Can you believe I’m still talking about SXSW? It was nary a month ago and I still find myself with so much to say about those magical few days in Austin. I saw shows in parking lots and fields, bars and backyards and it all flowed together into a party that I didn’t want to end. There were so many fantastic bands and musicians at the event (in fact, over 6,000 of them by one estimate, counting official and unofficial shows, though I’ve also hear over 2,000… anyway, a lot!), but the best thing about South by for me was not running around trying to see the latest hype darlings, but stumbling upon bands that took me by surprise. In New York I rarely have the time to seek out new music, so shows that I do catch are carefully planned. It was nice to be in a place where the music came to me by virtue of being in the right place at the right time.
Torches in Trees are my big South by discovery. A three-piece psychedelic band from Los Angeles made up of three dedicated kids who drove from LA to Austin straight (that’s about 24 hours, maybe more). Their music shimmers, shines and pulled me in, making me dream of California nights, even though I watched them perform in a dusty Texas parking lot.
River City Tanlines Fronted by the talented Alicja Trout, River City Tanlines is dirty, garagy American rock’n’roll from Memphis that goes straight for the jugular. Alicja and bassist Terrence each had three amps, if that gives you any idea.
Dead Ships are a two-piece garage rock band from LA that tore up the stage at the Gay Bi Gay Gay festival on the last day of South by with a lot of swagger and a little jangle. It takes more than you think to rock a field of queers in the middle of the afternoon after days of partying, but the Dead Ships pulled it off.
Break It Up are a Philly trio of two ladies and a nice guy with great post-punk guitar melodies and jagged crunch, as well as catch bass lines and punchy, blended vocals.
James Arthur’s Manhunt was one of a slew of boozy, crazy garage rock bands we saw on Saturday night at Trailer Space records. Guitars were flung, 7″ records were tossed like frisbees, amps and drums were broken, pedals were stomped on, everyone had a great time, and somehow, no one called the cops.
Christeene is not a band, per se, but Austin’s premiere drag performer, complete with bearish backup dancers in panda masks. Everyone I talked to, both Austinite and visitor, asked me, “Have you seen Christeene?” and thankfully, on my last day in Austin at Gay Bi Gay Gay I did. Aggressive beats, limit pushing choreography and lewd lyrics that get lodged in your brain. Seeing Christeen perform really made my weekend. I am dreaming of a Christeene meets Cheryl performance someday. That would make all of my party/performance art dreams come true.
There’s more photos of bands, and Austin during SXSW in general, in a set on Flickr.