SXSW this year was excellent, despite the obvious lows and constant gripe about how “things have changed” and “it’s just not the same.” We thought it was a week of great music, great food, good people, and such fun.
Over the course of the week, we had a schedule set to see some amazing shows and with the help of SXXPRESS passes we were able to bounce around and check out emerging acts, while essentially securing our entrance to some of the bigger and more exclusive indie shows.
As things have now wrapped up in Austin, we decided to share all the great music we heard over the week so that you have a soundtrack when you’re reading all our coverage on SX!
Let’s do this chronologically. On our first real day in Austin --we’ll call this the “solid groove” day-- we went to Haven and heard a bit of Glass Animals before heading over to the BBC Introducing British Music showcase at Latitude 30 where we watched Bipolar Sunshine and Jungle smash it, and discovered Scottish act, Prides.
Glass Animals are a bit psychedelic, and a lot of mellow, but they most certainly understand the essence of movement. Funky bass lines with minimal psych guitars, and cascading keys with trance-inducing vocal harmonies made us dance along with everyone else. Their music could be used in myriad situations as its very un-distracting, with lots of purely instrumental sections that would work well as underscore. Our favorite track is “Black Mambo.” You can find all their music and social media here.
If you missed our piece on the Brits and why they matter, see it here, but in lieu of that feature we knew we had to check out the official “British Music Showcase” at Latitude 30, which was just one specific event geared towards the overwhelming British attendance at this year’s SX.
We walked in during the middle of what sounded like a really rad set, and after asking around we finally heard BBC Radio 1 DJ, Huw Stephens, announce the band as Glasgow natives, PRIDES. We doubt very seriously that many people knew who they were, but from the sound and look of it they had several hundred new fans. Their impeccable live show is accompanied by just-as-catchy recordings on SoundCloud, and we think their infectious 80s infused dance-pop would work well in projects with teen or young adult audiences.
Next up were Bipolar Sunshine. We were excited to see the Manchester natives because of their anthemic track “Love More Worry Less,” which reminds us in a lot of ways of K’NAAN’s “Wavin’ Flag.” Pleasantly surprised is an understatement. Bipolar Sunshine blew us away, opening with their percussive and very danceable “Drowning Butterflies,” they certainly know how to work a crowd.
The audience response was really spectacular; It was a packed house, probably about 75% American, and of that 75% maybe 2% seemed to be familiar with Bipolar, but after their first song the entire club was moving and cheering. We predict this song --Drowning Butterflies-- will be everywhere in the next couple of months. Any supervisor known for unique and progressive syncs will want to license this band’s music if they want to be noticed. You can check them out here-- Jolly cool blokes, too.
We swear, it was just one great band after the other at this showcase, the Brits continue to blow us away with their great music and stellar live performances. Up next was Jungle, a super-tight modern-funk group from London. The songwriters are actually a songwriting duo whose identity remained largely a mystery while they were building their initial fan base.
In fact, we thought the group performing Jungle’s tracks were Jungle, but apparently they were just their performance team, nevertheless the show was phenomenal. Our favorite track is “Busy Earnin,’” but every track has the same unbelievable dance texture and tight rhythms. Their lyrics are also fairly general and could work well in a number of situations, especially projects with urban settings, or 70s themes.
Just before Jungle’s set we met a very friendly band manger from London and chatted with her about the British music on show that night, and about the SX British presence at large. Through that chat we realized how very close-knit the British music community is and were happy to be supporting them! Jungle wrapped up their set around 1:30, and we were exhausted, so we called it a night, but that mile walk back down 6th might have been the longest of our lives. For a limited time you can hear Huw Stephens SXSW special on BBC Radio 1.