Empress Of performs at the Brooklyn Vegan day party at The Main during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 16, 2013.

SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST 2013 | DAY FIVE

Saturday night at South By Southwest often offers the biggest surprises and blowouts to end the festival that everyone ends up gushing about. This year was no different. There was Justin Timberlake‘s much-rumored not-so-secret secret show for MySpace and the Smashing Pumpkins playing Red Bull’s Sound Select: 120 Hours stage to celebrate frontman Billy Corgan’s birthday. And there was Prince, performing an exclusive show at La Zona Rosa — which also featured A Tribe Called Quest — that lasted until 3 a.m. and ended, predictably with a singalong of “Purple Rain.”

There was also a rumor about a solo performance from The Flaming Lips‘ frontman and spirit guide Wayne Coyne. Until there wasn’t… when that never materialized.

I get the appeal of seeing these megastars in intimate spaces for special one-off shows, but very few actually get a chance to see these. I love Timberlake or Prince’s music as much as most people, but for me, I was just uninterested in committing to staying in one place all night in hopes of catching an up-close glimpse. As cool as it might be to say “Yeah, I was there,” I’d walk away with the same feeling of “Yep, Prince is still pretty awesome.”

Instead, with so much music to hear, I packed in as many shows as I could on Saturday day and night. I started the morning with the noisy rock of Brass Bed, accidentally saw Toronto punk band METZ for a third time, and ended my late afternoon with Telekinesis (again). And all in between, caught sets that included grungy rocker Mac DeMarco; the heavy obliterating feedback of A Place To Bury Strangers; propulsive rock of The Thermals, sparkly dancepop of Empress Of; hazy indie rock of Widowspeak; droning, Indian-tinged psyche rock of Elephant Stone; and Dallas indie band Air Review, who must have drawn an unlucky straw by having to play it’s set in a banging, over-crowded dance club full of people ready to party, rather than see them. Such is the SXSW experience though. Then late Saturday night, Denton, Texas folk band Seryn decided to treat its quiet, attentive audience at St. David’s Episcopal Church to a much more intimate set than normal, to calm the nerves with something serene and almost spiritual.

Still with so much attention going to bigger stars, I actually came away thinking about how much amazing new music I heard from young bands. Ultimately at the end of the whole week, I actually saw about 72 bands — some full sets, some only a single song. But cannot wait to see some of these artists again the next time they roll through town and catch some of the bands I missed, too.

Here are a few other highlights:

Micah P. Hinson performs at Red Eyed Fly during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 16, 2013.
Micah P. Hinson performs at Red Eyed Fly during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 16, 2013. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)

MICAH P. HINSON @ Red Eyed Fly

I have heard about Abilene, Texas-based singer-songwriter Micah P. Hinson for years, and I’m positive I may have a few of his records thanks to a friend and former colleague, who absolutely adores Hinson. But it wasn’t until his set Saturday night was I won over by his peculiar singing voice — sometimes deadpan like Bill Callahan, or warbling like Vic Chesnutt — and his heartbreaking lyrics. Hinson played his folky country songs mostly solo in a too noisy bar patio, but when he brought his wife up on stage for a duet — sung into the same old-timey microphone like Johnny and June Carter Cash might’ve — the entire place went more-or-less silent. It was a lovely moment for a songwriter that most people still do not know, but really should.

Houses performs at the A.V. Club day party at The Mohawk during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 16, 2013.
Houses performs at the A.V. Club day party at The Mohawk during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 16, 2013. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)

HOUSES @ The Mohawk

A few years back I came across and fell in love with the music of Houses — a Chicago-based electronic pop duo Dexter Tortoriello and Megan Messina — when I heard All Night, a superb, subtle and dreamy record constructed while living briefly in a cabin in Hawaii. But I had never seen the band live. In a set that showcased new songs — such as “Beginnings” from the upcoming album A Quiet Darkness, Houses displayed one of the prettiest and outright earnest sets all week.

Fear Of Men performs at the A.V. Club day party at The Mohawk during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 16, 2013.
Fear Of Men performs at the A.V. Club day party at The Mohawk during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 16, 2013. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)

FEAR OF MEN @ The Mohawk

In the new discovery department, Fear Of Men is a band I knew very little about besides wanting to check them out. The London/Brighton band fronted by singer Jessica Weiss makes gauzy, heart-swelling and bittersweet pop music that a friend described as ’60s girl groups meets shoegaze. The show was intimate but as the sound swirled around the small room, it was clear this band was build for a larger hall. It turned out to be a great surprise I’m anxious to hear more of.

