Concert Reviews

SXSW 2017: The 95 Artists We Checked Out

SXSW is, without a doubt, my favourite 10 days of the entire year. The festival brings together everything that I love, innovation, culture, technology, art, science, culture, music, fashion, and business.

Over the course of the music portion of the mega festival, I visited 26 venues throughout Austin Texas to attended 42 shows by 95 unique artists. How’s that for a music marathon!

One thing I would like to highlight is that of the 95 artists I had the pleasure of seeing and photographing, 45 had female representation, 41 originated from countries other than the USA, and 30 had non-white band members. While I’m aware that this sample is coloured by my personal bias, it’s encouraging seeing a push for greater diversity within the industry.

1.   BANKS @ Bar 96, Twix

Though BANKS maintains an air of fragility and reservedness, instead of quieting her performance, these aspects become points of focus. Throughout the set, she was joined by two dancers. These individuals, unsettling in appearance, were representative of the insecurities that every person has. Instead of burying these figments away, Banks celebrates and taunts them, resulting in a powerful, creative, and deeply moving performance.

2.   Sylvan Esso @ Barracuda, The Onion AV Club Party

Sylvan Esso is another artist that smashes genres together, in the very best way possible. Composed of singer Amelia Meath and producer Nick Sanborn, their ethereal sounds are rooted in folk aesthetics, but layered with an atmospheric and undeniably danceable beat.

3.   Vera Blue @ Swan Dive

Celia Pavey, otherwise known as Vera Blue has the most beautiful voice I heard all weekend. Period. While I could stop my description there, it would be a disservice not to mention the engaging tunes she crafts, and personality her music, though still fairly new, has already developed in spades. Start with her cover of Jack Garrett’s “Breathe Life”, and get lost from there on out.

4.   Jain @ The Gatsby, Pandora House

Jain’s tunes would feel just at home in a coffee shop open mic night as they would at a Saturday evening out. With a genre bending, worldly sound, an earnest stage presence, and her signature black and white frock, the French chanteuse/DJ rightfully charmed the crowd. I enjoyed her set so much that I saw her twice over the course of the week!

5.   Elle Exxe @ The Townsend

The brash Scot Elle Exxe does things loud, but she also does things tender, quirky, and all around fun. With a band made up in pop-art make up, and a performance punctuated by kicks (some of which I narrowly avoided), a sassy contralto, and heaps of personality, Exxe’s unashamed pop was a joy to behold onstage.

6.   LIFE @ Latitude 40, British Music Embassy

The final time slot of a festival is a loaded position. People are exhausted and some may have already gone home and returned to their so-called “real lives”. However, this slot also offers an artist a shot at capitalizing on recency effect. LIFE took my tired, camera worn limbs, and played them life a puppet (one might even say, it gave them, well “life”). Punk music, by definition is simple. But their unignorable stage presence, socially aware lyrics, and memorable performance served as a perfect bookend to my SXSW.

7.   MUNA @ The MTV Woodie Awards

This is, admittedly, influenced by the fact that I had the opportunity to sit down with them back in February before their Drake Hotel show, and can happily confirm that they are not only badass musicians, but very likeable people as well!

8.   SOHN @ Barracuda, The Onion AV Club Party

Electronic producer and singer/songwriter SOHN has long been an artist who frequented, but never starred, in my playlists. I am happy to report that this has been remedied. There are some artists whose songs carry infinitely more personality when heard live. SOHN is one of these artists. 

9.   Matt Maeson @ St David’s Church

While sitting in the Austin Convention Centre in between SXSW Interactive panels, I heard the acoustic stylings of “Cringe”, and frantically fumbled with my phone to Shazam it before the tune finished. The music world is rife with guitar wielding gentlemen peddling their sappy acoustic stories. And while Maeson may fall amongst their ranks, his songs are rife with a rare charisma which is brought all the more to life by his live performance.

10.   The Lemon Twigs @ Maggie Mae’s, Sensu Music Opening Party

I’ve seen The Lemon Twigs 3 times in the span of 5 months, and I would happily see them all over again. Though ¾ of the band hand black sharpie “Xs” emblazoned on their hands to indicate their underage status, their creatively complex music feels like a throwback to a more imaginative time, and live show punctuated by an absolute joy in for the art of performance.

