SXSW 2015 Day 3: Wolf Alice, ODESZA, James Bay, BØRNS and More

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Wolf Alice by Dustin Downing

Wednesday is a big day for KCRW at SXSW as we host TWO showcases — that’s 9 bands total!

Dark clouds have been hovering over Austin for much of the week, constantly threatening rain but never releasing more than a drizzle. That said, I was thrilled our day showcase was in the safe confines of the Convention Center’s Ballroom D.

James Bay by Ivy Augusta
James Bay by Ivy Augusta

James Bay was soundchecking when we arrived and I instantly got excited. He played a set of thoughtful (and occasionally devastating) tracks from his forthcoming album, showing he’s much more than a broken-hearted balladeer. He’s been touring with Hozier and it’s clear big things are ahead for this UK singer.

(Also, some fans near us nicknamed him “James Babe.” My friend dubbed him “Ray Lamontagne’s little brother”, sonically speaking)

Laura Marling by Ivy Augusta
Laura Marling by Ivy Augusta

Laura Marling was up next and, to put it quite simply, she’s a bad ass. With her platinum pixie cut, she fiercely tore into songs from her new album with an electric guitar.

Far from the shy teenager who made waves with her acoustic gems, she’s a strong and confident woman with a LOT to say about life and love.

German trio Milky Chance closed out the day show and completely impressed me with something I wasn’t expecting — their harmonica playing! The harmonica takes the lead on a couple of their songs, boosting of their reggae folk vibe.

They’re about to head out on a 55-show tour so it was fun to see them full of energy and ready to roll.

Night showcase at Parish by Dustin Downing
Night showcase at Parish by Dustin Downing
Wolf Alice by Dustin Downing

Our night showcase was packed from the moment doors open with fans lining up to see Wolf Alice, who did not disappoint. The UK rockers are one of the biggest buzz bands of the fest and proved why – they destroyed it!

Hiatus Kaiyote by Dustin Downing
Hiatus Kaiyote by Dustin Downing

Singer Nai Palm drew the audience in to the web of Hiatus Kaiyote, with jazzier soul vibes. It was a welcome diversion from the sea of guitar rock and dance music. This Aussie band stands alone.

Big Data creator Alan Wilkis has a ton of great collaborators on his forthcoming album and tapped a beautiful singer (sadly I don’t know her name) to help with vocal duties, culminating in his hit “Dangerous”, which the crowd went crazy for.

Next up, ODESZA took the stage. The duo have been on a roll and got the entire crowd dancing. They had the whole audience under their spell and showed the power of a cymbal strike, with live drumming accompanying their DJ set.

Borns by Dustin Downing
Borns by Dustin Downing

LA’s own BØRNS made us very proud. He’s got a way with a pop tune and did an inspired cover of Elton John’s “Benny and the Jets”.

Delta Spirit once again proved why they are one of the best live bands around. Matt Vasquez is a ferocious bandleader and every single musician on stage is at the top of their game. They rock.

RR