Brass Bed performs at The Parish during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 16, 2013.
Brass Bed performs at The Parish during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 16, 2013. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)

BRASS BED @ The Parish

This Louisiana psyche pop band’s powerful and almost romantic sound reminded me of both Wilco and Grizzly Bear’s Daniel Rossen, with songs like “Bullet For You” that burst into fantastic noise and gnashing guitar solos.

Empress Of performs at the Brooklyn Vegan day party at The Main during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 16, 2013.
Empress Of performs at the Brooklyn Vegan day party at The Main during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 16, 2013. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)

EMPRESS OF @ The Main

On record, Empress Of’s music is a blissful mess of glittery synths, junky electronic drum machines, and echoing vocals. But as she bounced around on stage, her songs like “Champagne” proved far dance-ier and groovier, perfect for filling a giant club.

Merchandise performs at Beerland during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 16, 2013.
Merchandise performs at Beerland during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 16, 2013. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)

MERCHANDISE @ Beerland

Merchandise, the punky Florida band told a crowd at Beerland “This is show number ten for us. We’re all out of pretty songs.” They then rocketed into an all-out assault of hard bashers and, no doubt, burned off some tired frustrations.

Elephant Stone performs at the Yahoo! showcase at Brazos Hall during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 16, 2013.
Elephant Stone performs at the Yahoo! showcase at Brazos Hall during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 16, 2013. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)

ELEPHANT STONE @ Brazos Hall

Fronted by Rishi Dhir (formerly of The High Dials), Canadian indie rock band Elephant Stone somehow finds common ground between Elliott Smith, George Harrison and The Stone Roses — while incorporating elements of traditional Indian music including the sitar, tabla, and dilruba. With stirring melodies, droning guitars, and lyrics with tinge of melancholy, this band is has a unique, yet loveably familiar sound.

Air Review performs at Shakespeare's Pub during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 16, 2013.
Air Review performs at Shakespeare’s Pub during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 16, 2013. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)

AIR REVIEW @ Shakespeare’s Pub

In some ways, this was a hometown show of sorts for Dallas indie pop band Air Review. Too bad the noisy crowd was mostly spillover from the club in the next room, and drown out the subtlety of this band’s emotional and immersive songs. The album, Low Wishes — and the song “America’s Son” — document the rigors of everyday life. Vocalist Douglas Hale’s deeply introspective lyrics are rife with themes of shattered dreams and disillusioned hearts, all amplified by music of piercing beauty.

And more photos from the day and night:

Mac DeMarco performs at the Hype Hotel during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 16, 2013.
Mac DeMarco performs at the Hype Hotel during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 16, 2013. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
A Place To Bury Strangers performs at the Brooklyn Vegan day party at The Main during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 16, 2013.
A Place To Bury Strangers performs at the Brooklyn Vegan day party at The Main during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 16, 2013. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
The Thermals performs at the A.V. Club day party at The Mohawk patio during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 16, 2013.
The Thermals performs at the A.V. Club day party at The Mohawk patio during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 16, 2013. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
Baths performs at the A.V. Club day party at The Mohawk patio during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 16, 2013.
Baths performs at the A.V. Club day party at The Mohawk patio during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 16, 2013. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
Widowspeak performs at The Parish during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 16, 2013.
Widowspeak performs at The Parish during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 16, 2013. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
Telekinesis performs at the Merge showcase at The Parish during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 14, 2013.

SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST 2013 | DAY THREE

As South By Southwest continues to trudge on and ramp up heading into the weekend, the main streets already feel packed and difficult to navigate, and the lines — even those for official SXSW badge and wristband attendees — are becoming discouragingly long. At one point around 10 p.m. I ran over to The Belmont, in hopes of getting in to catch The Flaming Lips perform its masterpiece album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots in its entirety. Once there, the line just for badge-wearers was an entire block length and showed no signs of moving. Denied! Oh well, it’s not like Yoshimi is one of my all-time favorite records or anything. (Yes it is.)

Instead, I hoofed it back over to Red 7, to see part of Foxygen‘s set, where I was met with another long wait — albeit shorter than if I had stayed in that line for the Lips — followed by a total onstage meltdown from frontman Sam France, which was so frustrating I left early.

There was a good stretch of about two hours between seeing bands just because of walking, waiting in lines, and then of course, a nightmarishly long soundcheck. This bit of logistical planning and taking gambles in hopes of just getting inside to see some music, can be one of the more frustrating aspects of SXSW. Still there were plenty of highlights for me on Thursday at South By Southwest.

