SXSW 2017: Day 4 and 5

21 Mar 2017

Our final dispatch from SXSW 2017

Almost a week in, and it feels like we live in Austin by now. As we take a second on the porch out the back of the house we’re staying in, our eyes wander over to our basketball net and the fire-pit in the garden - it’s definitely an appealing prospect. What would it be like when SXSW is not in town and the place goes to complete chaos is the question... Would it always be 9 bucks a can of beer in some bars? Do people drink all day and eat tacos all year round?

We know the answers, of course, however, the last two days in Austin are a hailstorm of great music a-plenty so no more prevaricating. The consensus everywhere is that the event had became so big before, that 2017's smarter, more compact event - with tighter venue programming and less intense brand involvement this year - makes everything much more straightforward and easy to cut through. It’s almost universal to hear that this is one of the best SXSWs most people have had in years.

We would tend to agree – whilst the new talents we witness over the last two days corroborate this, too. The Regrettes and The Paranoyds are two West Coast bands with a whip-smart take on LA rock and roll. The Regrettes are like a tougher Ronettes with fire in the belly, and a bewilderingly strong and confident presence in 16-year-old-singer Lydia Night. The Paranoyds are more loose and underground with mighty riffs that showcase visceral potential. Ne-Hi are another US garage-rock band with great promise; we witness an early show at the Pitchfork party. LVL Up are a much heavier Neutral Milk Hotel, and the regular punk haunt Cheer Up Charlies is packed for them.

There are returning huge acts in town to do special shows this week. We’re sad to miss the likes of Lana Del Rey, Weezer, De La Soul, At The Drive-In and Lil Wayne as the lines stretch as long as Trump’s planned wall to the south of this great state, but we do see Grandaddy at Stubbs – the city’s famous ‘big’ venue. It’s an understated production, but great to hear some the band’s classic songs for the first time in so long.

Back on the new talent wagon, Noga Erez thrills as a beat-heavy pop star in waiting, with some dancefloor bangers that pack a punch, or in case of ‘Dance While You Shoot’, a straight-up bang to the head (in a good way). Oshunn are a hip-hop duo taking a note from the jazz and soul infiltrations of the genre more recently, and their full band show is a party ready to go big. Chrome Sparks pleases the EDM bros, but electronica heads will also dig. Marie Davidson, on the other hand, will really only please serious techno-heads; she makes hard, industrial sounds, and serves as a good palate-cleanser.

We finish our time in Austin with a band from London, because - surreally - sometimes you really do have to go all the way to Texas to realise the greatness back home. With a show that closes with frontman Charlie Steen in his underwear, rubbing beer into his sweaty body, whilst proclaiming, ‘People pay good money to see this’, a big section of the music industry are here to witness this as-yet-unsigned thrill. Shame are the throbbing, angry and important undercurrent of London we need right now. Comparisons to Fat White Family will be clear, but there is an almost Clash-like melodic reach at times. It’s chaos, but considered chaos, and like a great deal of what we’ve seen in Austin this year, is very, very encouraging.

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