SXSW is known for many things… whether it’s throngs of happy music lovers, rediscovering their love of seeking the best new bands, or the pack of tech guys in networking nirvana. Or, the film geeks and geek-ettes, gawking in gritty discourse over the merits (or lack thereof) of their latest screening. For me, though, SX represents an opportunity to discover, learn and absorb — music, glorious music. And, we’re talking both the music scene and everything else marginally music-related, yet still worth a moment of my time. From learning how to become a part of a metaverse concert (heck, learning WHAT the metaverse is to start with…) to minting musical NFTs — we did it all.
In the course of 10 days, I found myself 10 contenders for ‘favorite new band.’
Some were discovered by pure luck and happenstance, others through tried-and-true research. I’d like to share them with you. On SXSW-eve (if that’s even a thing?), we visited an opening showcase at Austin favorite, Hotel Vegas. They packed out the back patio, as well as two indoor stages, by the time I arrived in the early evening — which is not uncommon for this hotspot. It was the 101x Homegrown showcase, featuring a number of incredible artists and one particular favorite — Mobley. I’d never seen him live before and this was an experience I possibly wasn’t prepared for. He is a phenom of all musical descriptions, taking over a one-man-who-plays-every-instrument stage, thoroughly wowing the crowd in the process. It was a good start to my ‘find something new and fantastic at SX’ mantra… a very good start.
Shortly thereafter, we attended the Doc Martens showcase down on Rainey Street, held at the one-and-only Container Bar: a structure made up (quite literally) of shipping containers stacked around a core hall of music, with sound reverberating through a courtyard filled to the brim with the coolest crowd in Austin.
There was a free tattoo booth, many a man bun and drinks all around.
The three-day showcase was a smorgasbord of incredible indie acts; we were fortunate enough to stop by for several of them. But, the standout was songstress and trans-rights activist Ezra Furman. With one hell of a rowdy live set, she took over the stage with energy to match prowess. In the spirit of keeping the rock theme alive, we then met up with Phoenix rock outfit Jane N the Jungle later that day. Opening for Sammy Hagar on the SXSW Outdoor stage at Ladybird Lake, they wowed a shoreline of adoring fans with powerful vocals and kickass riffs.
Perhaps the luckiest of lucky happenstances occurred on our return to Hotel Vegas for showcase two out of three. We snuck into the densely-packed indoor stage (which was already, by some accounts, past capacity), lured by the sonic experience leaking from the back door. Whispers of awe and amazement preceded the experience. So, we followed the flow, became the second-to-last people admitted as the room reached official capacity (but, who’s counting?) and then found ourselves face-to-face with the live music experience of a lifetime — Faux Real. I can’t even describe them. I cannot. Magic. Musical psychosis, rhythmic art in motion, wrapped in a synchronicity of indie-80s dance pop — equal parts choreographed, but also definitely not. Alt-art pop fluidity in its finest… far beyond description and, perhaps, beyond our deserving. Just do yourself a favor and catch them out live someday.
Falling back into the realm of thorough musical research, we cruised over to catch one of rap’s brightest newcomers. Here to show Flamingo Cantina a genre-bending hip hop performance of epic proportions, Migs718 brought refreshing energy to his SX showcase, leaps and bounds ahead of the rest.
We then slipped away to a less-than-official showcase (shh… don’t tell anyone!) with Greenbeard, known for flawlessy gritty stoner rock.
We strayed only because it was a preview of their later official showcase and what’s better than one show? (…two! Thank you SX…) In the process of slipping away, we came across yet another lucky discovery: psych rock legends Scorpion Child, who blew our minds on the Far Out Lounge’s Stoner Jam stage. I would like to hereby nominate them as official SXSW artists 2023. (Can I do that…? Who knows!) And, let me now mention the juiciest of SXSW guilty pleasures — the secret of all SX veterans and anyone local. I may not be allowed to speak of this, but… the Unofficial Showcase. It is perhaps the greatest addition to your Official SX schedule and THE way to sneak away for a hot minute to escape the hype, serendipitously meet your favorite musician in person and/or otherwise just revel in the underground madness of SX overflow. All of the above happened that day.
On our final SX night, we crammed not one, not two, but three new artist discoveries. On each, we walked out of the venue post-show proclaiming “these guys are my new favorite”! We do say that a lot, I’ll admit, but that’s kind of how it rolls at SX. Who were these three you ask? The first was a little showcase over at Easy Tiger East where Spaceflight Records descended upon the outdoor stage with a smashing selection of Texan artists. The Sideshow Tragedy just about brought us to our knees, with a jolt of lyrically insightful bluesy rock, the sexy tones of an old resonator guitar and the energy to lift our jaws from the floor — in order to allow our feet to move, that is. Later that very same day, I managed to squeak in an afternoon at Consequence’s Brooklyn Bowl. These guys are renowned for bringing a solid lineup of talent wherever they go, so I couldn’t miss it. The show did not disappoint: I wasn’t quite prepared for how much I fell head-over-heels for Canadian indie rockers, Ellevator.
To wrap the day, we had one final blowout and I knew this one would be big, big enough that it was worth convincing a gang of local music lovers to join me in the wee hours of the morning on the dark, dangerous streets of downtown Austin. I kid. But, Bourgeois Mystics brought the dance party to Russian House for the very last set of the very last night on the very last day of SXSW 2022 and wow… what a way to end the week! Only 340-ish days and counting until SXSW 2023. Will I see you there?
Photography by Kaili Rose