RR’s SXSW 2014 Roundup

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As I stood in the security line at the Austin airport, two songs were in my head — Hozier’s “Take me to Church” and Jamestown Revival’s “Golden Age.

After a week of seeing dozens of bands, that says a lot!

Here are a few more things that made an impression:

Biggest Surprise: Jungle –they didn’t look the way I expected them to given their promo photos, but they sounded even better. They’ve been purposefully keeping their identity a secret so it was interesting to be there for the unveiling.

Biggest Band Trend: Electronic producers/soul singers ala Chet Faker and the very bass-heavy The Kite String Tangle. They trigger sounds from a rig and sing with all their hearts. The Aussie Faker has stronger songs and I nearly got crushed trying to see him, so the buzz is strong.

Best LA Band I Discovered in Austin: Jesus Sons

Best Texas Band I Discovered in Austin: Oil Boom

Bands I Missed That I Wanted to See: Angel Olsen, Vic Mensa, The Wind and the Wave, Cheerleader, Ana Tijoux

Bands I Missed that I Heard Were Great: Boogarins, Holy Esque, Young Fathers

Best Spectacle: French band La Femme. Probably my favorite overall show of the festival. So fun.

Fashion Trend: Nothing. Nothing at all. There is almost always something, but this year was chillier and rainier than usual so I think folks left their impressive threads at home.

Artist I Heard for 30 Seconds and Made a Mental Note to Track Down Upon My Return: Angelina Lucero

Most Committed Frontman: Future Islands’ Samuel T Herring is definitely one of the best around and would be an easy choice, but I have to give this one to the UK punk band Fat White Family. Shirtless and somewhat primal, Lias Saoudi showed no fear. That kind of passion is missing from a lot of rock bands, so I appreciated it.

by Jon Gordon McKenzie

Most Joan Jett-esque: The Preatures frontwoman Isabella Manfredi, pictured above with the band and Anne Litt!

Best SXSW Showcase Moment: It’s always so hard to choose! But Moses Sumney made up a song on the spot that showed his amazing range and gave me chills, so I’ll have to go with that.

Disappointing Moment: This is totally unfair and very personal, but I’ve never seen Damon Albarn before so I was really hoping he’d play my favor Blur song, “Tender” — especially after waiting an hour on a very chilly rooftop for the set to even begin. That said, he was really incredible. His band was fantastic and the new songs are great. I have faith that one day my dream will still come true.

Haunting Visual: construction crane after construction crane after construction crane in Downtown Austin.

I love that town and it’s a little painful to watch it grow at this pace….somewhat like the conference itself, which has grown exponentially in the time I’ve been going.

While it may seem like a giant party to outsiders, the frantic pace of SXSW really takes its toll if you’re dedicated to seeking out new music. But, as always, it was energy worth expending.

Read more musings and reviews from the fest here.