Another year of SXSW has come and gone, and while most who attended are still figuring out how to adjust back to that thing we call real life, we’re all looking back on a week filled with fantastic music and fun times. If you followed the news and social media shenanigans throughout the week, you may have spent more time caught up in the gossip of the festival than the actual music. And while all of that stuff may dominate your feed, at the end of the day SXSW is still about the music, which I can assure you is going strong in the 30th year of the event.
On the fifth and final day of the music portion of SXSW, I bounced around and managed to catch a handful of excellent acts ranging from old favorites to up-and-comers. Across town, Glide Magazine contributor Caitlin Teibloom spent the day catching some of the bigger names of the festival at Rachael Ray’s annual Feedback Party. Between the two of us, we managed to see some of the best music SXSW had to offer. Photographer Maggie Boyd was also out and about capturing all sorts of different bands, and you can see her work below. Here are 8 picks from Saturday of SXSW…
The annual Brooklyn Country Cantina party was just getting into full swing when New Orleans artist Luke Winslow-King hopped on stage. Maybe it was the immaculate spring weather or the singer’s easy-going vocals, but as soon as he kicked off the set a crowd began to gather. Luke Winslow-King commanded attention with the kind of slide guitar playing that seems to rise from the bayou and float through the air like thick summer heat. The guitar playing on “Cadillac Slim” was accentuated by a sort of second line drum groove that made you want to bust into a parade right then and there, making Luke Winslow-King and his band as enjoyable as a cold daiquiri on a warm day.
David Wax Museum
Sometimes you see a band that – even though you may not personally be head over heels in love with their music – you find that it’s impossible to deny that they have the special something that could make them the next big deal. The David Wax Museum refer to themselves as “Mexo-Americana”, but a more accurate and general way to put it is to call what they do world folk music. Their set at the Brooklyn Country Cantina was lively and uplifting for a crowd that was feeding off the positivity they radiate through their music. At times the happy-go-lucky, buoyant lyrics brought the group into the kind of neo-folk ‘ho hey’ territory that audiences go crazy for. But the David Wax Museum showed off a more dynamic range of talent than the Mumfords and Lumineers with a mélange of worldly musical influences, and as a result it was hard not to let that positivity take hold of you.
James McMurtry seemed to be in an especially good mood at the Rebels and Renegades party at Threadgill’s. This was evident in his dry yet witty quips to the audience, which are normally slim to none when the Texas songwriter plays. Instead, McMurtry smiled, joked about the traffic, and even offered bits of insightful commentary about his songs. With a bushy grey beard, he seemed content to wrap up the afternoon with a mix of old favorites like “Childish Things” and the timeless dance-igniter “Choctaw Bingo”, and songs off his latest album Complicated Game, like the light-hearted “Ain’t Got a Place”, “How’m I Gonna Find You Now”, and “Copper Canteen”. McMurtry has been at the whole music thing for a long time now and he isn’t suddenly going to be some big star because he gets noticed at SXSW. The beauty is that he couldn’t care less. He has long had his own little corner of the music industry, and his set at Threadgill’s showed that he couldn’t be happier where he’s at right now.
Mail the Horse
With the scent of barbecue wafting through the air, the members of Mail The Horse took the stage at Lambert’s with the mission to remind us that alt-country is alive and well. The group’s set focused on songs off their 2015 album Planet Gates, and in the live setting the songs felt like a happy marriage between The Band, the Rolling Stones circa Exile On Main Street, Gram Parsons, and the Jayhawks. The pedal steel guitar danced around the piano and powerhouse drumming that would make Levon Helm smile, creating a blissfully intoxicated country sound. Each member of the band felt in tune with the others and more than willing to step in to help make the harmonies of every song soar high and pretty. In just about forty-five minutes Mail The Horse showed everyone in the room that downhome, twangified rock and roll can still be rousing and original.
Rachael Ray’s Feedback showcase is the place to be at Stubb’s each year, with a line snaking far down 9th street as people wait for free food and a spectacular lineup. This year was particularly spectacular, because it featured a wide variety of musical genres on a jam-packed 6-hour bill. Here were my highlights. –Caitlin Teibloom
When the weather is cool, the beer is free and you’re in Texas, you’ve got the perfect recipe for kicking up some dirt with a folk rock tune or two. Luckily, the Strumbellas from Canada were prepared to supply some good old-fashioned songs about getting married in a shotgun chapel and dying young. The standout of the six-piece band was Dave Ritter, the group’s animated keyboard-and-tambourine player, who looked like he was having as much fun dancing onstage with the band as people in the audience were. He cracked jokes between songs, jumped up and down, and generally appeared gleeful, which made the whole show’s atmosphere friendly.
“This is my favorite band, because it’s the only one I’m sleeping with,” joked Rachael Ray as she introduced The Cringe, fronted by her husband John Cusimano. The Feedback showcase founder was front and center as her hubby performed some classic rock ’n’ roll for Austin. The music felt tinged with 80s flair, despite the fact that the band dressed in classic black, as rockstars should. Cusimano’s yowls and guitarist James Rotondi’s licks revealed influences like AC/DC, and their cover of the Beatles’ “I’ve Got A Feeling” was a set highlight.
George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic
Only at SXSW can you see a legend like George Clinton perform an intimate day show from 10 feet away — it’s one of the things that makes the festival so magical. For unassuming audience members, the explosion of outer space funk jams rocked them right down to their Earth-boots, and the mass of people onstage (I counted at least 12) demanded that rock hands fly skyward. The show was a mix of funk, rock and rap, with theatrics — like a man dressed in a white feathery costume with a belt that said “NOSE” and a fake nose that said “F*ck George” doing handstands — added for good measure. Classic hits like “Flash Light” and “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)” were big sing-along dance parties, but at a P-Funk show, the dancing really never stops.
Jenny Lewis is a magnetic performer. Every movement she makes has style — she has the kind of natural confidence that demands every eyeball to be glued to her. So it’s no wonder that both Rachael Ray and Bill Murray were front-and-center for her showcase performance at Stubb’s, and she repaid her friends by singing right to them a few times during her set. But Jenny Lewis’ cool isn’t the only reason you go to see her — it’s her skillful songwriting, from her bombastic rockers (“See Fernando”), to her thoughtful ballads (“The Voyager”). Despite being super talented and surrounded by cool friends, perhaps one of the best things about Jenny Lewis is that she comes across as completely down-to-Earth and down to befriend her fans — she’s created her own universe of Jenny Lewis voyagers, out in the world spreading peace, love and good vibes.
Check out our photos and reviews of SXSW Music: