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SXSW 2016 Best Of!

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SXSW may already be a distant memory for some, but the experiences and discoveries are still resonating strongly with us. We’ve had time to let things stew, marinate, and percolate after all the craziness of the week and there are still experiences that are sticking with us that we felt like we had to share. Since many of our experiences extended beyond simply enjoyable sets, we decided to do something a little different this year…

 

Best Ofs- The Best Stuff!

Best New Discovery: Lukas Graham

Lukas Graham was the first act we saw at the official start of SXSW on Tuesday at the Spotify House and was far and away the best act we saw that day. With songs that are more like stories about himself and his band mates, Lukas Graham was an absolutely enchanting act. As Kristen said, he created the “Graham Bar” for the rest of SXSW and although everything else we saw was still enjoyable, nothing ever surpassed the “Graham Bar.” We made a point to see him again at the YouTube Music House where the band performed a full 45-minute set, which is basically unheard of at SXSW. We both walked away from that set with our minds sufficiently blown and throughout the rest of the week would just burst out about how amazing the set was from Lukas Graham. Mind. Blown.

Best Surprise Act: Lapsley

(Kristen)

Sitting in the sanctuary at St. David’s Church late Friday night waiting for the “surprise guest” to appear, I was debating my choice to stick around. I wasn’t sure that anyone could top the stellar evening of singer-songwriters I had experienced and my hotel bed was very enticing. When a woman in white walked out onto the stage, I wasn’t sure who she was, but once she started singing, I knew I made the right decision to stay. Her voice was arresting!  As I sank further into my pew, mesmerized by song after beautiful song, I felt transported. A quick google search identified the mystery act as Lapsley, a rising British artist. I kicked myself for not including more of her sets on my schedule, but sometimes the best acts are the ones you were never anticipating –  absolutely the best surprise of SXSW 2016!

Lapsley ‘Falling Short’ from Jake Scott Cinematographer on Vimeo.

Best Party: Quantum Collective’s Southwest Invasion at Whole Foods

A party so good, we kept going back! Quantum Collective is one of the few parties with a consistently long line, often running down the steps and stretching around the massive Whole Foods building. The crowd was there for a reason. Good music in a comfortable setting surrounded by high quality food. What more can you ask for? For the music, we were able to see favorites like Green River Ordinance and The Arkells as well as discover new exciting bands The Heirs and Great Caesar.  As far as food, we were excited about everything Mama Chia and the all-encompassing Whole Foods salad bar downstairs.  If there was one party to get to early and stay all day, this was it!

Best Dance Party: Mainland & Royal Teeth

Kristen’s pick: Mainland – When multiple members of a band jump into the audience two songs into a set and starting dancing around, you know it’s going to be a party. Mainland delivered on their promise to get my feet moving. Their set at Shiner’s Saloon was so much fun, I made it a mission to see them again. No band made me raise up my hands in the air with such abandon.

Amanda’s pick: Royal Teeth – In all honesty, Royal Teeth were one of a few bands I already knew about coming into SXSW this year and they were one of my favorites from last year as well. They are always a fun, high-energy dance party and there’s something about them that never fails to make me smile. It’s hard to pick my favorite part of their set at Esther’s Follies, it could be when co-singer Gary Larsen ended up on a large speaker hanging over the crowd with an audience member’s phone or when he ended up in the crowd with a drum during their last song Wild and hit the drum with such force he seemed to propel himself into the air.

HM: DNCE – One of the best aspects of live music is when a band can really get you moving. When you’ve been walking all day and your feet are sore, it’s even more of a feat.  So many bands made us get up and dance, but none created the crazy party vibe quite like DNCE.

Best Venue for Snacking: McDonald’s Loft & YouTube Music House

Kristen’s Pick: McDonald’s Loft – I mean, McDonald’s had an ice cream sundae bar. That is hard to top. Aside from all of the McD’s food (including more healthy options like apple slices and Cuties), the event booked some of our favorite and most anticipated bands like Jared & The Mill, and The Score.

Amanda’s Pick: YouTube Music House – This was my favorite place to hang out, eat, and watch bands. During the day there were various juices to sample, six different popcorn flavors to try, free drinks including bottled water, and roving waiters with different things to eat. During the evening it was just the free drinks and roving waiters but it’s really hard to say no to a 5 layer dip with gluten free chips, roasted corn salsa, sweet and tangy meatballs, sliders, and chicken wings. It was the best spot for seeing bands like Banners and Lukas Graham.

Best Swag: Socks and a pillowcase from Casper

The best swag for me is always the most utilitarian…and who doesn’t use socks and pillowcases?!? Casper also provided one of the most unique activations of the week, the nap pod!

Kristen’s HM: Cell phone card holder from Capital One – my favorite piece of swag last year was back in an upgraded version this year (they added some sort of stand/clip to the back) Capital One may be my favorite bank simply because of how streamlined my life has become by using this card holder. Ha!

