Though established acts like Tove Lo and Bleachers made appearances at South By Southwest in Austin this year, the music festival is more about discovering artists looking for more exposure and/or promoting new releases. Among the 40-plus bands I saw this year, these 15 new(ish) artists stood out for their energy and originality.
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On Friday of South By Southwest Music, I seek out three artists at very different stages of their careers who are clearly engaging with the festival on different scales. Seeing these artists alongside one another brings to light part of what makes SXSW so unique: it’s a place where you can see an international superstar, a new act touring in support of a highly regarded first record, and an unsigned young singer hoping for a record deal, all in one night.
Having essentially marinated in a stew of rock guitars for the past two days—not that that was a bad thing!—on day three of the 2015 South By Southwest Music Festival I decide to traverse as many genres as I possibly can. From a Korean doo-wop girl group to Long Beach rap, with some detours into neo-soul and freaky British electropop, my findings are stimulating and surprising through and through. I also spend a lot of time in churches, which yields gorgeous acoustics and some new favorite singer-songwriters. For the sake of attempting some modicum of coherence, I’ll group artists according to the broad genre traits that they share, though that’s not at all meant to undersell the distinctive qualities of each performance.
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.
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.