Another year of SXSW has concluded. It’s the largest music festival currently in the world, and if you have ever attended, it is quite daunting. Imagine any type of place where you can add a stage and a backline and pretty much every single place within a 20 mile radius of downtown Austin has a band playing in it for 6 days straight.
This year, we witnessed a downtrend in corporate involvement. Hype Hotel showcases usually sponsored by Mazda did not move forward this year and certain day parties with no official affiliation to the festival were missing. Even though some big showcases didn’t happen, there was definitely no shortage of music. We also know that no matter how well we planned our week, there were really good bands that we most definitely missed.
Luckily this year was safe with no issues or worldwide news headlines to worry about (well notwithstanding the contract language). We discovered quite a few talented bands and also caught a few of our long-time favorites. The other things we love about SXSW are that everyday has at least one surprise and expectations are always exceeded. We had our original list of bands to see, yet it’s not always easy to stick to that list – so we improvise! Then we find new and talented acts for us that we can’t wait to get back and share with our readers.
Below are our favorite 11 bands we caught live at the festival.We also have a killer slideshow of some of the bigger acts caught by our talented photographer Gabe Guevara.
Alex Napping (Austin, TX/Brooklyn, NY)
We have already been fans of Alex Napping sharing tracks earlier this month and pointing out that they must be seen live. Luckily we got to check out the Father/Daughter showcase and revel in the beauty of Ms. Alex Cohen’s vocals and hear their lovely and lush jangle-pop performed live. We are excited for their brand new album Mise En Place which will be released May 5th.
The Blind Suns (Angers, France)
We happened upon The Blind Suns who we were not familiar with until stumbling upon this talented French trio. Their live set is energetic and reminds us of a happy sunny day with their 60’s inspired jangle-rock vibes. The dreamy vocals of front woman, Dee took us by surprise and we immediately took notice as soon as they started playing. The trio played tunes from their most recent release titled I Sea You.
Close Talker (Saskatoon, SK)
We recently shared the newest track from Close Talker before the festival and they piqued our attention with their smart lyrical talent and the ability to capture the audience with addicting indie pop-rock vibes. The main impressive live fact was the on point vocals of front man Will whose range reminds us of Steven McKeller (Civil Twilight). The other really cool thing is the trio is playing tracks that easily sound like a quartet. After hearing their live set we hear a cross between the technical guitar riffs of Minus the Bear and sweeping harmonies of Local Natives. Their upcoming album Lens is out April 21st.
Colony House (Franklin, TN)
Colony House impressed us with their 2014 release When I Was Younger and honestly their newest release snuck under the radar so we were happy to hear new music from this talented band. If you haven’t heard their newest album release, Only The Lonely add it to your list. Their energetic live set is not one to miss and we feel this Nashville area band will be on the rise and soon.
Coucheron (Asker, Norway)
Electro pop and EDM are some of the most popular and quickly rising genres out there today. We love jamming to addicting electro pop tracks but often when the tracks are presented live, it sometimes falls flat. That is not the case with Norway based Coucheron who brings in live drums and guitar for parts of his slickly produced tracks. The live set was enjoyable and has us paying more attention to the talent that is involved with presenting these slickly produced tracks in a live setting. This year Coucheron will be releasing a handful of self-produced singles and if we have more tracks like the hypnotic one titled “Loud”, we are in for some awesome upbeat tracks where we want to keep hitting repeat.
Duquette Johnston (Birmingham, AL)
We stumbled upon Duquette Johnston and we are so glad we did. As we hear the band play and are noticing the drummer who seems very familiar. Turns out it’s Steve Shelley from Sonic Youth. After further investigation we found Mr. Johnston was in the 90s band Verbena before striking out on his own. We were impressed by Mr. Johnston’s strong yet comforting vocals as well as his heartfelt lyrics with each song. He has the best of both worlds – that true rock ‘n roll vibe with the talent of a true singer-songwriter. We hear about a possible new album release coming soon from Mr. Johnston and we hope that’s true. If you aren’t familiar with Duquette Johnston, check out his 2013 release Rabbit Runs a Destiny.
False Advertising (Manchester, UK)
We have been following False Advertising since 2015, and we are super excited they were chosen for the festival and finally got to witness their live set. The trio is powerful on stage and they are also multi-talented as Jen takes over on the drums when Chris sings his tracks and tackles guitar. The diversity of the band keeps them fresh and new with their grunge inspired rock. The reason we have this blog is to showcase truly independent DIY bands like False Advertising.
flor (Hood River, OR / Los Angeles, CA)
Flor was another great surprise for us. The live set was energetic and each track they played was something we needed on our upcoming summer playlist. Dreamy, upbeat and songs you can totally dance to, we were hooked. If you dig dreamy synth pop, flor needs to be at the top of your list. Each new single they have released so far for their upcoming album titled come out. you’re hiding is stellar. The album will be released May 19th.
Future Elevators (Birmingham, AL)
We were actually tipped off to check out Future Elevators by our own Hollie and we are so glad we did. The band is creating dreamy and laid back synth laden rock tracks. The vocals by Michael Shackleford are inviting and if you haven’t checked out their self titled release from 2016, put them on your list. “Modern World” is one of our favorite tracks from the album.
Spoon (Austin, TX)
What can we say. Spoon is amazing and they are probably our biggest artist on this list. We cannot say enough about the live quality of this band. Each time they perform live, it’s a stellar set. We are also super impressed with Hot Thoughts their newest album which is easily a contender for album of the year. Their translation of the new tracks live was stellar.
Sundara Karma (Reading, England)
Sundara Karma was probably one of our most anticipated bands to see for SXSW this year. We have been covering them for a while and it’s always exciting to see the overseas exports perform live in smaller intimate settings in the states during the festival. For us the live expectations we had were definitely exceeded. Frontman Oscar is a commanding presence on stage and it’s hard to believe he isn’t even old enough to drink yet. Many in the crowd were not familiar with Sundara Karma but were immediately impressed the minute they started playing. We really truly feel that Sundara Karma will be breaking out in a big way worldwide in 2017. They are a very talented band and they definitely deserve worldwide recognition.
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