Amanda’s HM: Safe Catch Tuna– There was a section in the convention this year about food at SXSW and I was directed to the Safe Catch Tuna booth by a friend with food allergies worse than mine. We got to sample the tuna which is lowest in mercury and comes packed in it’s own fish oil so it’s automatically moister (is that a word?) out of the gate than any other brand. A tweet or post tagging Safe Catch would get you a free can of tuna. Who doesn’t need free food at SXSW and something that is healthy to boot!

Best Laugh: The Laugh Button Live! at Esther’s Follies

(Amanda)

It was only Tuesday and I was already overwhelmed with the idea of so much music that was out there for me to see that week and everything I had already been through that day. I was walking down the street when I say a flyer that had my favorite comedian’s name on it, Iliza Shlesinger. I had heard there was a fair amount of comedy at SXSW this year and I had even seen Chris Hardwick’s name on some flyers as well. I made it a point to skip music and see Iliza that night and I have zero regrets about it. There was no other name on the bill I recognized but it really didn’t matter because SXSW is all about discovery, right? I’m happy to report that there were several other comics in the lineup who I really enjoyed including Baron Vaughn, Owen Benjamin, and Alonzo Bodden. The host, Chris Cubas, was really enjoyable as well and I actually saw him around SXSW a fair amount working as a door guy at one of the venues on Rainey St. The whole event was super fun, it was an awesome way to be introduced to new comics that were really enjoyable, and it was great to see Iliza pull out some new material and change up some material from Kaaboo. She’s kind of the best.

HM: The People The Poet – It was all in the delivery with The People The Poet singer, Leon Stanford. Every time you hear Leon talking about wearing sunscreen so they don’t turn into lobsters, it’s hard not to chuckle. The People The Poet were the last band we saw on Sunday (the day after it all ended) and we were all a bit done. It’s not clear if Leon’s stories about having a belly full of brisket would have been as amusing if we weren’t slightly delirious, but the laughter is just as memorable as the music.

Best App Discovery: Tasteful

(Amanda)

Not all of us can eat whatever free food is given to us at SXSW and sadly, I’m one of those people. Taseful is an app that I discovered in the convention center right next to the Safe Catch Tuna booth. What makes Tasteful unique is that you can program the app to show you places to eat that fit your dietary needs/preferences. That means, if you’re gluten-free, paleo, vegetarian, vegan, low carb, or don’t care it will show you places to eat nearby with possible menu items that fit your needs. It also ranks the places by the how good they are for each dietary concern which means how much food is cooked fresh right there, how much cross contamination there might be, and so on. I didn’t get to try that many options presented to me by the app, although one of the restaurants brought food to a party I was at so I got to sample, but it’s nice to know the options are there if I need them.

 

Other Notables: Things We Can’t Leave Out!

Worth the Walk: The Virginmarys

The Virginmarys were one of our favorites from SXSW 2013 and were a must see as soon as they announced they were returning this year. Unfortunately, they only had two shows announced and both provided some issues. One conflicted with Kristen’s #1 can’t miss set of the week (see below) and the other was a bit of a walk. Well, sore feet be damned, we were determined to see this band so we make the trek across new portions of Austin to the burger joint, Shady Grove, where the band was playing a set in small stage in the corner of the outdoor dining area. As soon as they started to play, it was clear that the walk was worth it. The Virginmarys are one of the most dynamic and enjoyable live acts and their new songs absolutely must be experienced in their live form.

Worth the Wait: AudioDamn!

We had to wait for this band not once, but twice. Technical issues seemed particularly plaguing at their Revolt daytime show, but the band took it in stride and did the best they could with limited time and workable instruments.  Despite the early struggles, we were able to catch the band again later in the week and their catchy songs and energetic performance made them shoot up to the top of list of fave bands of SXSW 2016. Must see again!

Most Nostalgic: Judy Collins + Ari Hest

(Kristen)

This was my #1 must see act of the week and I was not left disappointed. Every time I hear Judy Collins sing, I am transported to my youth (she was my father’s favorite artist). Her new collaboration with Ari Hest takes the iconic voice in a new direction which I absolutely loved. The set was mostly comprised of newer songs, but they stuck in a few classics and I just closed my eyes and became ten years old again.

HM: Rooney – Another blast from my somewhat more recent past was when California rockers Rooney, took to the stage and played many hits from their debut album. Robert Schwartzman has not changed one bit an even the band’s new songs still harken back to the glory days of those early college years.

Most Seen: Dreamers

(Kristen)

You know you like a band when seeing them becomes somewhat of a compulsion. Even if I was only able to catch a song or two, I felt drawn to whatever venue Dreamers happened to be playing.  I’m pretty sure I can now sing along to all of their songs. Honestly, their EP just does not satisfy the craving. They are one to experience live and I did at SXSW, more than any other band.

