FUV at SXSW 2016 Wrap Up
Russ Borris looks back on SXSW 2016
Every year, SXSW brings together more artists in one area than a festival goer could possibly hope to see, but part of the fun is to try to catch as much live music and discover as many new artists as you can. The trick is to pace yourself, not get carried away with a schedule, and to be open to anything and everything.
Wednesday night began with favorite Charles Bradley at legendary Stubb’s. Rarely does an artist evoke so much honest and heartfelt emotion in his performance. Bradley is overjoyed at the opportunity to sing on stage and he relishes every moment. Plus, he covered Sabbath! His version of “Changes,” dedicated to his mother, was tremendous.
Next up was a special showcase with rock icon Iggy Pop. It was my first time seeing the legend, so needless to say, I was pretty excited. Backed by Josh Homme and other members of Queens of the Stone Age, Iggy’s set featured much of the new album, Post Pop Depression. A greater showman you will not find. With the uniqueness of his physicality, it's as though Iggy is a Cro-Magnon rock star. His energy level is unmatched and the new songs sounded great alongside favorites like “Lust For Life,” “The Passenger,” and “China Girl.”
After the high of the Iggy Pop set, I was content with the notion of that show being the highlight of the night. However, I wasn’t prepared for what came next. We moved to one of my favorite venues in Austin, Cedar Street Courtyard, to see Peaches. Words cannot describe the sheer awesomeness of this show. Peaches is an insane live performer. Commanding a crowd with her vocal power, stage presence, and array of toys and costume changes, the show was unlike anything I had ever seen.
The L.A. band MUNA was next on my list. Armed with a slew of catchy songs, the electro-pop band proved to be high energy and even more rocking live. It was their first time playing outside of Los Angeles, but they proved to have something significant. Strong songs, one of which they played for us later in the week at Hotel Saint Cecilia.
Thursday proved to be an incredibly busy day. Not only were we set for a number of session tapings, we hosted a super cool party at Hotel Saint Cecilia. With artists like Matthew Caws of Nada Surf, the hugely talented newcomer Marlon Williams, Nashville’s The Wild Feathers and more, there was plenty of great live music throughout the day on the main stage. Concurrently, we filmed some amazing performances from Brooklyn’s PWR BTTM, Seratones from Louisiana, and songwriters Margaret Glaspy and Kevin Morby. If that wasn’t packed enough, there was a whole night ahead!
There was so good buzz going around about Margo Price, so I made sure to catch her show at The Gatsby. Another in an exciting new generation of country artists, the Nashville songwriter has Dolly Parton sass and Loretta Lynn 'tude. Great live band, great presence and a bright future. Sam Outlaw was set to play the same showcase, so we hung around for his set. Outlaw's Angeleno was one of my favorite records from last year, and he played to a packed house, running through many of those songs, a couple new ones, and a solid Patty Loveless cover.
Our Radio Day Stage was the big event for Friday. Kicking off with Jack Garratt, who absolutely slayed in a short, but amazing set, the tone was set for a stellar live broadcast that included CHVRCHES, The Heavy, Bombino, Lucius and Hinds. Once the broadcast was complete, we grabbed some dinner and, after a brief thunderstorm, headed back out.
First up was Billie Marten (who also performed for FUV the next day at Hotel Saint Cecilia). The young British songwriter has drawn comparisons to Laura Marling, but she definitely has her own voice. We saw her at the Central Presbyterian Church which, after a busy Radio Day Stage, was the perfect spot for her beautiful and comforting set. She is one to watch, for sure.
Next up was Lizzo. To put it simply, Lizzo is a force. Hailing from Minnesota, she just may be the next big thing in hip-hop. A skilled lyricist with great presence and delivery, Lizzo was backed by two dancers that gave a whole other dimension to the SXSW experience.
After the beauty of Billie Marten's set and the party atmosphere of Lizzo, the challenge was determining our next move. There really was only way way to go: Exmortus. Sometimes, you just need some Southern California speed metal. Even if heavy metal isn't your thing, you'd have to appreciate the talent of the musicians involved. Really impressive players.
I also wanted to catch a set from our hometown favorites Sunflower Bean. This was the most impressive showing I have seen from the band yet. Featuring some blistering guitar from Nick Kivlen and a rock star performance from frontwoman Julia Cumming (including a spot in the crowd shredding her bass) it is clear that this band is no longer on their way. They have arrived.
As expected, SXSW proved to be crazy busy, but crazy fun. I saw a lot of great stuff, missed even more that I wanted to see and took all Austin had to offer for our time down here. Big thanks to our FUV crew for all of their hard work (which you'll find at wfuv.org/sxsw) and to SXSW for once again being a great destination for music fans. Until next year...