On day two of the 2015 South By Southwest Music Festival, I make it my mission to check out bands I’ve heard tons of buzz about but haven’t seen live, bands who’ve either released very little music so far or who are famous elsewhere but haven’t gained tons of traction in America yet. Throughout the day and deep into the night, I’m blown away by every single band I see, so here’s hoping that the word gets out about all of this talent. Rather than narrating the day chronologically, I’ll start with the acts that left the heaviest impression on my consciousness and then proceed from there. These are bands that will—or, at the very least, should—blow up in 2015.
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The Monday of South By Southwest’s week-long takeover of Austin is always a strange day, as the Interactive portion of the festival (read: network-happy tech entrepreneurs and designers) comes to an end while droves of decidedly less put-together fans descend in preparation for the Music festival, which starts on Tuesday. This means that eager, jumpy music obsessives end up rubbing shoulders with well-appointed Silicon Valley types, the latter becoming tipsy on fancy cocktails and dropping words like “disruption” and “synergy” that music fans were familiar with long before the ‘90s tech boom made them trendy. It’s an odd mix, but these encounters make for exactly the kind of serendipetous weirdness that distinguishes SXSW from other, more thematically cohesive festivals.
There was a festive vibe in the air as the 2015 O.penVAPE Tour launched in Southern California at the end of January. A co-headlining show featuring longtime jamrock stalwart Keller Williams and rising funk phenoms in the Motet, the tour also celebrates one of the winners of 2014’s culture wars—the cannabis oil vape pen. “Vape” was in fact the Oxford Dictionary word of the year for 2014, as the popularity of the personal vaporizer pen skyrocketed in the wake of the booming legal cannabis industry in Colorado.
CMJ 2014 started off on a Tuesday and continues through the weekend giving a lot of unseen, unheard and unsigned bands a chance to catch the attention of a music blogger or critic (of which there are plenty at any given showcase). As I have done for the past couple of years, I made my first CMJ showcase stop the New Zealand showcase, though this time it moved from LPR to Webster Hall. While enjoying some savory pies, I caught electro-pop singer Chelsea Jade and the band Doprah. However, I knew that Jukebox the Ghost were doing a launch party for their latest, self-titled album at a swank hotel’s rooftop, so I had to cut out early to see the pop band. It was the first time drummer Jesse Kristin sung a song in public (from what I understood)! But their set ended around 9 and, as the CMJ schedule has music for hours and hours, I just wandered back to Webster Hall to see another poppy band, Little Daylight as part of a showcase with Tiny Victories, Carousel and more. For a while it seemed like Tiny Victories set would be cut short as the showcase was behind schedule, but they did get in a song or two after doing a Tom Petty cover. The light crowd appreciated the extra opportunity to dance along. Then the crowd continued to dance stage during Little Daylight’s set, which too had a cover, Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”.
Canadian musician Afie Jurvanen, aka Bahamas, is a regular in the social scene / musical circles of his country and has a loyal following in these United States. If considering his self-appointed moniker, the sunny islands of the Bahamas might not be the first connection you make when you think of a musician from Canada. However the music Jurvanen creates is far more evocative of ocean-side bonfires and hot, sunny days with its easy going tunes than anything else. It is also fitting that Bahamas has signed to Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records for the release of his third album, Bahamas is Afie, for which he is currently touring to support with fellow Canadian Tamara Hope (The Weather Station) opening for him (and him sitting in on drums for her).
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