When those of us who are SXSW alum talk about the “good ‘ol days,” often we’re referring to the time when you could hopscotch from club to club seeing a dozen bands in a matter of hours.
It’s been incredibly difficult to do the last handful of years, but something changed in 2015. All of the sudden, what seemed impossible is now possible again.
As I ventured out onto the street at noon headed to see the first band on my list, I was drawn into the Des Moines Embassy (yes, that’s a thing) by the sounds of The Black and the White — interestingly enough, an LA band I’ve never heard of consisting of three fellas who play high energy electro pop and clearly have stadium ambitions.
Next up, was London’s Years and Years, who doled out synth pop that I think will have the teen girls swooning.
Inside the same venue, Liverpool’s Circa Waves had a more punk-ish rock sound, with little angst but catchy choruses.
I raced east to catch a set from Alvvays. I’ve been enjoying their debut since I discovered it in a stack of records last year and the Canadian band had a dreamy, lo-fi sound that reminds me of Best Coast.
It’s a daunting task for perform a solo set of piano ballads in the middle of the afternoon during SXSW and Tobias Jesso Jr not only did it, BUT did a great job at it with a great sense of humor throughout.
He warned the audience to “get ready for some piano faces” and asked the techs to turn up his Rhodes, like he was ready to rock. He mentioned there was some controversy around one of his songs — “True Love” — because it didn’t make it on his forthcoming debut full length. And, after hearing how beautiful it is, I can understand why.
(Side Note: Danger Mouse was spotted checking out this set as well)
Ibeyi hit the stage next. These French-Cuban twin sisters compliment each other perfectly and brought a global influence to the day’s festivities. There is a remarkable power to what they do, not surprising considering they find inspiration from Yorùbá tradition, which traveled from West Africa to Cuba with slavery in the 1700s.
Though I saw a few other bands, the last highlight of my night was Tei Shi.
Incredible stage presence and a sexy vibe made for a great opening set at Stubbs, one of the bigger venues in town. She carried it well.