Friday and Saturday at SXSW brought us some crazy weather: a hot and massive lightning storm one day, a windy sunny day the next. But even crazier than what happened in the air were the happenings on the ground. Whether off radar or on the main drag, the festival’s two most highly attended days had more good shows and exciting events than any one person could count. And while The Indy just barely scratched the surface of it all, what we found – mind-blowing undiscovered bands, corporate virtual reality experiences, and gigantic parties – made us eager to return. A highlights reel from Friday and Saturday:
Peaches – Toronto, Canada
Hotel San Jose
Friday night lit up with a dramatic storm of erotic electroclash beats and charged particles as Toronto’s Peaches headlined Hotel San Jose’s unofficial SXSJ under a dramatic lightning storm. Bedecked in furs and sparkles, the sex-positive gender-bashing electronic pioneer wasted no time heating things up under the pouring rain, asking “Has anyone been fucked today yet?” at the start of her set. From a duet with a drag queen named Becky to a drenched crowdsurf, Peaches’ set was one of the most empowered and empowering of the whole festival, not to mention rare – where else could one enjoin a mass chant of “Dick and balls!” in a downpour? With booming skies above and booming beats below, it was an unforgettable night.
Purple – Beaumont, Texas
Holy shit. Along with Peaches, this may have been the standout set at SXSW – and hardly anyone saw it. Tucked way off the grid in the whimsical Carousel Lounge, Texas’ own Purple rocked harder than almost any band I’ve seen in years, thanks in particular to the wild energy of drummer Hannah. Sounding something like the noisier moments of an early Be Your Own Pet mixed with the bravado of classic 70s and 80s rock bands, Purple blew us all away with their tremendous set. As a critic who admittedly finds himself often secretly bored at rock shows, this one renewed my faith in rock all over again.
Oshi – London, UK
The Brew Exchange
One of the highlights of Santa Barbara’s very own We The Beat’s Get Buzzed Showcase, London’s young gun Oshi mixed up dreamy washes of synth with deep hip-hop beats. Compared with others in the lineup, Oshi offered a thicker and more cohesive sound, mixing elements of dubstep and UK grime amidst the ethereal swell. Props to Kirk Reed and all the rest at SOHO for putting together such a solid and successful lineup of electronic, hip-hop, and dance artists – makes a homeboy proud.
Leah Capelle – Los Angeles, CA
I walked a stranger from the street, and walked out a fan. L.A.’s Leah Capelle and band are doing radio rock the right way. With a fine mixture of polish and passion, Capelle and company took hold of our ears and kept them firmly and happily attuned for an hour. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time until these fine young rockers are broadcast on frequencies across the country.
Oh Antonio + His Imaginary Friends – Austin, TX
There was nothing imaginary about the spirit of company and no holds barred good times that Oh Antonio + His Imaginary Friends whipped up at a Saturday night house party. Exploding with abundant joy and charisma and flush with violin and saxophone, Oh Antonio were a party in a bottle, offering up hugs and hi-fives across the crowded room. If there’s a way they can encapsulate their energy and market it as an anti-depressant, they should.
McDonald’s House Virtual Reality
One of the more memorable and surprising tech events at SXSW came from none other than fast food giant McDonald’s. With goggles and two hand-held controllers, participants could walk around and paint within a simulated enclosure with the golden arches as their muse. The eye-opening installation pointed to exciting and limitless possibilities ahead in all manner of fields, from music and art to marketing, medicine, sports, and psychiatry. Above, L.A.’s Gatsby’s Fiddle tries out the VR experience.
The 40 Oz. Bounce
A mansion near Lake Travis became the venue for the biggest and craziest after party of the week, one so packed that the two-story lakeside palace felt like a tiny closet. A veritable who’s-who and who-might-be of certain social media-savvy hip-hop circles, including Instagram giant Yes Julz plus up-and-coming musicians and groups like Cincinatti’s Tayson and Sacramento’s HOF Is Better promotions team, it was the place to be Thursday night until the cops showed up near dawn. Hope the homeowners didn’t mind the hundreds (and hundreds) of visitors.