Our last two days at SXSW were eclectic and eventful, with some surprises from passionate performers and huge letdowns from highly anticipated ones. Check out our playlist of who we checked out throughout the week, and then read on to hear our takes on the last couple days in Texas:
Right after Mick Jenkins told us to “Drink more water,” D.R.A.M. had his fair share of call-and-response mantras — most notably “If you love your momma let me hear you say, yeah though!” and “Spread love!” D.R.A.M. is best known for his single “Cha Cha” which inspired — or arguably was blatantly ripped off by — Drake’s “Hotline Bling”. His performance was short — he only has one EP out so he doesn’t have much material to work with — but he and his DJ were clearly committed to putting on a good show. I’m not sure we’ll ever find somebody at SXSW happier than D.R.A.M. is when he’s doing “Cha Cha”. —Zach
Julien Baker makes excruciatingly sad songs with just her voice and her guitar. She’s young enough to bear X’s on her hands but mature enough to beautifully sing about depression, alcoholism and spiritual doubt. Her set entranced the whole room as she performed songs from her 2015 debut album “Sprained Ankle” and new ones she’d never done live before. It’s obvious from the emotional state I was in walking down Sixth Street after the show that Baker is a powerful and important songwriter who is only beginning to discover her potential. —Zach
Greta Kline, the singer and songwriter of Frankie Cosmos, apologized at the beginning of the show because she was losing her voice. Clearly she was not at the top of her game, but she still put on a good showcase of her short, sweet and simple folk songs. The set had a relaxed vibe, just her and a back-up vocalist without a fixed setlist. Her looseness and playfulness with the crowd was endearing and more than made up for the unfortunately subpar vocals. Frankie Cosmos has a new album called “Next Thing” which comes out April 1. —Zach
One of our most anticipated shows of the festival was a significant letdown. For one, the people in attendance clearly were looking for a hip-hop show that would feature big beats and hyped up energy so they could get loose and go insane. That is not Earl’s music. The Odd Future member instead stuck to dense bars and heavy, woeful subjects like depression and grief. But Earl also seemed to phone-in his set, with little energy or presence as he monotonically performed his 2015 album “I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside” in its entirety. He left the stage anticlimactically after 30 minutes. I’m not sure what should have been expected, but this underwhelming set from an incredibly talented lyricist was not it. —Zach
On our last day at SXSW, Neon Indian performed at Barracuda as part of Day Two of Pitchfork’s showcase. Neon Indian have gone through a slight reinvention on their latest album “Vega Intl. Night School”, moving away from the infamous genre moniker “chillwave” and towards a more disco and synthpop sound. Their set was danceable, playful and just plain fun as they moved through ridiculously catchy singles “Annie” and “Slumlord” and for the finale, adapted the popular track “Polish Girl” for their new instrumentation. Neon Indian’s dance party was a perfect way to celebrate our last day in Austin, TX. —Zach
Playing a mix of old and new material, The Zolas opened up the show spectacularly. The songs themselves can be taken at face value as pop songs with fun electronic backdrops — or, if you’re like me, you can listen to the lyrics in a sad attempt to sound like you know what you’re talking about and you’ll discover that they’re clever and smart, albeit cheesy at times. Put that together with bright drums and accenting guitar licks, and you’re set. Their sound is immersive and forward, which translates well to a live show. —Hannah
Thank you, Terra because after three days in Texas, I was aching to hear some solid, southern music that you can’t hear on the radio back home anymore (bro country? really?), much less in New York. However, when I went back to listen to more of her stuff after the gig, I could only find the studio version her first album, which lacks the soul I heard in the tent. Regardless, I still stand by the fact that Terra Lightfoot is a rocker that embodies the soul and intimacy necessary to create jazzy, striding rock. —Hannah
Late Wednesday night, I stumbled into the NPR SXSW event. When I got there, the stage was just changing to open up for Mitski. As soon as everything settled and sound check was done, Mitski, her guitarist, and drummer began to play. Describing her music as fluid doesn’t exactly cover it. Neither does ethereal. Mitski is great because she isn’t over the top; there’s a balance that is hard to achieve. She doesn’t try and flaunt her vocals, but they still draw you in. She doesn’t dress flamboyantly, but there wasn’t a person in the audience who was ready to look away for even a second. —Hannah
The Avett Brothers/Jamestown Revival
Playing back to back sets on Thursday night, these two bands who fuse rock, folk and country had the crowd moving the whole time at the Scoot Inn. Jamestown Revival is primarily a duo but had a full band onstage, giving their rootsy tunes a fuller sound that made you want to put your dancing shoes on. Meanwhile, The Avett Brothers added even more members to their four piece — including a kick-ass cellist — turning the venue into a full on party and bringing perfect jams for a warm Texas evening. —Alex
We also saw Mick Jenkins and The Lytics, but didn’t have space to include them in this recap. You should check them out anyway though.
Be on the lookout for interviews from our week at SXSW to come shortly!