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The 20 best bands I saw at SXSW 2012

The 20 best bands I saw at SXSW 2012

14. Haim

Sweet girl group harmonies and sunny rock songs led by three sisters from LA. There’s nothing new here but when has that ever mattered? They channel what sounds like Stevie Nicks, Kate Bush and ’90s R&B into a tight-rhythm-fueled concoction. Oh and it’s pronounced Hime (rhymes with time). Download a free EP at their site.

15. I Am Oak

Wood burning smokey folk songs from Dutch singer Thijs Kuijken was the perfect tonic to the madness elsewhere, especially as the songs were played on the altar of St. David’s Bethel Hall in otherwise complete silence. A recharge of the mind and the body before I set off again.

16. Theesatisfaction

Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White’s brand of soul feminist power R&B funk and spoken word raps really works live thanks mostly to the spark between the singing and rapping pair who combined frequently in choreographed dancing. It didn’t seem to matter that they performed to a backing track. Laid back vibes and conscious messages was the order of their set at Gorilla Vs. Bear and Yours Truly’s Hype Hotel showcase. They are on a European tour net month hitting Twisted Pepper on April 19th.

17. Friends

A standing drummer, a striking singer, a bass player that looks straight out of Daria and a whole-room shaking to the band’s superfun indie pop songs. Friends brought the New York cool and some vintage moves and the audience returned the favour by plying Samantha Urbani with plain old cough syrup masquerading as codeine cups. I didn’t hear a single better song than the already familiar singles ‘Im His Girl’ and ‘Friend Crush’ but The Parish set was uplifting for my, by 10pm on Friday, tired feet. They finished with a cover of ‘My Boo’.

18. Reptar

This year’s Foster The People contender? Reptar are from Athens, Georgia are are the band most likely to do the crossover thing I heard all week. They start the show by asking audience members to hold hands before dropping a dripping 30 minute set of trashy singalong surf pop songs and party vibes. They also did well at SXSW 2011 but maybe this year the momentum is with them, having just signed to Lucky Number Music?

19. Danny Brown

Danny Brown
If Andre 3000 was only obsessed with drugs and oral sex, then he might be a bit more like Detroit’s Danny Brown. Not only does Brown share the Outkast’s man more extravagant dress side (he showed up in the Fader Fort with a ripped Adidas tracksuit and Cowboy boots), his timbre has that Southern stretched drawl and he performs like a demon while sort of acting like one too.

20. Thee Oh Sees

Sunday at South By is usually reserved for nothing more than work and relaxation for me. This year though, thanks to the boys in Squarehead, I found myself at a Sunday night show in Beerland to see Thee Oh Sees take up the floor and leave the stage unoccupied. Having seen Carson Daly drumming with them a few days earlier, this was a much better fit as the crowd bounced around while others hung out of every part of the bar trying to get a glimpse of the action. A perfect sweaty end to proceedings before I jumped in a taxi during the last song to head to the airport.

Absolute highlight: Doing my own party for the first time in Austin.

Other sets I really enjoyed: Lee Fields & The Expressions, Alabama Shakes, Santigold, Mmoths, Clock Opera, Niki & The Dove, Madeon, Miike Snow, Beat Connection, Tennis, Caveman, Wonder Villains, Lisa O’ Neill, And So I Watch You From Afar, Walk The Moon, Thundercat, Lower Dens, Neon Indian, Trust, Django Django.

Bands I wanted to see but didn’t: Trash Talk, Grimes, The Men, ASAP Rocky, Schoolboy Q, Big KRIT, Polica, Mirel Wagner, Spoek Mathambo, Youth Lagoon, Charli XCX.

Bands I had to triple check I was at the right show because I was expecting acoustic and got a garage rock band: We Are Trees.

Worst set of SXSW 2012? Peaking Lights at Red 7. Bad sound and a disinterested performance.

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