Night Beds performs at the Jagjaguwar, Secretly Canadian, Dead Oceans showcase at Red 7 during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 14, 2013.
Night Beds performs at the Jagjaguwar, Secretly Canadian, Dead Oceans showcase at Red 7 during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 14, 2013. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)

NIGHT BEDS @ Red 7

There’s no shortage of brash punk bands, bass heavy hip hop and electronic music, and metal at South By Southwest. As such It can be hard to find a quiet place, let alone find a quiet band that can hold the attention of a big bar crowd. And yet, the soaring and emotional vocals of Night Beds‘ Winston Yellon has that capacity to enrapture the room into silence. With stunners like “Ramona” and “Even If We Try,” Night Beds’ blend of quiet folk songs that built to a lovely catharsis was a welcome respite of introspection and calm.

Foxygen performs at the Jagjaguwar, Secretly Canadian, Dead Oceans showcase at Red 7 patio during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 14, 2013.
Foxygen performs at the Jagjaguwar, Secretly Canadian, Dead Oceans showcase at Red 7 patio during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 14, 2013. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)

FOXYGEN @ Red 7 Patio

South By Southwest is a grueling week, especially for young emerging bands, who sign up for dozens of gigs — often many in one day — and are supposed to play in so many different settings and conditions, for so many types of people who expect something special each and every time. Some concert goers are only passing through for a few songs, are tired and grumpy, dehydrated or drunk, and ultimately difficult to please. It’s not a surprise that as the week goes on, bands are simply exhausted. And it’s no wonder bands begin to fray or feel a little disillusioned by the whole thing.

On Thursday night at the Secretly Canadian\Jagjaguwar\Dead Oceans showcase at Red 7, I witnessed the psychedelic indie band Foxygen have something of a meltdown following an endless, nearly hour-long soundcheck where both fans and the band got testy. It boiled over when, after a song or two, singer Sam France bantered about his road-ravaged voice and a someone in the audience yelled for him to just play a song, which in turn prompted France to lash out at him and threaten to fight. Later, France bizarrely walked off stage, ended the show, only to return to finish out the set. The band later cancelled the rest of its performances at SXSW, disappointing many fans eager to see this band.

It was an unfortunate moment for a talented young band, especially one with a very well-liked record and getting a lot of attention right now. But it does call into question just how much pressure is put on these bands by the fans, the record labels and media to deliver and impress all in the hopes that people will fall in love with their music.

Telekinesis performs at the Merge showcase at The Parish during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 14, 2013.
Telekinesis performs at the Merge showcase at The Parish during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 14, 2013. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)

TELEKINESIS @ The Parish

After awhile, it’s easy to feel a little numb from the assault of noisy punk bands on busted PA’s. So it can be comforting to drop by a set from an already-favorite artist that you know is sure to be great. For me, that band was Telekinesis. So I made it a point to make the Merge Records showcase at the Parish — one of my favorite, and best-sounding venues in Austin — one of my last stops on Thursday night, so I could catch this set, and see Michael Benjamin Lerner sing and play drums at the same time. Simply put: This is a band I always love hearing live.

On his third album, Dormarion (produced by Spoon’s Jim Eno), Lerner plays practically every instrument. But for this tour, Telekinesis has a fantastic new lineup that includes keyboardist Rebecca Cole, who’s best known for The Minders and Wild Flag. Her addition is a perfect tonal fit for these new songs, especially the synth-heavy “Ever True,” or the album’s first single “Ghosts And Creatures.” Mixing fuzzed-out power pop with fizzy synth pop, Telekinesis plays these fun, sometimes sentimental songs full of big beefy distortion, memorable guitar hooks, and impossibly catchy, fist-pumping choruses.

And again, it was another perfectly chosen cover song — this time INXS’ “Don’t Change” — that lifted the room to new heights, all before closing with the garage rock banger “Tokyo.” Telekinesis is one of those bands I’ve seen plenty of times, but always delights. Last night was no different.

Here’s a few other photos from the day and night:

Beach Fossils performs at the Brooklyn Vegan day party at The Junior during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 14, 2013.
Beach Fossils performs at the Brooklyn Vegan day party at The Junior during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 14, 2013. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
Small Black performs at the Jagjaguwar, Secretly Canadian, Dead Oceans showcase at Red 7 patio during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 14, 2013.
Small Black performs at the Jagjaguwar, Secretly Canadian, Dead Oceans showcase at Red 7 patio during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 14, 2013. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
Bleeding Rainbow performs at Valhalla during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 14, 2013.
Bleeding Rainbow performs at Valhalla during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 14, 2013. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
Bleeding Knees Club performs at the Pure Volume House during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2012.

SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST 2012 | DAY FIVE

Bleeding Knees Club performs at the Pure Volume House during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2012.
Bleeding Knees Club performs at the Pure Volume House during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2012. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
Yellow Ostrich performs at the Baeblemusic day party at Peckerhead’s KnuckleRumbler Lounge during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2012.
Yellow Ostrich performs at the Baeblemusic day party at Peckerhead’s KnuckleRumbler Lounge during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2012. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
Psychedelic Horseshit performs at Red 7 during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2012.
Psychedelic Horseshit performs at Red 7 during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2012. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
Ceremony performs at Red 7 during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2012.
Ceremony performs at Red 7 during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2012. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
Widowspeak performs at the Captured Tracks showcase at The Parish during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2012.
Widowspeak performs at the Captured Tracks showcase at The Parish during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2012. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
Craft Spells performs at the Captured Tracks showcase at The Parish during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2012.
Craft Spells performs at the Captured Tracks showcase at The Parish during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2012. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
The Men performs at Beerland during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2012.
The Men performs at Beerland during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2012. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)

For more photos, visit Flickr.

Patrick Watson performs at St. David's Episcopal Church during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 15, 2012.

SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST 2012 | DAY THREE

La Vida Boheme performs at the NPR Music day party at The Parish during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 15, 2012.
La Vida Boheme performs at the NPR Music day party at The Parish during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 15, 2012. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
Gardens & Villa performs at the Jagjaguwar/Secretly Canadian/Dead Oceans showcase at Mohawk Patio during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 15, 2012.
Gardens & Villa performs at the Jagjaguwar/Secretly Canadian/Dead Oceans showcase at Mohawk Patio during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 15, 2012. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
Patrick Watson performs at  St. David's Episcopal Church during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 15, 2012.
Patrick Watson performs at St. David’s Episcopal Church during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 15, 2012. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)

PATRICK WATSON @ St. David’s Episcopal Church

Patrick Watson’s deeply emotional and joyful midnight performance at St. David’s Episcopal Church has stuck with me more than any at this year’s South By Southwest. This beautiful sanctuary, lit from above by strings of Edison light bulbs, was the perfect setting for Watson’s imaginative and timeless chamber pop from this year’s masterful Adventures In Your Own Backyard. But near the end of the set, the singer and his band gathered in the aisle between church pews to do single mic renditions of “Into Giants” and “Words In The Fire,” — a stirring song about finding happiness living in the present. Sitting next to so many close friends, it was hard not to get caught up in that moment and realize how lucky we were to witness this special show. I still get choked up every time I put on “Words In The Fire.”

For more photos, visit Flickr.

Wye Oak performs at the Merge showcase at The Parish during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 18, 2011.

SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST 2011 | DAY FOUR

Sharon Van Etten performs at the A.V. Club showcase at The Parish during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 18, 2011.
Sharon Van Etten performs at the A.V. Club showcase at The Mohawk during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 18, 2011. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
Wye Oak performs at the Merge showcase at The Parish during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 18, 2011.
Wye Oak performs at the Merge showcase at The Parish during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 18, 2011. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
Wye Oak performs at the Merge showcase at The Parish during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 18, 2011.
Wye Oak performs at the Merge showcase at The Parish during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 18, 2011. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
Candy Claws performs at SoHo Lounge during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 18, 2011.
Candy Claws performs at SoHo Lounge during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 18, 2011. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)

For more photos, visit Flickr.

Julianna Barwick performs at the Pitchfork showcase at the Central Presbyterian Church during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2011.

SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST 2011 | DAY THREE

tUnE-yArDs performs at the NPR Music day party at The Parish during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2011.
tUnE-yArDs performs at the NPR Music day party at The Parish during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2011. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
Khaira Arby performs at the NPR Music day party at The Parish during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2011.
Khaira Arby performs at the NPR Music day party at The Parish during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2011. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
The Antlers performs at the NPR Music day party at The Parish during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2011.
The Antlers performs at the NPR Music day party at The Parish during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2011. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
The Submarines performs at the Paste showcase at the Stage on Sixth during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2011.
The Submarines performs at the Paste showcase at the Stage on Sixth during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2011. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
J. Mascis performs at the Paste showcase at the Stage on Sixth during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2011.
J. Mascis performs at the Paste showcase at the Stage on Sixth during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2011. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
Julianna Barwick performs at the Pitchfork showcase at the Central Presbyterian Church during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2011.
Julianna Barwick performs at the Pitchfork showcase at the Central Presbyterian Church during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2011. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
Julianna Barwick performs at the Pitchfork showcase at the Central Presbyterian Church during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2011.
Julianna Barwick performs at the Pitchfork showcase at the Central Presbyterian Church during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2011. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
Suuns performs at Nuvola during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2011.
Suuns performs at Nuvola during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2011. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
Suuns performs at Nuvola during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2011.
Suuns performs at Nuvola during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2011. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
Lord Huron performs at Bat Bar during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2011.
Lord Huron performs at Bat Bar during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2011. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
Extra Classic performs at Malaia during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2011.
Extra Classic performs at Malaia during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 17, 2011. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)

For more photos, visit Flickr.