11.   Running Touch @ The Aussie BBQ

There was so much Austrialian talent on display at SXSW 2017 that the annual Aussie BBQ became a two day, rather than single day event. Melbourne’s Running Touch bookended the second date with an engaging, danceable, and at times wonderfully over the top performance. Onstage theatrics for most producers/DJs typically include fist pumping, jumping, and the occasional champagne bottle showers. With dark eye shadow smeared on his face, Running Touch presented an electric performance that found him playing guitar, tinkering with electronics, and lying on the floor screaming into his microphone.

12.   Satellite Stories @ Tequila Mockingbird

With a major label debut incoming this May, and a quartet of shiny, albeit poppier, singles in their arsenal, I was very excited to see Finland’s Satellite Stories grace the stages of SXSW once again. With an exuberantly danceable performance that, as per usual, sounded even better live, the boys didn’t disappoint me.

13.   LOLO @ Brazos Hall

Lauren Pritchard, or LOLO, is one of those names that has been drifting around the music industry for a while now, with a superstar connection in guardian Lisa Marie Presley, originating the role of Ilse in the Tony Award winning “Spring Awakening” and featurings in tunes by the likes of Panic! At the Disco and Fall Out Boy. However, the big voiced and very present artist is a force to be recognized in her own right with a wonderfully magnetizing performance. Her set was miles ahead of where it was when I saw her open for Andrew McMahon last year, and I can’t wait to see where her trajectory takes her.

14.   Lewis Del Mar @ Stubb’s

Pop duo Lewis Del Mar sound like a day at the beach: breezy, summary, and good deal of fun.

15.   Joywave @ Antone’s, Capital One House

I’ve had the opportunity to see Joywave a few times now, and the shininess of their live show just doesn’t wear off. Between frontman Daniel Armbruster’s movements from vacancy to intensity, tight instrumentation, and songs cast with just the right amount of weirdness, they had me dancing all night long.

16.   La Dame Blanche @ Radio Day Stage

She came onstage wielding a lit cigar, rapped in Spanish so I didn’t understand a word she said, and filled the instrumental interludes with her flute. And I absolutely love her.

17.   Maggie Rogers @ Antone’s, Music is Universal

There was a significant buzz surrounding the NYU alum, whose homework assignment turned Pharell Williams masterclass submission has gone viral. The venue was significantly squished, with a sizeable line forming out the door in the hopes they might too gain entrance. Rogers onstage persona was markedly different than the shy teenager seen in that NYU video. She captured the crowd with her songs and sounds, all while conveying the deep gratitude that she had come so far.

18.   Marian Hill @ Lustre Pearl, Taco Bell

Sleek production, jazzy sax, and playful vocals comprise the wonder that is Marian Hill. While the producer meets female singer songwriter trope seems to becoming increasingly cliché, Marian Hill does what they do well, and the crowd was clearly receptive.

19.   Lizzo @ Bar 96, SxStyle Twitter x NYLON

Lizzo is big on personality, and just plain fun. Though she played a short 15 minute set for the SXStyle opening party at Bar 96, her performance – complete with big vocals, background dancers, and spandex outfits – had the crowd cheering for an encore until the lights came back up. 

20.   Alex Lahey @ Aussie BBQ

She’s been hailed as the new Courtney Barnett due to her Aussie accent and observational lyricism, but Lahey is much more than that. “I’m just not convinced that those comparisons would be happening if I was a guy. It’s just silly and easy” Lahey told the Australian Associated Press last year. Lahey’s tunes feel like hanging out with a good friend – relatable, relaxed, but with something special that differentiates them from our other acquaintances.

21.   Jidenna @ The MTV Woodie Awards

22.   Whitney @ Antone’s, Capital Music House

23.   Kakkmaddafakka @ Karma Lounge

24.   Quiet Company @ Antone’s, Capital One House

25.   Hippo Campus @ Radio Day Stage

26.   Hyolyn @ The Belmont, K-Pop Night Out

27.   San Fermin @ Bar 96, Twix

28.   BIRTHH @ International Day Stage

29.   Andreas Moss @ Radio Day Stage

30.   New Politics @ Brazos Hall

Sporting a new buzz cut, frontman David Boyd got up to his usual antics: crowdsurfing, swinging from the ceiling beams, creating a makeshift dance floor in the middle of the crowd, but most importantly putting on a great sounding show.

