Thursday at SXSW is generally the most stacked day of the week – there are always so many showcases to get to and so little time.
I got back downtown for the day around 1 PM, stuffed myself with some ramen on 6th Street, downed an iced coffee, and then caught Sunflower Bean again – this time at The Gatsby. They were the first band of the day for the popular Pandora showcase that is open to the public during the day, and the crowd built up pretty nicely by the time they played the single “Crisis Fest”. Singer Julia Cumming was rocking a dope pink sparkly pantsuit – a cross between Hillary Clinton and David Bowie, and a perfect representation of their glam-rock meets garage rock sound.
I tried to get into a showcase to see rising singer-songwriter Soccer Mommy, but the line stretched down the block and the best I could do was hear bits and pieces from outside the venue. I had nowhere else to be for about 30 minutes so I just waited in this line – the first real line waiting I did so far at SXSW.
I went and caught new indie pop singer Morgan Saint, who is a cross between Ellie Goulding with her sultry voice and MO with her downtempo pop sensibilities. She delivered a really fun set at the Pandora showcase, dedicating a song to her mom who was in the crowd halfway through the set. I’m looking forward to catching her on her next tour for sure.
One of my highlights of the whole week was seeing Kitten headline the all-female billed Girls To The Front showcase way down E. 6th St. at The Paper + Craft Pantry. She played a little outdoor stage and, true to her name, she climbed a tree during a jam part of a song (and almost got stuck!). She did a killer cover of The Cranberries’ “Dreams” (RIP Dolores O’Riordan) and played a bunch of new songs — my favorite being this one “Strange Embrace” that has an absolute banger of a chorus.
Next was the highlight of the whole week. LiveNation and Ticketmaster put together a private show with Phantogram, Local Natives, and Barns Courtney at Native Hostel, a pretty small event space for all these bands to be playing. A friend hooked it up and I was able to grab the rail for all three sets.
Barns Courtney always delivers a high-energy performance and didn’t disappoint. I thought he broke his guitar jumping around twice. It was a great set to see on a full stomach thanks to free barbecue from La Barbecue.
Local Natives are a band I know a handful of songs by but have never seen this up close. The whole crowd was singing along to their set and Sarah Barthel from Phantogram joined them to sing on one of the jams. It was a perfect appetizer for what was to come.
I’ve seen Phantogram more than a dozen times live, and they’re absolutely one of my favorite bands to see perform. Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter are legendary – Barthel is particularly badass and this may have been one of my favorite shows I’ve ever seen. We were right on the rail, literally a foot or two away from the madness as they ran through an hour-long set (uncommon for SXSW), delivering bangers from their latest album Three and also old favorites like “Mouthful of Diamonds” and “Black Out Days”. At the end of it, I was a sweaty mess and it took me about 40 minutes to regain my composure.
I closed out the night with sets at Palm Door on 6th from NoMBe and Billie Eilish, who I had seen earlier in the week. I noticed the venue wasn’t crazy packed for Eilish, but then I realized it was probably because the venue is 21+ and her staunchest fans are teenagers.
It was a helluva ride and now there are only two days left. The week goes way too fast.