We went, we conquered, we got sunburnt (in March!), we slept for two days—and now we are glad to share our 13 favorite moments of SXSW 2013. From the awesome (dancing in church pews) to the revealing (why are women in metal still an issue?)—one thing is clear: Ladies ruled the fest this year.
(In no particular order)
Paloma gives us Faith in her star wattage after awe-inspiring church set: Wearing her Sunday best, the rising British pop/soul singer raised the roof on Austin’s Presbyterian Church with near hymnal versions of the best singles from her American debut Fall to Grace. Although Faith didn’t have nearly the arena crowd she’s used to back home, she gave no less a stadium-sized show, crawling over pews, sprinting down the aisle like a runaway bride and inciting a dance party at the feet of the altar. If you haven’t heard of Faith yet, get to know her before she conquers America.
The brahs at Vice offer ladies night: Yeah it’s ridiculous the whole shebang was sponsored by Garnier (get your hair done at our style stations and don’t sweat too much on the dance floor!) but kudos to Vice for sparing us multiple wraparound lines by giving us all our faves in one spot. This impressive lineup included dark wave darlings IO Echo, dream weavers Austra, party pop duo Icona Pop and the unforgettable alt rockers The Joy Formidable. Plus when Jordan ran out of phone juice, a simple tweet to Radio Shack got her a portable cell charger, delivered to the Viceland doors. Social media score!
Royal Thunder’s Mlny battles a sore throat, or so she says: Hard to believe someone with a cold could deliver such an ace performance in a smoky bar (apparently cigarettes and weed can be smoked anywhere in Austin); then again Mlny is the type of performer who’d probably keep chugging on in a war zone—and that has made her one of our favorite vocalists (and bassists) of the moment. The Atlanta band brings the charm on lauded debut CVI with layered songs that imbue dirty southern rock with psych warblers all caught in the barbs of metal dialect. Another plus, running into author Laina Dawes and singer of Judas Priestess, Militia.
Women in Metal panel asks why is this still an issue: Read our review of Laina Dawes’ What Are You Doing Here?, and you’ll understand why this panel was so essential. Thankfully much has changed to accept women artists and fans in the scene, yet more is needed to be done according to the speakers, which included Dawes, metal journalist Kim Kelly, Mlny of Royal Thunder, Witch Mountain drummer Nate Carson, SiriusXM radio host Zeena Koda and Mortals drummer/Tom Tom contributing editor Caryn Havlik. Much of the discussion focused on the image of women in metal (ahem, Revolver) and the perception that female fans can’t “keep up” with their male cohorts. Believe us, Kelly knows the name of all the demos! Bonus points to the lovely duo Massive Scar Era from Egypt who were in the crowd; they happen to be the only female metal band from the country.
Pyyramids cover PJ Harvey: Drea Smith (of He Say, She Say fame) has won us over with her new band Pyyramids (her project with OK Go’s Tim Nordwind) that blends Morcheeba’s mystique with The Smiths’ moody compositions. Yet if the original material like “Human Beings” and “Don’t Go” wasn’t enough to tempt new listeners, surely their cover of Harvey’s “Rid of Me” sealed their fate as an artist to watch. Check out our video interview with the band.
On An On invites us sidestage for The Zombies: When we went to check out and interview Chicago dream pop trio On An On we weren’t expecting to be standing sidestage with keyboardist Alissa Ricci to watch legendary ‘60s psych band The Zombies. But luckily we got cozy real fast and after watching the vets perform “Time of the Season,” we were just as impressed by Ricci and her band who were voted the #1 band to check out at SXSW by Time Magazine. They still have us gushing over new single “The Hunter,” which is one of our favorite Videos of the Day.
Tegan reveals she would never have signed a deal without Sara: We didn’t even know that was on the bargaining table, but apparently it was after the sisters’ early SXSW showcases years ago. Thankfully the twins stuck together, leaving us with fine-tuned harmonies, slick songwriting and one of our personal favorites, “Walking with a Ghost,” which was perfectly executed at this iheartRadio show.
Jared Leto plugs PBS: Mitt Romney who? The 30 Seconds to Mars lead singer (or Jordan Catalano for those of us who grew up in the days of Lisa Frank) loves him some tweets from the Public Broadcasting System. In his candid conversation with Twitter Music (held at the intimate Sonos Studios), Leto talked about the role of social media in music and proved he may be the biggest supporter of artists in the biz with not one but THREE companies he’s developed for his up-and-coming colleagues. Plus the guy just launched a song into space. Fingers crossed we can make him our new Male Boxx so we can hear more.
Free Energy declares Titus Andronicus Forever: The power pop band is always a fun set to watch but perhaps our favorite part of their bar show was drummer Nick Shuminsky’s T-shirt ordering “Titus Andronicus Forever.” FE has quite a kinship with the historical indie rockers, who we still adore even if our favorite Amy Klein has moved on from the band. Paul Sprangers if you’re listening, you guys need Skip-Its for your set. Check out the female artists Sprangers loves in our recent Male Boxx profile.
Lissie’s set gets cut short but she soldiers on: Let’s face it, SXSW is not always the ideal setting for a show, especially when a soundcheck goes awry or takes longer to wrap than the beer line. Unfortunately singer-songwriter Lissie was one of the latter casualties at her late Friday night set at Stubbs. “We have like five more songs for you though,” she lamented after a short platter of classics and a few new tracks that have our ears angling to hear the new LP. “Well then I’m playing this next song like my fucking life depends on it.” And she did, slashing “Pursuit of Happiness” wide open with her guitar and operating it back to a pulsating beat that had the revelers on the sandy grounds kicking up a dust storm. Dare we say we like her cover better than Kid Cudi’s original? We do.
On the way to Wild Belle, we crash into The Belle Game: After a lunch with the Germans at a house-bar on Rainey Street, Jordan and I heard some sweet sounds across the street. We chowed down fast to check out Vancouver’s ballad busting The Belle Game just before we hit up Wild Belle at Waterloo Records in Austin’s “grown up district” (according to our cab driver). After WB, we came upon another discovery—rocker Dame who was holding court at the mega Whole Foods skydeck across the street. In the sea of corporate headliners, we are glad there is still some heart behind the emerging artists channel of the festival.
Lianne La Havas and Hunter Valentine converge in a car garage: While waiting for Brit soul/folk singer Lianne La Havas, we were pleasantly surprised to find ballsy punk rockers Hunter Valentine revving up the Empire car garage. Our fist pumping quickly gave way to teary eyes as the poet La Havas tore on our heartstrings with confessional “Lost and Found.”
Women Shaping Texas in the 20th Century: Although it wasn’t part of SXSW, we were pleased to see billboards and banners promoting the Bullock Texas State History Museum’s “Women Shaping Texas in the 20th Century” exhibit. The gallery (open through May) tells the “many histories of the determined women who stepped out and stepped up to fight for rights and improve public services,” including Barbara Jordan, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Clara Driscoll and Juanita Craft.