SXSW typically tends to become a busier beast as enters the weekend, but the trifecta intersection of SXSW meets a Friday meets St Patrick’s Day is a horse of a different color. Many locals who do not care to participate in the usual music buzz this week flood the streets and bars on 6th trying to party their holiday away. Lines are longer, humidity is higher, and the ability to breeze across town from show to show becomes that much more challenging. Prioritizing some of this year’s brightest and newest artists makes it a lot easier to know where to go.
The best way to start the day is with a taste of home at Valhalla for the Music Tastes Good day party featuring Long Beach, CA local Rudy de Anda. MTG is now a repeating festival in Long Beach due to return to the heart of the Southern California city’s downtown later in September. The festival combines the love for explorative food and new music. De Anda is a rising star in the indie rock scene, making his mark on Long Beach and presenting his new music on a tour this spring. His band is slated to play MTG in September as well. The new songs they play take a sweeter turn keeping it lighthearted and fresh. One of his best qualities is his use of both English and Spanish lyrics – a simple, yet endearing element that makes his music unique and special.
Over at Blackheart on Rainey St. for the Frye Days + Pledge Music party, Nicole Atkins gives us a an even fresher experience. A Janis Joplin-inspired vocalist, she carries elements of folk, soul and rock. She has been underrated as a singer in the past; but now she seems to be on the up-and-up because the Nashville star is slated for multiple showcases here at SXSW. Her versatility beams as she marries elements of folk and psych effortlessly. She even offers some face time to any fans who want to hang with her after the show.
One of the hottest acts to watch this year is solo artist Maggie Rogers. The official SXSW showcase presented by YouTube downtown at Coppertank hosts her. Her rise to the top was a swift one; Pharrell Williams discovered her music in a master class at NYU and the rest was history. Now only one EP (Now That the Light Is Fading) deep, the 22-year-old songbird is selling out venues left and right. Her eclectic dance music carries such a unique approach. It surprisingly translates well to the live setting as she uses a full backing band to bolster her. Though her reputation precedes her, it is with good reason. Her musical talent is palpable and her performance is absolutely delightful.
As the night falls, there is one more hot ticket item to see – supergroup Giraffe Tongue Orchestra. Singer and frontman of Alice In Chains William DuVall takes the lead vocal position. Brent Hinds from Mastodon and Ben Weinman from The Dillinger Escape Plan play guitar. The rest is filled up by Pete Griffin from Zappa Plays Zappa and Dethklok and Thomas Pridgen from The Mars Volta. As a group, they make their US and SXSW debut at the Townsquare HQ event across the street from the Austin Convention Center. Their widely anticipated arrival to the U.S. could not have picked a better location than SXSW as this is the best way to get their music to reach as many people as possible from around the world. The hard hitters give the crowd everything they ask for, most attending without knowing what to expect. Singer Duvall belts out every lyric from deep within, the same wholehearted approach he uses when playing live with Alice In Chains. Giraffe Tongue Orchestra is given a grip of time to explore their album Broken Lines which has been climbing the U.S. rock charts since its debut in September of last year. Certainly, we hope this is not their only show domestic show, but time will tell.
Back on the scene with a new album Voids released earlier this month, Minus the Bear return to the stage at the Barracuda backyard patio. Their unbelievably loud set is worth the long wait. Though the set is cut short due to their painfully late set time, they still manage to give a heavy helping of Voids. The new music carries plenty of the catchy flare as its predecessors, but lacks as much of the quirky, yet sophisticated compositions that are the cornerstone of Minus the Bear’s sound. Perhaps the long wait is causing some frustration and a need for release of tension. Guitarist and lead vocalist Jake Snider jokingly mentions between songs that if anyone has a “joint or something” they can give it to the band after the show. They wrap up their set and put a bow on it playing fan favorite “Pachuca Sunrise,” possibly their catchiest tune that unwittingly always invites a sing-a-long.
The beauty of SXSW is wrapped in the promotion and appreciation for new music. Whether it is a sixth album release like that of Minus the Bear or someone like Maggie Rogers who is so wet behind the ears that she does not even have a full album yet, SXSW gives everyone a chance to see artists that are relevant, pertinent, and may not otherwise have a way to be seen.