Biggest SXSW Fail: Wild Wild Horses set time change

It’s absolutely impossible to re-check every single set time originally posted, but we really wish it had for one of our top bands going into the fest, Wild Wild Horses. Their set was moved an hour earlier than original reported time and although we still caught a couple of songs, it was pretty devastating to miss an entire set from this British band. Kristen tried to make up for it by stealing a set list and chatting a bit with the band, but nothing really compares to seeing your new favorite live. She did still make their SXSW recap video so at least there’s that memory…

Band We’re Bummed We Missed: Judah & The Lion

SXSW is filled with difficult choices, but the hardest for me to make was Saturday night. We had to choose between walking a bit further away to see Judah & The Lion or sticking closer to the action and packing in more bands and ended up choosing the later. It’s hard to regret the choice (there is no room for regret at SXSW), but that does make Judah & The Lion our number one band we failed to see this year, especially so after we got reports of how absolutely amazing their live set was. Next time!

Worth Swimming Through A Crowd for: Kaleo

(Kristen)

The free and open to the public Waterloo Records party is always a bit of a crazy one. However, the prospect of seeing Kaleo again propelled us to venture over to the packed parking lot and make our way closer and closer to the stage as opportunity presented itself. Kaleo is one of those bands that you’re not quite sure what you’re getting yourself into going in, but after experiencing their life show, you are hooked for life. I recall a particular moment, half way through the sea of people when the somewhat inebriated guy next to me said something like “that guy has a pretty lady voice, but then he sings in his man voice and it really rock.” I just smiled, nodded my head, and continued to push forward through the crowd.

 

SXSW 2015- Friday Recap

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Although Kristen is still running full steam ahead (however exhausted she might be) I’m beginning to tap out mentally and physically in a way that is not very enjoyable for me. That being said, today was another wonderful day of music even though there were some slight detours and changes along the way.

My day started a little later than I would have liked because I was up until 5 am doing a write up for High Volatage and getting up before 10am was not in the cards for me. After I finally got myself moving, I went on a quest for some breakfast but apparently a girl can’t find any breakfast at 12:30 in the afternoon. I wandered aimlessly around and down 6th St looking for something to occupy myself while I waited to meet up at 1pm for a thing. I heard this wonderful sound but could never figure out where it came from and who was playing.

SXSW: 1 Amanda: 0

Not to be deterred, I did stop for a minute to listen to a band called The Miseries, according to the signage out front of the venue. I thought I would stop for a carnitas bowl at the Wahoo’s stand which I have visited twice already. it’s been a handy thing to have but for some reason, they were not set up despite it being lunch time and the line for Chi’lantro was 10 people deep. No way was I going to make the meet up time with that happening. I blamed it on the impending rain.

SXSW: 1 Amanda: 0 Rain: 1

I decided to hang at the meeting spot and grab a caffeine fix while I waited to meet up with everyone. There was a coffee shop inside the Hilton that served Starbucks coffee. I ordered a black tea lemonade and after realizing they also had almond milk (yay!) I ordered a chai latte. However, the cashier forgot to ring up my lemonade tea and ended up giving me a pass so score for a free drink and serving almond milk!

SXSW: 1 Amanda: 2 Rain 1

We went to our event but sadly did not make it back in time to catch the very last set from one of my new loves, Walking On Cars or older favorite Dear Boy. Things were not looking good as it was already past 2pm and I had not managed to see a single band yet. It’s also worth noting that at this point, there is a really steady drizzle coming down and I have no form of rain protection on me.

SXSW: 2 Amanda: 2 Rain: 2

This is where the theme of persevering kicks in. Hang with me here. Kristen and I decide to head to the Palm Door to catch something interesting on our list and even though the venue was running late, we got to sit down and access the situation and devise a new plan of attack. The rain was a game changer in the sense that there would be no long walks and we would be hanging around 6th or at least finding a venue we could hole up in for awhile. Charlotte OC took the stage at Palm Door and completely blew me away with her vocal prowess. Such an emotive voice with an obvious passion for her music made her a joy to watch. I hope to catch her again this week if I can!

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After Charlotte, I decided to head to the Empire Garage for the Baeble Day Party to check out Night Terrors of 1927. The rain had picked up by then and despite having an umbrella, I was fairly wet and unamused. After catching a few songs, I had to run back to the hotel to change into something dry and bring out the reinforcements in the form of a poncho, rain boots, and a pleather jacket and hoodie.

SXSW: 2 Amanda: 2 Rain 3

After having changed into something dry, it was time to set out again for more music. The show at Empire had a few more acts I wanted to catch so I walked back that way but not before stopping along the way to listen to Lenka who was playing at the Aussie BBQ. It was hard to not walk in but with the rain coming down and the pull of other artists, I had to more on. I made it back to Empire for the tail end of The Mowgli’s set and I caught a song of Cody Simpson’s before deciding to head over to Swan Dive for a few artists there.

