The first day at SXSW is about getting your bearings. Shaking off the jet lag, figuring out what you forgot to pack, remembering how long the lines can be and how the overwhelming crowds can sometimes part for a moment to give you a perfect look at a band you fall in love with on the spot.
On Tuesday, we DJ’d a party at SXAmericas, the festival’s Latin music and technology offshoot. We heard Neil Young talk about Pono, his newly unveiled high quality audio player. We ate some pizza. We barely made it into Chance The Rapper’s only SXSW appearance, at the City of Chicago’s official SXSW showcase. We Ubered a pedicab. And yeah, we saw dozens of bands.
The night ended with All Songs hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton, NPR Music’s Stephen Thompson and guest Katie Presley gathering around a microphone to talk about the bands they saw on day one. Bob enjoyed Charli XCX and Cymbals. Stephen loved Jambinai’s Godspeed-style instrumental rock. Everybody who saw Royal Teeth loved them. (“Just as joyful and wonderful as I thought it would be.” –Robin; “A confetti gun of joy with very well-done hair.” –Katie; “I got the sense that that band is about to become really, really massive.” –Stephen)
You can listen to that conversation on this page, see photos of bands from all over Austin and read about highlights below. Follow along with our discoveries in a running playlist of music by the best bands we’ve heard so far, at the bottom of this page.
We’re just getting started. Tonight we’ll be streaming the official NPR Music SXSW showcase, featuring Damon Albarn, St. Vincent, Kelis, Eagulls and Perfect Pussy, live from Austin. That starts at 7:00 p.m. Central time.
Tuesday SXSW Highlights
- Bob Boilen (@allsongs): “Agnes Obel who, at the Central Presbyterian Church, set her crystal voice against beautiful arrangements of cello, violin and keyboard.”
- Ann Powers (@annkpowers): “Parker Millsap is a 20 year old from Oklahoma gaining a following in the Americana community. I really like his new album, but I wasn’t prepared for the wild, vast power of his voice and his remarkable charisma. This guy can yodel, he can sing a soul song for real, he can preach and he wiggles his leg like Elvis. Also, he looks like Leo DiCaprio in Titanic. A star in the making.”
- Robin Hilton (@nprobin): “The band Pins, four women from England, played at the Presbyterian Church, a space that could not contain them. Super fierce. Powerful drummer. They tore it up … sort of brash, surfer garage punk rock. Hardly anyone there. They needed a mosh pit.”
- Jasmine Garsd (@JasGarsd): “I checked out the Latin hip-hop showcase, including Puerto Rican rapper Alvaro Diaz and Brazilian Emicida. Diaz is one of the most talented live rappers I’ve seen in years and a counter movement to the mindful rappers of Latin America. Hip-hop has traditionally played the role of Latin America’s musical conscience — acts like Calle 13, Ana Tijoux and Mala Rdriguez. Alvaro Diaz is not that. He’s the little devil on your other shoulder. Emicida artfully combines traditional Brazilian instruments like the berimbau and the sounds of samba and batucada with hip-hop beats. As an added bonus, he was hilarious.”
- Felix Contreras (@felixatjazz): “A lovely plate of Mexican food, meeting Alt.Latino fans and seeing the Mexico City rock band Division Miniscula.”
- Katie Presley (@loveismaroon): “When people say ‘Keep Austin Weird,’ they mean, ‘Keep Austin like the crowd at Those Howlings.'”