Over nine nights in Austin this month, I caught dozens upon dozens of live performances from bands from all over the world. This year I found myself discovering more talent than I have in the past few years – both at the SXSW Festival, and at Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion event, which happens at his Ranch in Luck, Texas – a little under an hour out of Austin. Here’s ten of the acts – and a few special mentions – who I think deserve to be discovered by you, too…
Imagine if King Gizzard didn’t release five albums a year and refined their music down to shorter, more accessible songs. That’s the best way I can describe the Brooklyn based outfit who blew me away with a technically brilliant, hypnotising set. Listen to their music, including their debut album On Human Freakout Mountain (which sounds like the exact sort of album title King Gizzard would make) on Bandcamp and you can check them out on Facebook, too.
This exciting Canadian outfit led by Lucy Niles and Josée Caron are bringing back some of my favourite music from the 90s, such as the Weezer soaked “Everybody Knows” (or: “Everybody Knows You’re High”). A blast live, they’re nostalgic while making it all totally their own sound.
One of the buzz acts at SXSW was Nilüfer Yanya , from London. I only got to see her perform in duo mode, with her supporting musician on the sax? and backing vocals on the brilliant “Baby Luv” off of her “Do You Like Pain?” EP. Yanya provides soulful but catchy songs, filled with beautiful melodies.
With songs like “Mistakes” and “Bless”, the Canadian outfit Common Deer delivered catchy tunes, that built nicely into an engaging and energetic live show.
I probably saw Tika for no more than 10 minutes at the M for Montreal party, but she stuck with me as one of the best performances all week. I without question witnessed one of the most enthusiastic responses from a crowd at this set; they were chanting for more after she had everyone singing with “I Would Die 4 You”. An act I hope to catch for more than 10 minutes in the future.
Reminiscent of Alberta Cross, Night Moves were an unexpected joy at Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion.
Also at Luck Reunion, Paul Cauthen and his four piece band lit up the event’s smallest outdoor stage with a truly mind blowing set, filled with incredible energy and breathtaking jams. Margot Price popped up with him throughout the set, as they churned out memorable songs like “My Cadillac”. An artist who should be booked on every festival stage, everywhere in the world.
Calling this band a discovery was a bit of a stretch – I had heard a song of the band before attending the festival, but it was my first time seeing them live; catching them opening up the Pandora Discovery Den for 2018. Their tracks “Dirty Love” and “Jenny Jenkins” are among the best floating around right now and their set did not disappoint.
What do you get when you mix together Violent Soho with Weezer and Clap Your Hands And Say Yeah? A poor description of one of the best bands I saw and discovered all week. The four piece originally from Sweden, now in London know how to put on a great show, and they didn’t disappoint when I caught them at the British Embassy.
And finally, there’s LIFE, the raucous British outfit who I also caught at the Embassy. Their on stage banter and energy – which saw the lead singer jumping into the crowd and on stage – ensuring they were one of the most talked about bands of the week. I can barely tell you anything about their music – they’re not doing anything mind blowing in that department – but it’s solid, and their live show is amongst the most thrilling I’ve witnessed in some time.
And the rest: Special Mentions
I’d also like to shout out to UK duo BONES, who I didn’t catch but had the pleasure to interview. I heard nothing but rave reviews about the band’s live set, and will be making it a priority to see them in the future – and you should do. Fresh from their tour in Australia, Shame also didn’t disappoint – and their cover of “Rock Lobster” was pretty unforgettable. Canada’s Dizzy smashed it at the festival – expect them to explode in the year ahead. But it was Tank and the Bangas who were undoubtedly the best performance I saw at the festival. But since Chris already listed them on his discovery list here, I thought I’d give the space to another artist. But really there was no one who topped them all week. Don’t miss any chance to see them.
Photo of Mt Joy by Matt Everitt.