Yes, some people do listen to less famous bands at SXSW. Here were my favorites

6th Street around 9pm. Madness already, I think this was Thursday night.

6th Street around 9pm. Madness already, I think this was Thursday night.

As every media outlet has been writing for years, SXSW is a big bloated corporate monster that had some standard organizational problems this year, but it didn’t stop me from seeing 50 bands, there are problems every year. Years of attending and deep, former drunk knowledge of 6th Street from my college days helped me out immensely (miss you, nasty ole’ Treasure Island), as I bobbed and weaved through crowds and skipped the big elaborate shows to see bands I’d never seen before. I flew in Monday night to catch the tail end of Interactive, but mostly because I love watching the change in people as you move from Tuesday into Wednesday; blazers, jeans and Google Glass quickly turn into black skinny jeans, black t-shirts, and black hotpants. The streets were packed, but once you got inside most venues it was really roomy thanks to fire marshal capacity levels, and the bands were always happy to chat. Out of all those bands, these were the ones that stood out the most to me, and I can’t wait to watch their future career trajectories.

Mozes and the Firstborn

Mozes and the Firstborn


Mozes and the Firstborn: My favorite parties of the festival were definitely the Netherlands showcases at Bar96. Polite people, loud authentic garage rock and a food trailer inside made me keep coming back to them. I’ve been listening to Mozes and the Firstborn’s latest album a lot lately and expected them to be good- they ended up blowing me away. Walking a fine line between control and chaos, this Dutch garage band had top notch showmanship, a big crunchy sound with catchy hooks, and most of all skills. I do my best to dance and make other people know it’s ok to move, sometimes it works out to awesome photos like the one above of him pointing at me. They were one of the first bands I saw, and made a lot of the garage rock bands I saw after them seem like a bunch of fakers.

Skaters

Skaters


SKATERS: As you can see, photos of shows at night turn out pretty bland and boring with the same official SXSW banner behind them, so I mainly just shot photos during day shows. When I walked into the SKATERS show and saw some mega-hot rocker babes, I knew they were going to be good, and probably good looking. Right on both counts, this New York punk group had some of the catchiest melodies like an East Coast Rancid, and their cool, confident energy was so addictive that a rowdy mosh pit was going through most of the set, much to the chagrin of the young ladies that pushed their way to the front row then quickly were spit out to the sides.

Temples at Radio Day Stage

Temples at Radio Day Stage


Temples: Temples were one of the bands I was most excited to see, and they didn’t disappoint. Calm and confident on stage, their sound is gorgeous and full live, and people were singing along to every word. In a week filled with throwback 60’s psych acts, they were the most polished and the sweetest. Very composed.

Anna Fox Rochinski from Quilt

Anna Fox Rochinski from Quilt


Quilt: Gorgeous psych-pop out of New England, I walked myself out to East Austin to attend the Austin Psych Fest showcase to see them since they aren’t hitting up Denver this tour. They really got much wilder live than I expected, and I couldn’t keep my eyes off the calmly beautiful Anna Fox Rochinski (loving the black/navy/brown combo). Unfortunately, their tour van was just totaled, so if anyone has an extra dollar to help a band finish their tour, it’s more than appreciated by the band and the fans:

http://quiltmusic.org/quiltmusic/HOME.html

Birth of Joy

Birth of Joy


Birth of Joy: Amsterdam’s Birth of Joy played a blistering set that caused me to text a friend I just saw “come back here now!!” When I wrote about their newest single I thought it sounded Doors-esque. Seeing them live did nothing to change that opinion, and that’s a great thing. Entertaining as hell, rowdy, psychedelic fun in nothing but music set without a moment to breathe. Less pomp than the Doors, more down to earth, straight up melt your face rock.

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The Districts – Band to Watch

Shirt by Anonymous Mad Villainy

Shirt by Anonymous Mad Villainy

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania has always been on my list of places to visit, and when Phish played there last year I got to see some Mennonites at the show, but never got to explore the area. In my head it’s this magical place where carts and buggies live in harmony with automobiles, cats and dogs walking side by side, and rising young band The Districts from the area sound exactly like what I imagine is played in little fictional town squares there. They’ve got an Americana sound that has more oomph to it than past popular rootsy bands like Mumford & Sons, the blues and indie rock slants sound fresh and unique in comparison, and it’s pretty hard to believe they are teenagers; Rob Grote’s vocals drip with wisdom and thoughtfulness and crackle with emotion. Harmonica and slide guitar smooth things out while bright full percussion bring a steady beat to their music that should have festival crowds going nuts in the future. They are playing here in Denver at Lost Lake on Mar. 16th, I imagine they will never play a show here that small again. I could easily see them getting scooped as an opener on some Red Rocks summer night if their trajectory stays on course. Listen to their single “Funeral Beds” here and stream the whole album at their Bandcamp linked below.

