We’re excited to reveal the winners of the AU review’s 4th Annual SXSW Awards, which celebrates the best performances and events we caught at the Austin, Texas festival – and some of the disappointments too.
BEST AUSTRALIAN GROUP
All Our Exes Live in Texas
There was no shortage of great Australian bands at SXSW this year, but All Our Exes Live in Texas connected with their audiences in a way that most bands dream of. Their on stage banter seems effortless by now – though rest assured it’s not an easy feat when you’re doing half a dozen shows across a few days on no sleep. But still, the made it look easy, entertaining crowds with their pleas to acquire exes in Texas, as they delivered tracks from their just released, brilliant debut LP When We Fall. Expect them to be returning to the US before too long… though their Australian tour is coming up first! Don’t miss it.
Runners Up: Food Court, Middle Kids, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
BEST AUSTRALIAN SOLO ARTIST
Though already a fan of her music, seeing her perform as a trio at SXSW was one of the highlights of my entire week. Her music is fleshed out beautifully live, and her latest single “The Thaw”, taken from her debut, self-titled EP, was of particular note.
Runners Up: Gabriella Cohen, Hamish Anderson, Alex Lahey
BEST INTERNATIONAL ARTIST
For some, the Austrian based producer SOHN (real name Christopher Michael Taylor) is already a household name – but for myself, he felt as much as a discovery as the next (though I definitely knew the track “Artifice”, which closed up the set on Monday at The Mohawk’s AV Club Party). Backed by a three piece, the electronic music was fleshed out to stunning effect live, with songs like “Hard Liquor”, “The Wheel” and “Lights” proving particularly excellent. For me, and for many who saw him and his band across the week, his SXSW appearances solidified the artist not just as a great producer, but an outstanding performer, too.
Runners Up: Jain, Flint Eastwood
BEST HIP HOP ARTIST
Fresh off the success of her single “Ooouuu“, Brooklyn rapper Young M.A. looks like the one to beat in 2017 – serving as one of the most talked about artists at the festival this year (and with good reason), by proving herself as an incredible performer, a brilliant lyricist and an unmissable talent. Watch this space, and expect great things.
Runners Up: Noname, T.I.
The acclaimed Danish singer/songwriter is hardly a new face on the scene, but in her third SXSW appearance, her set during the Communion showcase reminded everyone why she’s one of the most acclaimed musicians working today. Accompanied by an ever-moving three piece band – cellists, clarinet, percussion and additional keys – she produced a bold, powerful sound that reverberated in the perfect acoustics of the St David’s Church to the point that it brought this writer to tears. And with songs like “Familiar”, “Trojan Horses” and “The Curse” among the live repertoire, fans of the artist should not be surprised.
Runners Up: Sunny Sweeney, Albin Lee Meldau
I was reminded of the first time I saw Alt-J and Alabama Shakes when I watched Mothers at the AV Club party. Wholly compelling and totally original, the Athens based group are fronted by the vocal talents of Kristine Leschper, and leave quite the impression with their one-of-a-kind music and spellbinding performances.
Runners Up: Albin Lee Meldau, Meilyr Jones, The Lemon Twigs
THE BUZZ AWARD
They weren’t a band who many held particular expectations of – but by the time the festival ended, if you’d seen them live, they were all you talked about. I caught this Massachusetts based trio at the Pandora Discovery Den on Monday and found myself blown away by Lyndsey Gunnulfsen’s powerful voice and the group’s electric performance. “You and I” was a particular highlight of the set, while they closed out with “My House”. A little electronic, a little rock and roll, a whole pile of quality tunes, learn more about the band at their official website.
Runners Up: Jain, Noname
Mastodon at Empire
The amps were cranked up to 11 for Mastadon‘s set at the Mazda Studio at Empire, as the Atlanta Metal group debuted tracks from their brand new record Emperor of Sand, which is due out next week, March 31st. The set was a relatively intimate one for fans of the group, and many cited it as their highlight of the week. And the loudest.
Runners Up: HO99O9 (Horror) at every venue they played, Downtown Boys at Laneway Party, Le Butcherettes at House of Vans
THE BEST DAY PARTY
The Aussie BBQ
It’s been a trying few years for The Aussie BBQ, as the event has battled venue and date changes, going from being one of the most popular Saturday day parties at Maggie Mae’s, to the outdoor Brush Park on a Friday – at one point occupying two stages on the same afternoon. The last two years saw the venue battle wet weather conditions, too – even so far as seeing the event close early. But this year everything came up roses for the event and they delivered the best BBQ in years. Across two days – one day devoted to a traditionally diverse lineup, and the next to a predominantly electronic base – the Aussie BBQ saw great crowds, piles of sausages and even Platypus Beer (produced by a Houston based Aussie).
Runners Up: Canadian Blast, House of Vans
Taking over Pelon’s Tex-Mex, the restaurant and event space ensured that no guest left unfed, with impressive lunches and dinners laid out for invited guests, and the most diverse selection of Bloody Mary’s you’ve ever seen. A must for any SXSW.
