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Best bands of SXSW (part one): a personal selection from Julia Mason

Our Scottish correspondent Julia Mason was in Austin to cover SXSW and here's her pick of the best bands she saw at the unofficial showcases.


One of the fun part of festivals is being able to experiment and possibly discovering your new favourite music obsession. SXSW is the mother of all festivals, not just because of the official festival but perhaps more because of the unofficial gigs that take place around Austin in Texas during the same time. And the number of unofficial gigs is humungous.  The joy of losing yourself in music for a week and sharing the experience with the community of like-minded gig goers is simply joyous. So here are some of my picks from this year with the caveat being that I hadn’t seen any of them live before Austin. (Note these are all from unofficial showcases so are not subject to any sponsorship from the US military - see this blog for further details on that - Ed)


Austin band Daiistar at SXSW

I headed to the 13th Floor the day before the official Music Festival started and saw a bundle of bands who were all top notch.  Austin band DAIISTAR created a wall of sound.  The band takes their inspiration from the neo-psychedelic era of the 80s and 90s (The Jesus and Mary Chain, Spacemen 3, early Primal Scream) and pull it into the future with modulating synthesizers, heavy guitars, bouncing bass lines, and spiralling hooks, creating a narcotic blend of noise and melody.  Live it was music to lose yourself in, mesmerising yet with an edge to keep you thoroughly engaged.  If you enjoy check out their dates in the UK later in the spring.

Dead Tooth

New York band Dead Tooth at SXSW

Dead Tooth had been on my “to see” list and to catch them at Idle Hands, one of my favourite venues was just fantastic.  The stage is set in a grassy courtyard with a tree in the middle and allows the bands to get up close and personal with the crowd, which is exactly what Dead Tooth did.  This is dirty garage rock n roll.  This New York band was formed by frontman, Zach James and DIIV's lead guitar aficionado Andrew Bailey.  Dead Tooth combine dark elements that reflect societal influences, provide delirious melodies, and to be completely frank, they put on one heck of a show. 

Completely unpredictable, and the addition of a saxophone to the mayhem simply adds to the fun.



Canadian punk band NOBRO at SXSW

I adored the debut album Set Your Pussy Free by Canada’s Nobro and was an absolute fangirl seeing them for the first time at Idle Hands.  And they did not disappoint. 

The quartet were on fire, full of energy and bursting with punk exuberance.  This is not hardcore but melodic punk and the smiles on the faces of the band members said it all, they were having a blast and thus so were we. The multi-tasking percussionist was impressive, and I jumped along with them all, making the most of their set which flashed by in the blink of an eye – the sign of a great time.


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