Quite possibly the world’s music A&R event of the year, SXSW is a music/film/tech conference by day and a biblical collection of artist and label showcases by night. It’s the festival that inspired Brighton’s The Great Escape, combining a week of conferences, networking opportunities and, of course, stellar live music.
So it’s a bit of a journey. That, I will admit. Especially when you have to fly to Austin via Seattle (which is near Canada in case you didn’t know. I didn’t). But I have to say, it’s unlike any festival I’ve ever attended. The best way I can describe it is if you had The Great Escape, then combined it with a full blown festival like Reading or Bestival. That’s the level of chaos you’re dealing with.
It can be easy when you go to these music industry events, to focus on networking and meeting new people, and forget about seeing bands. So I made a point not to be that guy this year, and got to see acts based on tip-offs, secret showcases and word-of-mouth. It’s a worldwide melting pot of new talent, so to miss out on that seemed like a life-long regret as I’m unlikely to be back in Austin any time soon. With that in mind, I decided to put together my five highlights from a week that I won’t be forgetting in a hurry.
London five-piece jazz band Ezra Collective have been said to be “pioneering the new wave of UK jazz music” (Boiler Room), and one thing’s for sure – they lit up The Main II at this year’s SXSW. These guys have been on quite a journey over the last 12 months; 2017 saw them sell out legendary London venue Ronnie Scott’s on two occasions, and the release of their sophomore EP Juan Pablo: The Philosopher. There’s great respect for their classic jazz influences whilst they manage to create their own distinctive, modern style and their laid-back, effortless approach delighted the adoring SXSW attendees.
The Best Female Solo Artist at the Unsigned Music Awards made multiple appearances at this year’s SXSW, impressing with her artistic style and dominant stage presence. With performances displaying an eclectic fusion of funk, pop and rock, Elle Exxe stole the limelight with her edgy sound alongside bags of enthusiasm and passion. Heavy riffs, synth-melodies and infectious hooks galore – a spectrum of colour, fun and most importantly, quality from a fast-rising artist who we all need to keep an eye on.
Leon Of Athens
In February, London-based Greek indie-pop star Leon of Athens released his brand-new album Xenos, produced by David Kosten (Bat For Lashes, Marina & The Diamonds), and fans at SXSW were given a superb showcase of the new material from the indie-pop sensation. The new project encompasses an array of styles, from the cheery ‘Aeroplane’ to the deep, bass-heavy ‘Serpent’s Egg’, whilst lead single ‘Utopia’ cranks up the energy with such an anthemic chorus. Leon Of Athens went down a storm at SXSW, and he’ll be back in London on April 20th for a show at Nambucca.
Rosemary & Garlic
With nearly 1 million monthly listeners on Spotify and gaining worldwide media attention, Dutch indie-folk duo Rosemary & Garlic have emerged as one of the most exciting acts in the genre in recent years. They’ve just released their self-titled album, and they delighted crowds at SXSW with performances at Waller Ballroom and Central Presbyterian Church. We saw them at the official Dutch music showcase – big thanks to them for the waffles and free drinks! Delicate, intricately-crafted sounds from the immensely talented duo that take you away to another place. Sit back, relax and enjoy the beautiful music of Rosemary & Garlic.
You couldn’t escape Superorganism at SXSW, they seemed to be everywhere! They’re a collection of music enthusiasts with a mutual creative mindset from all corners of the globe who met over the internet, and they’re totally one of a kind. With a diverse sound that’s impossible to categorise, they wowed SXSW attendees with their electronic, infectious sounds of their new self-titled album, and their high-energy, charismatic stage presence.
Lead photo: Superorganism