SXSW 2017: All the action from day one and two
16 Mar 2017
Our intrepid reporter rounds up everything from day 1 and 2 of SXSW 2017
Austin, we've missed you. It's been a couple years since this writer has bathed in the glory of your spring sunshine, endless icy salty (and sweet) margaritas and limitless aural delights from a maelstrom of crazily varied talent, all vying for the attention of the gathered international masses. A bicycle for 25 dollars has been bought from a far East-side pawn shop, and we are ready to dive-in once more.
Tuesday of SXSW has something of a warm-up feel - there are showcases and parties happening, but far fewer than when the bulk of the 4 day programme starts in earnest. She Shreds magazine host a new women in rock music event which stands out, with the likes of Jay Som, Chastity Belt, Mothers and more. After decades of lads with guitars, it's refreshing to see the bulk of acts getting attention this year are female-fronted, and this main event party of day one celebrates that.
In town some acts are already playing showcases before the action really starts - including She-Devils, a highly lo-fi new double-act on Secretly Canadian, and former Grammy winner Anna Wise (winning the award for her work with Kendrick Lamar). A solo beats, track and vocal style performer, she's compelling, with some carefully-constructed pop tracks.
After seeing the ever-excellent Let's Eat Grandma stun a widely-smiling and packed US crowd with their future-pop theatrics, we head over to our own unofficial party (in collaboration with our pals Sports Day, paradYse and I OH YOU) at the Pearl Street Co-Op student digs. The venue features a swimming pool - which no one dares swim in apart from a dog at one point - and is a venue where usually 100 kids live, feral and free, the rest of the year. Like a cross-between the film 'Hook' and Shangri La at Glastonbury, it's the place to party tonight, to get truly weird in Austin and revive some of that original, early-days SX spirit.
There are killer acts playing aplenty - Sløtface are a genuinely exciting young pop-punk band from Norway, armed with sharp songs and a super-charged fun live show. New Yorkers QTY possess a Cars meets Lou Reed louche-rock charm, and despite a great deal of hype, this is only their fifth show as a band. The Big Moon serve as the perfect college party band for the occasion, but Dream Wife have perhaps the best show of the night. Closing the event, the room is packed for them, a band hitting their stride. Frenetic and what SXSW is about, they're a brilliant and urgent live act.
Day Two starts with Snail Mail - a thrillingly lo-fi grunge racket. Although it's early doors, theirs is a pleasing one to witness nonetheless, with big potential. We then hit a double bill of new pop acts - South Africa's Diamond Thug are full of glacial hooks and choruses, but very much with their own spin. Mondo Cozmo on the other hand, is Lumineers-lite, with some Killers-attempting anthemic elements which fall a touch flat. They offer Stubhub - the venue hosts - three cheers from the crowd; a cue to leave.
The ever-excellent Bella Union records is 20 years old this year (tickets for their 20th anniversary show we're doing HERE), and they are celebrating their entry into their third decade with a special event in Austin today. We stop in for great new signing Will Stratton and Pavo Pavo, before a super-group featuring Jason Lyttle from Grandaddy, members of Midlake, Fran Healy and others play. Here's to the next 20.
From here it's time for for a classic SXSW tip of four young men from New York playing guitars in a bar usually reserved for sports on TV. (In fact, it's perhaps even an Irish-themed bar). The Britanys are the band. Whilst they could come across as too close to their influences - The Strokes being the one most apparent - they instead thrill as something cool and new. The frontman is a star-in-waiting, the songs catchy and overall they would make the type of album you'd love to hear Casablancas and co doing now.
It's a joy to see Marika Hackman, backed now by The Big Moon, evolve into the incredible artist she is becoming. How good those new songs sound, played loud and proud with three guitars. The room is packed for her, and it's warming to see how much she is becoming loved by everyone. Another ever-evolving act we're excited to see now backed by drums and bass are Girlpool - who also play a rammed show ahead of what already sounds like it's going to be a great new album. They sound like no one else.
Suddenly, we're on our bike home. Day Two is firmly done; even more tomorrow.