I know this festival was lightyears ago, but somehow I'm still digesting all the new music (& tacos) we enjoyed during our 7 days in Texas – so I decided I'm just going to dedicate our first blogpost to the week of craze at SXSW (or South By South Bonkers as our dear friends from Sun and the Wolf have creatively named the festival).
Overall, my expectations of SXSW were pretty low. First and foremost because of all of these immigration-horror stories we heard beforehand. But then I also had these nightmare-visions of us, running like burnt-out turtles with guitars on our backs from one gig to the next, just to avoid traffic jams, only to find out the venue does not have amps or drums for us.
Luckily, we made it past border control, weren't forced to play any (unwanted) acoustic sessions and – surprise – had a really, really good week in Texas! Overall, our week at SXSW was way more relaxing than our normal tour life (more on this topic here) and we could discover new music of bands that for some strange reason flew under our radar beforehand (or just hadn't made it to Berlin yet).
So here's my best polaroids of us bumming out in Austin, together with my favourite songs that stuck with me waaay past SXSW – all available in this "SXSW Nostalgia Spotify Playlist". Enjoy :)
1. Charly Bliss – Ruby
I kind of fell in love with this band without having heard one song. They played right before us at a dive bar called "Hole in The Wall". Somehow they found out we were the German bums that didn't have any amps us. So they approached us with these huge smiles and offered we could play over theirs. How can you not love this band already?
When I heard their set, I was really blown away by the singer's unique voice! They have a very cool 90s Alternative Sound – but the right kind of 90s Alternative – think: Weezer, The Cardigans and The Breeders!
2. PWR BTTM - Dairy Queen
A few nights ago, I had a dream about this band: We saw them in Paris and everyone left after their last song because they needed to smoke a cigarette (Paris – duh!). So only Andreya and I stuck around in front of the stage and they played an encore only for the two of us which was – wait for it – "Ain't no easy way out" by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club ... with 2 drum sets.
None of these things would actually happen, that is people leaving during a PWR BTTM show and PWR BTTM covering, what is in my opinion, the worst BRMC song. But I could actually see them using 2 drum sets because they pull of really, really ballsy Rock'n'Roll Riffs.
3. NE-HI – Palm of Hand
I really went nuts with instagram stories during SXSW, sharing all our exciting daily highlights – from the moment we woke up to the moment we fell asleep! Needless to say, I was really proud of myself ... until Ben from PWR BTTM smashed my social media confidence and said: "No band uses instagram stories here to connect with others so you really need to spice up your band's twitter account!"Since then we are trying to tweet at what seems to be the only two German bands active on twitter (big thanks to @judithholofernes and @turbostaat).
HOWEVER: I found out about this band by stalking Pitchfork's instagram stories! I can't believe I hadn't heard about them before. They are exactly my kind of music and remind me of this band I was really crazy about a couple of years ago called Women. Anybody? Yes? No? Okay.
4. Ratboys - MCMX + Not Again
I started talking to Julia from Ratboys at a party and five minutes later, Andreya bought everyone vodka shots and we all laughed about a Texas gas station chain called Buc-ee's. So yes, needless to say, we found our SXSW-soulmates and wanted to have their babies.
The next day, we saw them play in a backyard in North-West Austin (?) on a super sunny day and were really, really amazed! Listening to this song makes me go back to this happy-place, hanging out in a backyard with lots of dogs and hipsters who pinned rules-of-consent on a garden shed and give away free PBR beer. Isn't this everybody's happy place?
5. White Reaper - Pills
This was the last band that played at the Stereogum show at Hole in Wall. We were so relieved after our gig and just stormed to the front and danced manically. I think Scott from Stereogum took a video called "Gurr starting the moshpit to White Reaper". I really love how this band pairs Garage Rock with the coolest synthie sound. Our British label manager said afterwards he had to leave during their set though because he couldn't stand the singer's fake British accent, which I found hilarious.
6. Mothers - It hurts until it doesn't
I think Andreya and I tried to see Chastity Belt twice during SXSW but always missed them. The first time was at the She Shred Stage - a super cool magazine focussing on female guitarists. We got a (free) beer and stuck around to give the next band a listen and really, really loved it! They pair these lovely, dreamy "Real Estate" guitar riffs with Angel Olson-like vocals. It's pretty gloomy so I can't listen to the whole record, but throw in a couple of songs into your playlists and you're not going to feel too emo!
7. Hand Habits – Book on how to change
This was the last band I saw at the festival before boarding the plane back to Berlin the next morning. Meg Duffy from Hand Habits puts on a really laid-back performance so it felt like the perfect, gloomy end to an intense week. But somehow I can't listen to more than 2 Hand Habits songs back to back here in Berlin without breaking out sobbing. Maybe it's the lack of sunshine – or just my sensitive Pisces-soul – so yes: You've been warned! Take it easy with this one.
8. Real Estate – Darling
Okay, okay, you probably all know Real Estate and it's not necessarily a band you want to see at SXSW. But since I never ever saw them live before (but have tried to play their guitar riffs since I'm a litlle girl), I actually saw a total of two (2!) Real Estate shows during SXSW. Geek!
The first one was at a corporate event of a big Japanese car company (Was it Honda? Mazda? Toyota? I forgot.) where they absolutely BOMBED. The sound was terrible, they were visibly uncomfortable on stage – and I was really uncomfortable, as well, having forced my two friends to squeeze all the way to the front with me and then looking at their disappointed faces.
So I saw them again, this time alone, the next day at an air-conditioned convention center which had even less atmosphere than the corporate car event, but at least the sound was amazing and I geeked out hearing the full album before it's official release the next day! It's not their best record but I have found my 3 favorite goosebump-songs (Stained Glass, Darling, and Same Song).