The rest of our photos can be found in the gallery below:

31.   The Drums @ Container Bar, Doc Martens x CoLLide

32.   Aquilo @ Latitude 40, British Music Embassy

33.   SWEAT @ Latitude 40, British Music Embassy

34.   Weezer @ Brazos Hall

35.   Diet Cig @ Empire Garage

“This one is for my female and female identifying friends out there” frontwoman Alex Luciano called out to the crowd while bouncing around in her trademark boundless energy. “It’s hard to be a punk while wearing a skirt” she sang during the chorus of “Tummy Ache”. And at that moment I realized I was the only woman in the photo pit. And of course I was wearing a skir

36.   Temples @ Radio Day Stage

37.   Red Velvet @ The Belmont, KPop Night Out

I had a very powerful moment midway through Red Velvet’s set while sardined between several other members of the media in the photo pit. As I looked up, camera pressed against my face, I realized that I had never photographed anything remotely like this. I had never photographed, let alone seen, a group of performers who looked like me: young, Asian, female. As an individual who is heavily invested in music and music culture, it saddens me that it took this long for this to happen. Seeing Red Velvet perform was a very moving experience for me, and I can only hope that future generations will not have to wait as long as myself to see someone they identify with on stage.

38.   Jimmy Eat World @ Stubbs

39.   PVRIS @ The MTV Woodie Awards

40.   Ron Gallo @ Radio Day Stage

41.   Aloe Blacc @ Antone’s, Capital One House

42.   Let’s Eat Grandma @ Latitude 40, British Music Embassy

43.   Desiigner @ The MTV Woodie Awards

44.   Tokyo Police Club @ Canada Blast BBQ

45.   Fastball @ Antone’s, Capital One House

46.   Colony House @ Container Bar, Doc Martens x CoLLide

47.   Lo Moon @ Youtube Coppertank

48.   Sundara Karma @ Latitude 40, British Music Embassy

49.   Noname @ Barracuda, The Onion AV Club Party

50.   Spoon @ Radio Day Stage

Austin natives, Spoon, closed off their 3 night residency at The Main with a day set at the Convention Centre’s Radio Day Stage.


51.   Starley @ The MTV Woodie Awards

52.   Agnes Obel @ St David’s Church

53.   Altre Di B @ Karma Lounge

54.   !!! (Chk Chk Chk) @ Maggie Maes, Sensu Music Opening Party

55.   Superglu @ Latitude 40, British Music Embassy

56.   Mondo Cozmo @ Antone’s, Music is Universal

57.   Earl St Clair @ The Gatsby, Pandora House

58.   Middle Kids @ Youtube Coppertank

59.   James Hersey @ Antone’s, Music is Universal

60.   Kristeen Young @ Swan Dive

61.   Hidden Roots @ Canada Blast BBQ

62.   Hanson @ The Bungalow

63.   Pennywise @ Stubbs

64.   ARIZONA @ Antone’s, Capital One House

65.   DRAM @ The MTV Woodie Awards

66.   Durand Jones & the Indiations @ Antone’s, Capital One House

67.   Mt Wolf @ ScratchHouse

68.   Valerie June @ Radio Day Stage

69.   The Japanese House @ Radio Day Stage

70.   Sunny Sweeny @ The Gatsby, Pandora House

71.   CHINAH @ The Blackheart

72.   Bibi Bourelly @ The MTV Woodie Awards

73.   Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears @ Radio Day Stage

74.   Gaelynn Lea @ St David’s Church

75.   Woodes @ International Day Stage

76.   Khalid @ The MTV Woodie Awards

77.   Sven Helbig @ International Day Stage

78.   Lillie Mae @ Bar 96

79.   Salt Cathedral @ The Main II

80.   Neon Bunny @ Swan Dive

81.   Nightly @ Antone’s, Music is Universal

82.   Alduous Harding @ International Day Stage

83.   iLe @ Radio Day Stage

84.   Orkestar Kriminal @ International Day Stage

85.   CAPYAC @ Antone’s, Capital One House

86.   Chrissy & Hawley @ Swan Dive

87.   RYAN Playground @ Swan Dive

88.   The Shanks @ Swan Dive

89.   Aluvion Afrobeat Pacifico @ Radio Day Stage

90.   Rick Ross @ The MTV Woodie Awards

91.   Odezenne @ International Day Stage

92.   424 @ International Day Stage

93.   Smash Mouth @ Antone’s, Capital One House

94.   Young MA @ The MTV Woodie Awards

95.   Lil Yachty @ The MTV Woodie Awards


About author

Katrina is a writer and photographer at Live in Limbo. You can follow her musical adventures at @thekatalysts.