I got in during the tail end of the Royal Teeth’s set (it also took some maneuvering to get my ID out of my bag which was under my poncho) but I got in just in time to finish up the dance party. I really enjoyed seeing them play and thankfully they did because their show was originally out on the patio but they moved it inside due to the weather. I’m just glad they didn’t cancel. See? Persevere!

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That being said, there was a rather large lull between 6pm and 8pm in terms of music. A lot of the options were a good long walk away and that just wasn’t happening so I took the defeat and stopped for dinner and some power up time in the hotel.

SXSW: 3 Amanda: 2 Rain: 4

After the much needed chill time (thanks weather), it was time to head back out. Kristen came with me back to the Swan Dive and we watched a very entertaining guy by the name of Zeke Duhon. Not only did I love his voice, he did a really great mashup of Shake It Off and Can’t Tell Me Nothing by Taylor Swift and Kayne West, respectively. On top of that, we got a recommendation from a friend at the show that we should check out the guy out back, Luke Wade. He was another exciting find! However, they were late to get started and we had other plans in the form of an evening at church with Jay Nash and Josh Day- We Are The Contenders, James Bay, and Jack Garrat. It was a short walk with no rain so score for us!

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SXSW: 3 Amanda: 3 Rain: 4

The evening was not without it’s issues for me though. After a lovely set from The Contenders (+1 Amanda) my attempts to get in to the big hall to wait it out for James Bay were thwarted by the venue changing to “badges only” (after Kristen got in) because they were so far over capacity that no wristband was going to get in and some badges wouldn’t make it in either. It was a tough blow (+1 SXSW) but I decided to head back to the smaller room and hang with Chelsea, just in case some miracle happened. I walked in during the last bit of The Bros. Landreth who would harmonize like no other. I wish I had decided to come back earlier to catch more of their set but that’s the way things happen. Next was Hamish Anderson who had a very different feel from the first time I saw him. He played some amazing tunes, great covers, and had some guitar solos that were beautiful on the ears.

It was time to try my luck again for James Bay, especially after Kristen told me half the church emptied out when the act before him finished. I walked up and they were still calling for badges only. Not to be deterred (must persevere!) they suddenly called for badges AND wristbands so I hustled butt and made my way in just before James Bay started. If that’s not a win, I don’t know what is…

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SXSW: 4 Amanda: 5 Rain: 4

The feeling in the room was electric and palpable. There’s something about being in a church and seeing artists play. It was amazing. I wish I had better words to describe it but it was just an experience. After a set that was much too short, it was time to see what this Jack Garrat guy was all about. He was an interesting juxtaposition at the start because here’s a guy that looks hip hop but when he opened his mouth, it was like the voice of an angel came out. He was such an interesting mix of vocal prowess, sick beats, and obvious musical chops. I’m sad that this was the only time I got to see him play, but he’s someone I will be keeping an eye out for.

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All in all, despite the rain and a few setbacks, the day was a win. As illustrated by the scores below.

SXSW: 4 Amanda: 6 Rain:4

 

A few options for your SXSW Saturday:

1:45pm- Taymir @ Container Bar
3pm- Colony Hose @ Blackheart Outdoor Stage
4pm- Civil Twilight @ Little Woodrow’s
6pm- K. Flay @ The Brew Exchange
10pm- Mallory Know @ Red 7 Patio
1am- Not In The Face @ Holy Mountain Backyard

SXSW 2015- Wednesday Recap

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In true SXSW fashion, Wednesday was chock full of maddening conflicts and as usual, everything magically worked out in the best way possible for a wonderful day.

Consequently, today is also Kristen’s birthday (Happy Birthday!) which is why I’m bringing this post to you. It was full of LMN favorites as well as some new discoveries. The day started at Holy Mountain with Walking on Cars and I immediately fell in love. No joke. They were my favorite band of the day and I’m really looking forward to seeing them play again.

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After that lovely set, we caught a little bit of Until the Ribbon Brakes before jetting over to catch Dear Boy’s set at 96 Rainey as part of the Buzzbands Showcase. We stayed for the full Dear Boy set, which was very enjoyable. After making some new friends there, we had a lovely time catching up with Ben Grey, finding out the best place for BBQ and acquiring hugs before stopping down the road to catch some Hamish Anderson at Clive Bar. That beautiful bluesy guitar was hard to walk away from but the pull of the impending Fatherson show at Latitude 30 was just too strong to ignore. A small bonus for the day was the free food inside! Mac and cheese and salad for all! Score, right? Actually, the score was getting to see Fatherson after missing their set yesterday. They had such a strong and killer live energy which made them a really enjoyable band to watch. Also, a band with a smiley drummer. What’s not to love?

