All roads lead to SXSW. Now in its 30th year, the massive citywide festival continues to attract hundreds of thousands of musicians, fans, and representatives from the music, film, food, video game, and tech industries. Music spills out of every building and attendees flood the streets — for a music lover, there are few better experiences. The Independent was fortunate to attend this year. Here were some of Thursday’s highlights.
Surfbort — Brooklyn, NY
Punk isn’t dead — it’s just wearing a dress and messing with gender norms. A dirty punk band from Brooklyn, Surftbort thrashed onstage as they trashed Trump and gave a big F You to all things straight and narrow. The brash vocals brought to mind Sonic Youth’s Kim Deal and the thick bass and crashing drums in a wild set — thoroughly and meaningfully punk, beautifully rock, and lots of fun.
Ice Cream — San Francisco, CA
Ultra-catchy and irresistibly danceable, these Bay Area garage rockers — featuring a one-time UCSB attendee — were a definite highlight. Alternating between hard licks and a sometimes more soft serve approach, the band even threw in the occasional psychedelic meltdown. Whatever brain-freeze the humidity had numbed us into, Ice Cream whipped us back to life. Absolutely a band to look out for.
Dennis Jay — Austin, TX
“Christmas in the Badlands / The beauty of this rugged land takes your breath away,” sang Dennis Jay on his song “Christmas in the Badlands.” In a stacked lineup of country artists at Black BBQ’s, Jay’s songs stood out as haunting and expansive as the lonely landscapes he sang about. A moving and powerful side to some delicious brisket sandwiches.
BOYTOY – Brooklyn, NY
Seneca Co-Op House
Another genuine gem from a city of bands-a-minute, BOYTOY stood out with their aggressive, exciting, here-and-queer off-kilter quality. The bass lines were pounding and the drums pummeling, and the vocals, though fuzzed-out in the mix, lent some ether to the sonic sludge. Backed by a wall reading ‘POWER TO THE PEOPLE,’ it was as affirmatively liberated and liberating as any show that day.
The Wilder Society – Los Angeles, CA
The Sahara Lounge
Country-rock by way of Los Angeles, the band sounded great, another stalwart entry in the ever-widening field of country/folk-rockers. But then they whipped out the electric banjo with a sound as grandiose as Explosions in the Sky, and suddenly The Wilder Society stood out as something special indeed. On the beautiful “Turning Tides,” the band lulled the crowd into a reverie with epic waves of sound.
Lucy & La Mer – Los Angeles, CA
The Sahara Lounge
On first glance it would be easy for lazy ears and eyes to dismiss Lucy & La Mer as just another girl with a ukelele. You’d be wrong. Equipped with a voice almost out of time, reminiscent of the smokier vocals of 1940s jazz crooners, and a lovably sweet aesthetic to boot, Lucy stood out as a voice to be heard in the Sahara Lounge’s singer-songwriter showcase. By turns delightful and other times darkly stirring, she made us sway and slowdance, a nice lullaby to end the day.
Stay tuned for more SXSW coverage!