucia, Muna, CHVRCHES, Jack Garratt, Kacy Hill, Hinds, Fear of Men, Mitski, Lower Dens, Kacey Musgraves, SBTRKT, Hannibal Burress Comedy, Morly, Elf kid, Little Simz, Metro Boomin, Lewis Del Mar, Kill J…
Phewwwwwf. Taking into account a few I’ve forgotten from the list above, I saw over 60 acts this SXSW. While there were some live performance duds and total weirdos in the mix, I was able to see so many amazing performances and this week’s post and playlist will focus the ten best.
My favorite artists at SXSW 2016:
- Miguel. This is not one of those typical WAS “You’ve probably never hear of him” posts because Miguel is a huge mainstream star and for good reason. Laaaawd have mercy, he is INCREDIBLE live. It was my first time seeing him perform and I was completely blown away. He is handsome, his voice sounds impeccable live, and his stage scaffold climbing made security staff incredibly nervous which was fun to watch. “Miguel Jontel Pimentel you better get down from there before I call your mother and tell her you’re being reckless again.” Miguel had the whole crowd at the Spotify House eating out of the palm of his hand and his hit ‘Do you’ asked the perfect question for this particular demographic; Yes, my rough estimate is that 80% of that crowd don’t just like drugs, they loooove drugs. WOULD SEE AGAIN.
- Gallant. In the past year I’ve flooded my playlists with newly released Gallant tracks and I actually got to see him live three times over the course of the week. He killed it every. single. time. So much emotion, insane voice, provider of crowd-wide chills; Just try to not sing along as he belts out ‘Weight in Gold’. He was one of the best of the week, hands down. Go see him when he comes through your city.
- Lewis Del Mar. I was in line at East Side King (Very hip, very delish, very Austin) one night when these girls were freaking out about this group of guys ordering in front of me and I just assumed it was someone I didn’t know. The next night, when I made sure to catch Lewis Del Mar I realized it was that whole band who had ordered their chicken karraage noms ahead of me the night before and the girl’s freak outs were absolutely warranted. They put on an amazing live show and are exciting to watch. I was so impressed by their sound live and I cannot stop listening to their EP.
- Lukas Graham. I’m sure a lot of you know the song ‘7 years’ because it is everywhere now and it’s lovely, well, he sings it. I made an effort to get up early for this show; FYI, in Southby time a noon show start time comes much too early. I was so glad I got up “early” because he and the band sounded absolutely perfect live. Lukas has great onstage banter and you would have no idea that he’s selling out 10,000 capacity venues in Europe because he seems so down to earth. Lukas’ backing band look like Danish male models which adds to the appeal. Try to see him while he’s playing the little venues across the US because he’s coming for our stadium shows in no time.
- Honne. If you like their relaxed brand of British electronic-soul music, you’ll love their live performance because the chill factor is very high and they sound great. No crazy stage antics or exciting banter just solid musicianship.
- Anderson .Paak. I’m about the drop a bomb here but I was not sold on Anderson until I saw him live at SXSW. I loved his features all over Dre and The Game’s albums and that Tokimonsta track is insane but I’ve never been as into his own solo releases. When ‘Malibu’, his second studio album, was released this year, I liked it but I wasn’t sure why ALL the blogs were going nuts over it. Now, seeing him live I saw a mega star in the making; This guy sings with an incredible voice, he raps, he plays drums, he dances, and he has a completely fun and likable on-stage persona. SOLD. I was lucky to see him another two times during the festival and I am excited to see him again in Portland next month.
- Låpsley. Two years ago I posted a Låpsley track ‘Station’ that I was obsessed with and I finally got to see it live last week. She is insanely talented and her strong vocals give off major Adele vibes in concert. I have tickets to a big name act the night she is coming to Portland next month but after seeing her live, I promptly decided I’ll sell my other concert tickets and grabbed tickets for the Låpsley show here at Doug Fir.
- Transviolet. They are another act that sounded as good live as I’d hoped. The lead singer is a rockstar and she managed to jump off the drum kit in a leather mini skirt while keeping her vocals consistent. I loved this show.
- Metro Boomin. This is not a joke, people. I took an Uber pool with one of those hip LA music industry guys one night at SX and he said Metro was his favorite act of the festival so far; I joked that he should probably take in some more shows if that was the best he’d seen. Then I saw young and his crew in concert and totally got the appeal; the show had so much energy that the whole Hype Hotel was going off. I ran into LA dude again and he was like, “SEEEEE!?!” In this case, it’s definitely less about the producer and more about the fun I had at the show. If Young Metro don’t trust you…
- THEY. These guys are new to the game and, as a result, they seem like they’re still having a blast performing; their boyish excitement was awesome to watch. They had the whole crowd dancing and singing along with a bunch of their most popular tracks and I almost got KO’d by some bro’s backpack during ‘Motley Crue’ so you know the show was tyte.
Please enjoy this 10 track playlist that summarizes my favorite song moments of this year’s SXSW. ‘Til next year, Austin!
Just be a tough act to follow. You know, a free spirit with a wild heart. – Miguel