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There was a strong pull to stick around for Mallory Knox, but we had a friend in line at Maggie Mae’s for Dead Sara and when word came that the line was short and moving reasonably well, we booked it over there and hopped in line. Totally worth it. It’s been awhile since I, Amanda, had seen Dead Sara and holy cow…. They’ve only gotten better. They played some new material as well as some old classics like “Lemon Scent.”

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Next there was some bouncing around which included checking out The Black and The White at Buffalo Billiards, Matthew Mayfield at Chuggin Monkey, and Marlon Roudette back at Maggie Mae’s At this point in time, my feet are not at all happy with me so I made Maggie Mae’s my hangout spot for a few acts like Young Rising Sons and  a song or three of Halsey.

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Feet somewhat rested, I wandered over across the way to catch a few songs of The Highly Suspect before making my way up to the church in the hopes of getting into the Brandi Carlile show at the church. This is when the magic happens… Things aren’t looking good for you in terms of getting in but you decide to stick it out, just in case and just like magic, you are whisked into the venue with a few other hopefuls behind you. I only stayed for a few songs of what can only be described as a magical set but I’m so very glad I went. Everything was completely stripped down and acoustic, which combined with the acoustics of a church makes for a very memorable and moving performance. I only stayed for a few songs even though I wish I could have stayed longer because I was really looking forward to Jared & The Mill at Esther’s Follies. I’m so glad I went! The venue was great because there was tons of elevated seating all over as well as a pit area for people to dance in. Taking another load off my feet, because you need to take advantage of that opportunity when you can, I settled in for a wonderful set. Unfortunately, I had some rather chatty neighbors that joined me part way though the set and thought it was a good idea to interrupt and chat with the girl who was seriously enjoying the music. Guess that means, I’ll have to see them again for an uninterrupted set. Oh darn. Not really.

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The night finished off with a double whammy in the form of Plain White T’s and Irontom at Red Eyed Fly. Plain White T’s were playing outside before the Irontom set, so I caught a few songs including some old goodies (pre- “Hey Delilah”) as well as some new tunes from an upcoming record. I bounced back inside to catch some Irontom and just because I could, went back outside to catch some more Plain White T’s because I haven’t seen them in at least 5 years. Probably way more. There was some more Irontom dancing to send me on my way. All in all, a great night and the craziness is only just beginning….

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Picks for Tomorrow:
1pm- James Bay @ Spotify House
2pm- Misterwives @ Des Moins Embassy
4:20pm- Night Riots @ The Blind Pig
5:40pm- Colony House @ IFC Fairgrounds
6:55pm- Cody Simpson @ W Hotel
11:30pm- Traink Turner @ Red 7 Patio

SXSW 2015- Tuesday Recap

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Today being the official start of music means we would normally spend our day picking up wristbands and credentials and then sampling some bands later in the day. That did not hold true for SXSW this year as today was Convergence Day, a brand thing here where people from film, interactive, and music get to co-mingle, talk, and share ideas.

The day started at a podcast mixer full of the best kinds of nerds. We met someone who works for a company with a watch-like device where it records audio on a continual one minute loop and if you tap it, it will save the audio. I guess for parents who want to save precious moments it’s a cool thing but I can only imagine people saving some of the dumb things that come out of my mouth. That’s what Twitter is for, right? Anyway, after chatting with some interesting people at the mixer, we wandered over to pick up our Hype Hotel wristbands and the sky decided that it was going to not really rain or mist but it was going to just spit on us. Interesting. After picking up the wristband, we wandered over to Spotify House and picked up some snacks while we waited for the first act, Vérité, to start playing. Next up, we had BØRNS rocking the stage.

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After catching a few songs from BØRNS, we ambled over to Cheer Up Charlies to catch a few songs of LMN favorite Dear Boy at their first set of SXSW. Despite having just arrived in Austin, they played an awesome set. Although we didn’t stay for the entirety of it, some dancing happened. And it was good.

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From Cheer Up Charlies, it’s was a mad dash down to the Rainey Street area to the StubHub/Culture Collide event at Clive Bar. We made it inside 3 songs in to the Irontom set and danced the rest of the set away. We even got to hear a new song from them called, “My Body.” Pretty rad.

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Hellos, hugs, and love ensued followed by schedule chats, events to see and the like. After that, it was time to check out a panel on music and the brain, “Music As Personalized Medicine.” It was a very intriguing discussion of how music is medicine for each of us in a unique and individual way and the steps being taken to study just how that works in the brain. Something that I personally loved that was said during the panel was that music can cross bridges and do different things for different people. So true.

Pre-dinner was grabbed from my personal favorite food truck, Chi’lantro, which consisted of pork bulgogi kimchi fries. Best. Thing. Ever. It was just as amazing and I remembered it. And yes, I had to share a photo of it.

