The first night of SXSW Music brings with it a noticeable shift in the air from the prior days of Tech/Film. The streets are packed and the city is vibrating with energy. Lights and colors swirl around attendees, and there’s excitement and music coming from every direction.
This year was the 30th anniversary for SXSW, and organizers held nothing back. With the likes of President Obama and Michelle Obama both giving talks, the precedent was set for a spectacular 11 days. Here are some of my top moments from the city-turned-music festival.
1. Michelle Obama’s Opening Panel With Chloe & Halle’s Performance
Michelle Obama spoke along with Missy Elliott, Diane Warren, Sophia Bush, and Queen Latifah to promote her incredible Let Girls Learn initiative, a global, government-wide effort to aid and support the education of adolescent girls around the world.
As part of the program, Oscar-nominated songwriter Diane Warren wrote a track titled “This Is For My Girls,” which features all-star vocal contributions from Missy Elliott, Zendaya, Kelly Clarkson, Lea Michele, Janelle Monae, Kelly Rowland, Jadagrace, and Chloe & Halle. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the song go to benefit the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund.
Chloe & Halle performed the song at the Keynote and represented it well. Not only is it a meaningful track, but it fights for a cause as well — well worth checking out.
2. QUALIATIK @ The Townsend
QUALIATIK is the incredible multimedia project of Arielle Herman, who produces, sings, and writes all her songs, and she’s a visual artist to boot! This NY-based artist’s influences range from industrial rock to ambient Euro pop, which results in standouts like the hypnotic stomper “Shadows” and the grimy “Physicality.” She was one of my favorite SXSW discoveries, and I’d highly recommend catching her next time she’s in the LA area.
3. Miike Snow @ Bangers
StubHub put together a spectacular three-day showcase with both day and night performances featuring top talent such as Ghostland Observatory, Miike Snow, and Bloc Party.
I had the pleasure of catching the electro/pop/rock trio Miike Snow’s show, which was filled to the brim with pop hooks, pocket symphonies, and top-notch production work. They played new tracks like “Heart Is Full” and well known tracks such as “Paddling Out,” as well as one of my all-time favorites, “Animal.”
4. MSTRKRFT Live Set @ Brew Exchange
Canadian electronic music duo MSTRKRFT debuted their live set at SXSW, and I was lucky enough to have the pleasure of attending the show. The setup was impressively intricate, and the result was mind-blowing. There’s a certain sound integrity that is produced by an analog live set that you just can’t replicate in a DJ set.
These veterans of their craft have been playing together since 2005, and I’ve seen them on several occasions (including in 2009); this set was truly a masterpiece. If you get the opportunity to catch their live set, take it.
5. More Cowbell St. Patty’s Day Bash @ The Market Rooftop
More Cowbell is Austin’s only mashup cover band that specializes in playing a unique style of music: two or more songs are seamlessly blended to create something that is simultaneously familiar and new. What starts as one song becomes a musical experience that can’t be found anywhere else.
Featuring Alon, Minh, Nick, and Ed, More Cowbell has become one of Austin’s most popular bands. When inviting people to a show, Cowbell members always say the same thing: “We won’t promise to impress you musically, but we WILL promise that you’ll have a great time.” More Cowbell has gained a loyal following with consistently high energy shows, and we had a blast with them on the rooftop of The Market while celebrating the Irish holiday.
6. Third Eye Blind @ Whole Foods Southwest Invasion
Third Eye Blind rocked the party on the roof of Whole Foods, putting on quite the show. This was one of those sets that threw me back to the feeling of being in high school. This American rock band was originally formed in San Francisco way back in 1993, but they definitely still have it. The crowd was joyous, and the band even announced that they have a new album coming out soon!
The venue also supplied free samples by Dogfish Head Brewery, Clif Bar, ZICO, Califia Almond Milk, Mamma Chia, Mocktails, Purely Elizabeth, Rishi Organic Teas, True Organic Juice, and, of course, Whole Foods, which made the entire event feel like a big, fun picnic.
7. D.R.A.M @ Austin City Music Hall
Atlanta-based live events and entertainment company Beer and Tacos hosted a fantastic showcase at the Austin City Music Hall on Saturday night. Performers include Tory Lanez, Boosie Badazz, 21 Savage, Young Dolph, Travis Porter, and many more. The crowd was singing, dancing, and throwing their all into every song. One of my favorite performances was by D.R.A.M, who, as you can see, was literally bouncing off the stage. His energy was infectious!
8. Fakear @ French Tech BBQ
Another fun and unexpected musical discovery was at the French Tech BBQ. With delicious beer, wine, and BBQ, invitees enjoyed demos by French tech companies and then a show by French DJ Fakear. His breezy yet upbeat sounds were the perfect pairing for the day party. Personal favorite track: “La Lune Rousse.”
9. Hinds @ Spotify House
The Madrid-based all-girl rockers returned to Austin following the release of their debut album, which is already being lauded as one of the best indie-rock records of 2016. Their show was raucous and high-energy, with spirited vocals and garage sounds. Check out their video for “San Diego” and be sure to catch them live the next time they’re in town.
Spotify set up a great venue as well with free snacks, hydration, video games, and a photobooth. They even painted all the walls to their motif and had fun light art installations with the motto of “Keep Austin Weird.” Definitely one of the top branded experiences around.
10. Wild Child @ St. David’s Historic Sanctuary
Indie powerhouse band and Austin locals Wild Child closed out my SXSW with a great show in a historic sanctuary. They created a big sound with upbeat and lively undertones, accompanied by vocals about the power of music and the art of living for yourself. The six members played passionately and blended well with each other. Check out their video for “Fools” to get a feel for their style.
Did you make it out to SXSW 2016? Let me know your favorite moments in the comments!