http://thedistricts.bandcamp.com/

Tweens “Be Mean” is a perfect mix of bratty and sweet

Tweens

Cincinatti’s Tweens got a sweet break when Shake It Records owner Jim Blaze recommended them to Kim Deal of The Breeders as an opening act, and their perfect bratty garage pop sound influenced by Bay Area punks ended up keeping them around for the whole tour. Bridget Battle has a clarity in both her voice and lyrics that makes their music so easy to listen to, and the rough garage production is a nice yin to her Juliana Hatfield-crossed-with-The-Donnas like vocals’ yang. This spring they will be touring with Waxahatchee and Murder City Devils, but I’m most pumped to check them out at SXSW. Listen to “Be Mean” below, love the last little push of awesomeness at the end.

Feb. 03 MOTR Pub – Cincinnati, OH*
Feb. 07 Union Transfer – Philadelphia, PA^
Feb. 08 Webster Hall New York, NY^
Feb. 09 The Fillmore – Silver Spring, MD^
Mar. 06 The End – Freakin’ Weekend V Nashville, TN
Mar. 07 Savannah Stopover – Savannah, GA
Mar. 10 LogOn Cafe – Beaumont, TX
Mar. 12-15 SXSW – Austin, TX
Mar. 17 Low Key Arts – Hot Springs, AR
Mar. 29-Jun. 1 Nelsonville Music Festival – Nelsonville, OH

* w/ Waxahatchee
^ w/ Murder City Devils

Habibi- “I Got the Moves”

habibi

Brooklyn girl group Habibi‘s new single is a little cloudpuff of a song, the smooth 60’s garagepop sound sweet but not too syrupy. Their name means “my love” in Arabic, and their sound is feminine and sexy. Hope they make it out to SXSW again this year. Listen here:

Courtney Barnett – Artist to Watch

photo by Chris La Putt

photo by Chris La Putt

Melbourne’s Courtney Barnett is a refreshing, dry witted DIY performer who releases her earnest, psychfolk tunes on her own label, Milk! Records. Her single “Avant Gardener” made Pitchfork’s Top 100 singles list this year, and for good reason. She’s got a tint of Bob Dylan in her rambling, beat driven narratives that poke fun at herself and the rest of the world, with a deadpan singsong voice with inflections reminiscent of Liz Phair.

Listen to and buy the album here: http://store.milkrecords.com.au/album/the-double-ep-a-sea-of-split-peas

Superfood – Band to Watch

superfoodpressshot

Sometimes you fall in love with a band that has only just begun and has very little material out there. You play those three songs over and over, checking for US tour dates and anticipating their EP release. Yesterday the waiting paid off a little, as they released a video for their new song “Melting”. Their scattered 90’s pop sound is insanely catchy and extremely accessible, at times reminding me of Weezer and Beck but with direct Britpop connotations.

Here is their soundcloud with the other two songs that exist on the internet. Here’s to 2014!

Band of the Day – The Spyrals

SPYRALS

Hypnotic garage bands from San Francisco absolutely do it for me. The Spyrals have risen above the rest with a more classic approach, tight drumming and dizzy guitar riffs. This trio is jangly, fuzzy, trippy, and lead singer Jeff Lewis has a great commanding presence and a perfect rock star voice, he can cry without whining the way Neil Young sings. Their album they released this summer, “Out of Sight”, is a great collection of tight, Bay Area sounding rock and roll. I know it’s a cheap cop out to say a band sounds like another, but these guys really do the early Rolling Stones sound well. Opener “Need Your Fire” sounds like it should be in a Quentin Tarantino movie, while “Such A Pain” makes you shimmy with the heavy use of tambourine and delicate repeated guitar riffs. The title track is exactly what you would think a San Francisco garage rock band would sound like, man they nail this sound.

Most of the songs clock in under three minutes, making this album very economical and great for running errands, you never have to sit in the parking lot for eleven more minutes til the song ends like you do with the Grateful Dead. While they have psychedelic tendencies live, at the end of the day this is a tight, concise garage rock band that needs to be played on everyone’s radio. The bassist Dylan Edrich has done time with Thee Oh Sees and Mikal Cronin, so fans of those should check these guys out. Future looks jangly and bright for these guys.

Listen to the album at their bandcamp: The Spyrals “Out of Sight”