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Next up was Red Eyed Fly for a taste of Holy Esque before jumping down to Yahoo’s Brazos Hall for James Hersey. That was by far the best venue of the day. Large space, power outlets for charging, free ice cold canned water (weird, right?!), and ample space to sit on the floor. We also really enjoyed the set from Buffalo Sunn there as well. Can’t wait to catch another set from them this week!

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The evening was rounded out with Catfish and The Bottlemen at Latitude 30 for an all around stellar day.

 

It only gets crazier from here and there are so many amazing bands to see tomorrow! Some of our top picks for the day are…

12:30pm and 1pm- Walking on Cars and Until the Ribbon Breaks @ Holy Mountain
2pm- James Bay @Radio Day Stage ACC
3:50pm and 4:40pm- Fatherson and Mallory Knox @ Latitude 30
7pm and 8pm- Jamestown Revival and Misterwives @ Republic SX Compound
9:45pm- Dead Sara @ The Des Moines Embassy
10pm- Highly Suspect @ The Trophy Club
12am- Jared & The Mill @ Esther Follies

Hey, it’s a Giveaway!

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Hey Folks!

We were gifted with a pair of tickets to give away to the Above Seclusion show with IM5 this Sunday at Epicentre. There are a few ways to qualify; retweet us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, or leave us a comment here! In case you’e unfamiliar with the band, here are all the important bits to get to know them.

 

Facebook: http://Facebook.com/Aboveseclusion 

Twitter: http://Twitter.com/AboveSeclusion 

Website: http://AboveSeclusion.com 

 

Top Ten Sets of SXSW 2014

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Well SXSW might be officially over but we are trying to keep the magic alive here at LMN. And can you blame us? It was an amazing good time full of great acts, good friends, much love, and lots of fun. So in the spirit of keeping things going, we present to you our top acts of SXSW 2014. This list is in no particular order because let’s face it, that’s too hard to do. Instead, think of this list as the acts that affected us the most. There will be familiar names and new names but all of them got to us at SXSW.

 

Amanda’s Picks:

1. Morning Parade at Palm Door (The Universal Music Group Showcase)

One of the things that makes SXSW so fun is the opportunity to sample new music and discover your new favorite band. Morning Parade was a band that I wanted to casually sample. You know, stay for 3ish songs and go see someone else. That was my goal for the day. However, Morning Parade threw a wrench in my plans for the day. I was so enamored by them that I stayed for their entire set and was left wanting more from them. They had their fans dancing, heads bobbing, and feet tapping the whole time, mine included. They played new stuff, old fan favorites and I loved it all. Give me more! IMG_0036

2. Beware of Darkness at Wahoo’s Fish Tacos (Wahoo’s Music Showcase)

The show that nabbed the title for the craziest rock and roll experience ever was Beware of Darkness at Wahoo’s. I had only seen Beware of Darkness a few times beforehand but those shows were nothing compared to this wonderful insanity. I’m not really sure what inspired the frequent guitar shredding trips into the crowd or the standing on a table rockstar moments from frontman Kyle Nicolaides but all of it was amazing. Truth be told, I wasn’t even going to attend this particular show because fatigue had set in, I wasn’t feeling well, and I was already in the hotel but I knew it would be my only opportunity to see some familiar faces so, I made the trek. The set was short but absolutely crazy in the best way possible. Definitely an experience that will be hard to repeat.

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3. Dear Boy at Rusty’s (Swing House Austin Occupation)

I think there’s something really special in being able to support a band out at SXSW who is there for the first time. File the relatively new band Dear Boy under that category. They had a rather light show schedule at SXSW so it was imperative for me (well, us) to make sure we caught this particular show at Rusty’s. It was their best show of SXSW, which was impressive considering it was a day show and on a very tiny stage. Their set was far too short (isn’t that how it goes at SXSW?) for my liking but they had a great energy and were really into their groove. I can’t wait to see where they go from here.

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4. The Silent Comedy at The Tap Room at The Market (Official Showcase)

Seeing The Silent Comedy play at SXSW is always a good time. It’s an even better time when it’s at 1am, you’re tired from being up till 3am the night before, you’re in a small venue, and the stage is way higher up than you expect it to be. Sounds like a possible disaster, right? Nope. This was a crazy good time filled with some old favorites like “Prince,” “Gasoline,” and “Road Song” as well as some new tunes like, “Always Two” and “Avalanche.” Justin Buchanan, banjo and mandolin player extraordinaire gets an extra shout out for his crazy shenanigans, which involved leaving the stage to go play with the folks who thought it was safe to sit upstairs. You were wrong. I’m willing to bet there were a few folks in the crowd who fell for The Silent Comedy that night and really, who could blame them?

