SXSW 2014 Wrap-up: 5 Favorite Acts
Published: March 19, 2014
Though it was still a stellar, predominantly free week to experience the latest and greatest in the game, the bloated spectacle of this year’s South By Southwest Music Conference continued to move away from its intended origins of celebrating music for music’s sake. In 2014, branding—though inevitable as a financial backbone—dominated the event. Sponsors plastered central Austin with a slew of logos, while lines for big or buzzing names snaked along multiple blocks and “RSVP for entry” policies acted as a thin veil for sucking up email addresses. Of course, my skeptical take on SXSW’s triviality was significantly formed by witnessing Rashad Owens drunkenly charge a stolen sedan through Red River and East 10th streets, accelerating to plow his way through a crowd, killing three, injuring 23 and turning last Wednesday’s celebration on Red River into a sprawling crime scene.
For better or worse, the music industry’s largest annual party forged on. From tear-dropping acoustic acts to ear-splitting punk, here’s a recap of bands that made our SXSW experience.
Toronto-based trio BADBADNOTGOOD casually toe the line between hip-hop and jazz, unafraid to sway towards either pole when necessary. A true refreshment from the slew of SXSW bands that can only vaguely play their instruments, BBNG have supreme command over their work. Seeing the piano-drums-bass outfit live is an exercise in improvisation, an energetic animal that can’t quite be contained. It’s a unique draw, blending Chick Corea keyboards with beats normally reserved for an 808 drum machine.
Parquet Courts are the smartest punks in the room in 2014, intelligent and emotionally expressive without appearing self-conscious or snotty. It’s evident on their records that language comes first for the band, writing engaging think pieces or stream-of-consciousness rants to match the dynamic of each track. Though several days of pounding my eardrums at violent decibel levels rendered the lyrics indecipherable, Parquet Courts are tight enough as a punk band that their music stands alone.
The Black Lips
The Lips have been a blast to see since their inception 15 years ago, but only in the past few have they learned how to really play musically to match their raw talent as performers. The band chugged through 10-odd songs, pulling primarily from their 2011 release Arabia Mountain and their new album, Underneath the Rainbow (released March 18). The new tunes, like everything in their roster, are a hellish barrel of fun, merging punk, rockabilly and impeccable Southern diction (“got-to drinkin’, start-to bleedin’”) under the garage aesthetic.
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