Friday 22 November 2019

South By Southwest

Every March, thousands of bands, industry folk, journalists, taste-makers and celebrities arrive in Austin, Texas, for South By Southwest (SXSW), the largest music showcase in the world.

This year, the festival celebrated its 25th anniversary. Irish artists, including James Vincent McMorrow, Adebisi Shank and RSAG, created buzz for their music over the course of five days and thousands more lined the stages of the Downtown 6th Street and beyond hoping to further their careers in some fashion.

Here are 10 of the best that impressed:

Odd Future

Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (below), to give these snotty punk LA rap collective their full name, arrived at SXSW with a burgeoning reputation as the most exciting thing in North American culture. They left affirming that status, and then some. They also left a trail of destruction, broken limbs, cameras and the hottest shows of the festival in their wake. Their deranged live show was a visceral on-the-edge display of unpredictable teenage energy and contained some of the best hip-hop music in the world right now.

For fans of: Wu-Tang Clan, Eminem


Recently signed to Domino Records, this Canadian band, who specialise in darkly twisted electro, showed up at SXSW with an impressive live show and the songs to back it up. Katie Stelmanis leads the group with her enchanting voice, which sounds like it was born in the fjords of Norway. Flanked by two singers with synchronised dance moves, Stelmanis performed like a woman trying to shake demons from her hands. A debut album, Feel It Break, is due in May.

For fans of: Fever Ray

Therapies Son

Swoonsome indie-pop with orchestral touches are at the heart of Therapies Son (below). It's a feat made all the more impressive for the fact that their music is the solo work of 19-year-old Californian Alex Jacob. In a live setting, Jacob's uplifting falsetto is fleshed out by a cellist and a drummer.

For fans of: Grizzly Bear

Foster The People

There'll be no surprise here if this Los Angeles indie boyband hit public consciousness with a rather loud bang later this year. With a singer that looks born to please big audiences and enough cutting-edge instrumentation to impress even the coolest kids, their brand of sunny piano pop looks set to be a winner.

For fans of: MGMT


After putting three songs, including the catchy Go Outside, on Bandcamp, the secretive duo signed to an imprint of Columbia Records run by Lily Allen. In Austin, the band were anything but covert, playing at least two shows a day. Now a six-piece, their dreamy revivalist-pop recalls a time long past and suggests they have a significant future.

For fans of: Vintage '60s girl-group pop

Gold Panda

Head-spinning electronica is the name of the game for Derwin Panda. The good news for fans of last year's debut LP Lucky Shiner is that his live sets are even better. Derwin expertly twisted out skittering beats, bass and twinkling melodies while bouncing his body as much as possible. Snap up a ticket for his Irish dates in June now.

For fans of: The Field, Four Tet


Oxford's Jonquil (above) released two albums in the past decade but, for some reason, they are only getting significant attention now. It's about time too, as the trio serve up truly edifying music, which sways from tropical pop to light and breezy summer-induced fun.

For fans of: Vampire Weekend


Brash and melodious country-tinged rock, as delivered from a group of musicians who look like they have been up for 48 hours straight and are still buzzing. Grouplove would be the kind of band you want backing you up in a bar fight.

For fans of: Pixies

Clock Opera

Our favourite British band of the festival, Clock Opera are experts at building up "pocket symphonies" (their description) into gorgeous, all-encompassing jump-up-and-down sustained joy.

For fans of: Elbow

James Blake

It's hard to imagine a better venue than the Central Presbyterian Church in Austin for taking in the intricacies of James Blake's (above) "post-dubstep" compositions. Watching those sparse arrangements come to life from delicate fragments of synths, drum, guitar and Blake's affecting timbre, as he added and removed effects to give extra depth, was stunning.

For fans of: Arthur Russell

Day & Night

Editors Choice

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