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5. Semi Precious Weapons at Rusty’s (Crave Online Showcase)

Semi Precious Weapons make me feel sexy. There. I said it. They were on my top picks last year and they are back again for putting on an even better show than last year. Since this was their only set at SXSW it was extremely important that this event not be missed. They had this really infectious energy about them that just bled into the audience, which kept growing and growing. The tight space gave me less dancing room but I didn’t care because being backed against a wall made it that much better. Their set included new/old favorites like “Cherries on Ice,” “Free Booze,” “That’s My Friends,” and “Drink” as well as two new songs “Vegas” and “Hands Up.” I’m happy to say that all of those songs will be on their forthcoming full-length album, Aviation. There was even a surprise visit from Lady Gaga herself who watched from the side stage. Needless to say, I left this show feeling Aviation High.

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HM: Robert John and The Wreck at Wahoo’s Fish Tacos (Wahoo’s Music Showcase)

As it goes with SXSW, you tend to meet new people at shows and chat about similar musical interests and swap names of bands worth checking out. Well, I met this guy outside of Wahoo’s when I was wandering back to my hotel and stopped by to hear the beautiful noise from the venue. He told me their name was David and Olivia and I should come see his band play there later that week. When he said his band was Robert Jon and The Wreck I immediately recognized the name as someone The Silent Comedy had mentioned they were playing with and had seen it on the bill but had never seen them before. I promised to catch their set later that week and I’m really glad I followed through. When they started playing I changed from a walking zombie of myself to an alert toe-tapping individual who was ready to do some dancing. Although I failed to nab a picture of them playing (there was a sleeping Trina on my shoulder), they were really enjoyable and I look forward to seeing them play again sooner rather than later.

 

Kristen’s Picks:

1.  We Met Tomorrow at Karma Lounge (Official Showcase)

I discovered some great talent at this year’s SXSW, but one of the most exciting for me is this young Swedish band called We Met Tomorrow. Their set at Karma Lounge was particularly sweet because I had tried and failed by mere minutes to see them earlier in the week.  This band is instantly captivating with their genre-defying sound and unique set-up. Sans drummer, beat duties are divided between singer, Rickard, who works a bass drum and snare and bassist, Emil, who takes on a foot-pedal crash cymbal.  The energy of the band easily transitions from heartfelt country/folk to frantic blues/rock making every song a new surprise.  In a week packed with new sounds, We Met Tomorrow presented something different and exciting and that, for me, elevated them above the rest. New Band Love.

P15201582. Meg Myers at Red Eyed Fly (Official Showcase)

I adore Meg Myers. Her songs have a tantalizing mix of hard and soft that give them an addictive quality. I saw her at first opportunity Wednesday at The Empire Garage, but her set was way too short and left me craving more. Suddenly, I felt the compulsion to see Meg at every possible opportunity. I rearranged my schedule and was able to make it to her Wednesday night set at Red Eyed Fly. I think I was left unsatisfied at the previous occasion because Meg didn’t end her set with the gut punching “Heart Heart Head”, a song that just leaves you devastated in the best possible way.  The set at Red Eyed Fly included more of the hard-hitting tunes like “Go” and yes, “Heart Heart Head”. I felt cleansed.

P15101903. Sam Smith at St David’s Historic Church (Communion Showcase)

I didn’t think this show was going to happen for me. Friday night, I wanted to get to St. David’s for Hozier’s set at 9:45, but I was running late and the line for badges was the longest I’d seen that week. I camped out in the Church Chapel enjoying some Yoshiki and Gungor. Afterwards, I was just going to leave, but walking back past the main hall of the church, the line had whittled down substantially and within minutes I was ushered into the church. There was no more room on the pews, so I sat myself down in front of the stage. This casual looking band was in the middle of a song. They would have easily been mistaken for a garage band had it not been for the angelic voice coming from the man on the microphone. 20 seconds in and I was so mesmerized I swear my heart stopped beating so that I could listen all the more intently. I only caught 2.5 songs of his short set, but that was enough to make it one of my most lauded performances of the week.

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4. Parade of Lights at The Brew Exchange (The Green Room by Beautiful Buzzz and The Most Definitely)

Parade of Lights is my break-out band of SXSW 2014. I ended up seeing them 3 times over the week. It would have been four had they not had to cancel their super late-night set on Thursday. I am a long-time fan of this band, but SXSW 2014 proved to me that they have really gotten to a place with their line-up and their tunes that has elevated them to be worthy of the big leagues. They are so electric! You see them once and you simply must see them again. The Parade of Lights set at The Brew Exchange was the first I caught that week and really reminded me of my band love.  I was surrounded by friends, all dancing and falling in love with the music. The moment was perfection!