Runners Up: Canadian Blast BBQ, Rachel Ray’s Feedback 10th Anniversary
THE HELLO ASIA! AWARD: BEST ASIAN ARTIST
Drunken Tiger & Yoonmirae
In what was essentially a Feel Ghood Music lineup (Drunken Tiger, Yoonmirae, Bizzy, Junoflo), Drunken Tiger & Yoonmirae starred in a shared performance in what was great showcase of Korean Hip Hop & R&B. Brilliant musicianship, stage presence and overall fun had the whole K-Pop Night Out crowd in raptures. Pity they were programmed into the middle of the showcase – Drunken Tiger and Yoonmirae deserved headline billing. From teaching the crowd how to cuss in Korean to talking about global political themes, Drunken Tiger is still as relevant today as when he started in the industry.
Add to that the fantastic talents of his Texas born wife Yoonmirae, one of the most underestimated vocalist/rapper in Korea, this powerhouse double showcase was the inarguable high point of K-Pop Night Out.
Runners up: Miss Ko from Taiwan Beats showcase and Otoboke Beaver from Japan
BEST EVENING SHOWCASE
Amazon Prime’s Resistance Radio
Tuesday night saw The Belmont taken over by Amazon Prime’s Resistance Radio – a conceptual radio station and album release, produced by Danger Mouse and themed around the Amazon TV series The Man in the High Castle. The night featured guests who appeared on the record – including Kelis, Benjamin Booker, Kevin Morby and more, who played their own sets and participated in a special one-time-only performance of the covers from the 1950s and 1960s they’d recorded for the release. It was the most memorable showcase of the week, not only for the artists that it featured, but the fact that it was the only time you’d ever see these artists together, with a massive backing band, reproducing the classics you’ll find on the album. You can read more about the release over on Rolling Stone.
Runners Up: Communion Showcase (ft. Agnes Obel), House of Vans (Wednesday Night ft. At The Drive-In, Temples, The Black Angels and more…)
BEST POP-UP VENUE
By being an invite-only venue, Vevo House rid itself of many of the problems plaguing others at the festival: long queues for an overcrowded venue with terrible sight lines. The Vevo House offered plenty of room, great food, an open bar and excellent views of the performing artists. It helped, too, that the event featured a stellar selection of the festival’s many buzz artists, including Sigrid and Lewis Del Mar, who appeared on the Tuesday night, in what was one of the best shows I’d see all week. If you didn’t get an invite this year, you should definitely find out how you can score one for 2018.
Runners Up: Pandora Discovery Den, YouTube at Coppertank
BEST PERMANENT VENUE
The home of the House of Vans – which only ran across two days this year – is always one of the favourite venues at SXSW. And this year was no exception, with the venue delivering stand out showcases just about every night of the week. And from Monday’s AV Club Party featuring SOHN, Sylvan Esso and Mothers, through to Wednesday’s House of Vans party featuring At The Drive-In’s surprise appearance, The Black Angels and Poliça, there was something for everyone. Though an unarguably intimate venue, the multiple floors also mean there was a good view for everyone.
Runners Up: Stubb’s, The Belmont
WORTH THE TRIP
Urban Outfitters Space 24 Twenty
Not all events happened within the primary event district that surrounded 6th Street and Rainey. My favourite pop-up event outside of the main area was North of the city, near the University: Urban Outfitters’ Space 24 Twenty. The venue was home to the only appearance of The Internet at SXSW, at the venue’s closing party on Saturday Night, sponsored by VH1 Save The Music and Fujifilm.
Runner Up: Luck Reunion, From The Hills With Love
Har Mar Superstar
An artist who’s never taken himself too seriously, the extent of the performances I’ve seen from the American artist have often seen him half-naked, singing along with plenty of gusto (but not much attention to quality) to a backing track. Though entertaining, it was never a memorable show for its music. Fast forward to his appearances this week at SXSW, though he was still oft-half naked, supported by a backing band, Har Mar Superstar showed off just how strong his voice was when he had the band to work with – and the soulful take seen on his record Best Summer Ever was executed with brilliance live. Who knew Har Mar could deliver a show like this, and he was without question the biggest surprise at the festival as a result.
Runners Up: Kasey Chambers, Kelis
BEST BAND NAME WE WISH WE SAW BUT DIDN’T
Rainbow Kitten Surprise
We don’t know who you are or what you did, but we regret missing it.
This would have been disappointing for Adams himself, after he pulled out at the last minute due to illness. Adams was one of the biggest draw cards of the entire program, set to play ACL Live on Friday night, and his absence was sorely felt as the festival came to an end.
Runners Up: Reduced Saturday Night Entertainment, No Gorillaz or Frank Ocean appearances (both were hotly rumoured to make surprise appearances).
Hello Asia! entry including photos by Johnny Au.