Saturday at SXSW, things go over the edge. Language fails. The mind shimmies free from its moorings. Maybe it’s the fatigue. Maybe it’s the crowds. You could argue that the constant waves of sound that rattle eardrums over five days in Austin jars something loose inside a person’s brain.
Whatever it was, as the final night of SXSW drew to a close, any attempts by our All Songs Considered hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton to hide their exhaustion and loopiness were unsuccessful. In one club, Robin heard music from 20 years in the future (played by a band called Marijuana Deathsquads). On the dirty floor of another venue, Bob Boilen found a bracelet inscribed with the word “Dream” that convinced him he’s just a brain in a jar being injected with chemicals to make him happy. Take heart Bob, a fellow traveler had the same idea.
Thankfully, NPR Music’s Stephen Thompson and Frannie Kelley helped to keep things tethered to reality, maybe because they finally got to see performers they’d been pursuing all week. Stephen caught a breezy, 12-song, 13 minute set by Tony Molina and Frannie saw Louisiana rapper Kevin Gates, whose energy and aggression were palpable. Robin caught his SXSW white whale in Ages and Ages, who he’s been trying to see without success since the 2011 festival.
Bob caught up with Kishi Bashi and The Kite String Tangle, but his moment of revelation was the U.K. group Melt Yourself Down. One night after seeing the saxophone and drum trio Moon Hooch, this was a group with a similar setup plus a singer, and the effect was “Moon Hooch times ten.” We’re not sure we trust Bob’s brain-in-a-jar to do that kind of high-level math, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for now.
You can hear that whole conversation in the audio player on this page, and read highlights from our staff in Austin below. Listen to our discoveries in a playlist of music by the best bands we heard at SXSW 2014 at the bottom of this page. And you can find a lot more of our SXSW coverage on Twitter, (@nprmusic), Instagram and Facebook.