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5. Queen Caveat and The Kin at Whole Foods Rooftop (Quantum Collective Party)

I’m not cheating here including two bands in order to get more of my favorites mentioned on the list. Although both Queen Caveat and The Kin are longtime loves, what made this a truly unique and spectacular SXSW moment, was the pairing of favorites I would not expect to ever find on the same bill. Another standout feature of this “set” was the audience. The rooftop was full of families and fans who really seemed to connect to both bands. Queen Caveat drew in a bunch of younger girls looking up to rock star frontwoman, Lauren Little, in complete awe. Then I spent quite a bit of time post-show chatting with newly minted The Kin fans who were enraptured by the Aussie brothers’ vocal harmonies and ear candy tunes as well as percussionist, Shakerleg’s unique hands on approach to creating a beat.

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HM: Heymoonshaker at Trinity Hall (French Tech Party)

This band gets the award for most unique act of the week. They are a combination beat-box/blues band. Seriously, let that sink in for a minute. The duo not only has a unique and very compelling style, but they have serious stage presence and get additional points for audience participation (there was some hard core hip-shaking going on).  This particular set was also special due to the SXSW miracle that needed to occur for me to get in to see it. Let’s just say I owe huge thanks to my new “friend” who was standing at the door.

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SXSW 2014- Friday Recap

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If I’m being completely honest, I thought this post would be coming to you a lot earlier in the evening than it is right now. However, as things tend to go with SXSW, plans change.

Today was much more relaxed than yesterday with fewer long treks and more bopping around the same few blocks or just hanging at a venue. My feet were pretty happy with that idea as was my body as the wear of SXSW begins to settle in. The morning started off at the BMI + Billboard Brunch at the Four Seasons. It was a wonderful chance to eat and sample some artists. Particular favs were Phox, Betty Who, American Authors, Jamie Scott and The Kin.

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From there it was a leisurely stroll up the street to where all the main action was. I wanted to get in to see The 1975 but it was “at capacity” and I decided to wander off and regroup myself. I ended up at Rusty’s to catch a longer set of Wild Party. I went down the block after they played to catch Rocketboys, who were very fun. I drifted back over to Rusty’s to see The Heavy Heavy Hearts before going down the street to Palm Door for an encore of Parade of Lights. Sadly, the venue was running behind so we had to cut out a little early so we could get back up to Rusty’s to catch Dear Boy’s last SXSW show. From Dear Boy it was back down to Palm Door to see Sir Sly. I told you we just bopped around locally.

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After Sir Sly was a bit of a break and I wandered into Latitude 30 to catch a bit of Prides before getting overwhelmed by the crowd. I bailed and wandered a bit before I went back to Rusty’s to hang out and chill for a bit until Queen Caveat took the stage. Truth be told, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen those folks and they only gotten better. Kristen and I managed to hitch a ride with them over to their show at Whole Foods. The Kin were one of the special guests for the show so Kristen and I both got double the fun with Queen Caveat and The Kin today.

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I was pretty intent on being done with my day after that. Kristen and I would part ways, should would get out and I would go back to the room, eat my salad, and take a hot shower. Well, as luck would have it, I hopped on Instagram and saw that Beware of Darkness were having their final show at Wahoo’s tonight and it was in 30 minutes. I felt a second wind come on as I knew there would be familiar faces at that show. It was a crazy show full of climbing on things and playing in the crowd. Definitely a high note to end my night on.

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Since Kristen went on her own adventures, here is a taste of what she did today….

I just wanted to give a shout out to all the amazing bands I saw after Amanda and I parted ways. I headed to Church, St. David’s to be precise. I really wanted to see Hozier, but not only was I a bit too late, but there was a line so long I couldn’t see the end of it (a sign that perhaps I should move on). I couldn’t bring myself to move too far, so I went to the smaller chapel where I was impressed by some classical piano performed by a man who was later described to me as “a j-pop deity.” Yoshiki wrote a song on the spot using the prayers in the room.

I didn’t really feel like moving (and I discovered the church had free wi-fi) so I stayed and saw the next act, which turned out to be a band on my “to check out list” called Gungor. Gungor’s energy was infectious and gave me my second (or maybe third or fourth) wind. I was also super impressed by how the band changed up their act to suit the setting.

I was inspired to hit the streets and roam for music, but as I passed the main church hall, I noticed the line was significantly decreased so I was able to get in to catch the end of Sam Smith’s set. This was perhaps the best decision I made all week. Sam’s vocals were mesmerizing. I fell in love. LOVE. After that set, I was so melted to the floor that there really was no other option than to stay in my pew for the final act. Not that I would have moved anyway as the final act was another must-see, Vance Joy. It was a beautiful evening.

Saturday Show Recommendations:

  • Aussie BBQ at Maggie Mae’s (noon)- multiple rooms, great bands, yummy food
  • 1pm- Mike Mains and The Branches at Filter on Cedar St
  • 3:20- Moon Taxi at Palm Door on 6th
  • 7pm- Keaton Simons at Whole Foods Rooftop
  • 9pm- We Met Tomorrow at Karma Lounge
  • 11pm- The Silent Comedy at Wahoo’s