SXSW Wrap-Up: Ranking the Non-Locals (A Photo Post)

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My cover story on the local presence at this year's South By Southwest Music Festival is out. I didn't have space to write about the non-locals in the paper. And though I wrote plenty from Austin in this space last week, I wanted to do a final blog post on non-local SXSW stuff, especially as an excuse to publish some more photos Justin Fox Burks took while down there.

So, here's my Top 12 non-local acts I saw last week:

1. Wild Flag

Wild Flag at The Parish

I don't know that this was purely the best set I saw, but it was the most satisfying in part for not knowing what to expect. Two members of my favorite mid-’90s-mid-’00s band, Sleater-Kinney (guitarist Carrie Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss) team with a singer/guitarist I hadn't thought about in years (Mary Timony of ’90s indie rockers Helium) and a keyboardist I was unfamiliar with (Rebecca Cole of the Minders). The result could have gone any which way, but Wild Flag was fresh and fun, somehow both poppier and more guitar-oriented than Sleater-Kinney, with great on-stage chemistry. I couldn't make out enough words to get a feel for their songs, but I'm really looking forward to when this band finally puts out their debut album.

I wrote longer on Wild Flag here.

2. TV On the Radio

TV On the Radio at Stubbs

One of the best things about this festival from the perspective of a mid-sized market like Memphis is being able to see acts that haven't visited your city. I hope TV On the Radio makes a local stop at some point, but until then I was happy to see them for the first time here. I wrote more about TV on the Radio here.

3. Screaming Females

Screaming Females at Buffalo Billiards

This band passed through town last year, but I wasn't able to make it out. I like their records, but it's a whole different thing on stage. I wrote longer on Screaming Females here.

4. Big K.R.I.T.

Big K.R.I.T. at Buffalo Billiards

Meridian, Mississippi rapper Big K.R.I.T. is on the rise and was terribly impressive Saturday night at Buffalo Billiards. After seeing so many rap shows go through the same listless onstage histrionics ("Everybody come to the front of the stage! Everybody put your hands in the air!") or, in the case of Das Racist, spoof those histrionics, it was nice to see a rapper just go about his business. And Big K.R.I.T. gave a fierce, strong, BS-free performance that was riveting even before he brought on the live band Griot halfway through his set. More on Big K.R.I.T. in next week's paper.

5. Das Racist

Das Racist at Venue 222

This photo is from a half set we happened to see at Venue 222, but the Marx Brothers-style full day set we caught at the exhibit hall earlier in the week was the real show. I wrote more about Das Racist here.

6. Apex Manor

Apex Manor at the Parrish

This Memphis-connected band's debut, The Year of Magical Drinking, is among my favorite early 2011 albums. The band's brand of traditional guitar rock was definitely in the minority in terms of the music I sought out in Austin, but the band delivered a strong, fun set that made me like the album even more. I wrote longer about Apex Manor here.

7. Davila 666

Davila 666

Gonerfest faves had played locally en route to the festival, but having missed that show I made sure to track them down here. One of my very favorite live bands of the moment. I wrote more about Davila 666 here.

8. Doomtree/Dessa

Dessa of Doomtree at Flamingo Cantina

Doomtree is a collective of underground hip-hop MCs and DJs from Minneapolis and this photo is from the one song we caught of their crew set at Flamingo Cantina on Wednesday night. We saw a full set later in the week at Venue 222 that was long enough for standout MC Dessa — a crucial if not well-known figure in contemporary hip-hop — to get a couple of solo spotlights. I wrote longer about Dessa here.

9. Raphael Saadiq

Raphael Saadiq at Stubbs

The former frontman of ’90s' R&B greats Tony Toni Tone, Saadiq is one of my faves. He's taking a new, more stylized, more rock-oriented direction on his upcoming album. I didn't think the new material played to his strengths in Austin, but it was still a pleasure to see him on stage for the first time, especially when dipped into his back catalog for a soul medly. I wrote more about Raphael Saadiq here.

10. Odd Future

Odd Future at Buffalo Billiards

One of the most hyped acts in Austin and we caught their official showcase at midnight Saturday night. This teen skate-punk hip-hop crew is on a rapid ascent that they might not be totally comfortable with and their set fell apart after three songs, but not before plenty of intensity, charisma, and skill was on display. Along with Big K.R.I.T., I'll have more on Odd Future in next week's paper.

11. P.O.S.

P.O.S. at Flamingo Cantina

We caught the Doomtree leader solo in a set that was too noisy at first but found it's footing and charmed with the punk-bred devotion between artist and audience. I wrote more about P.O.S. here.

12. Charles Bradley

Charles Bradley at Stubbs

Veteran R&B find is having a moment and got a nice slot opening for TV On the Radio at the big outdoor amphitheatre at Stubb's. Sort of a male corollary to Sharon Jones & the Dap-Tones as a retro soul act, Bradley was great fun, but I couldn't help wondering about how being a previously unknown old soul singer seems to be a better career move at the moment than being a once-moderately successful old soul singer (a la former Stax or Hi artists William Bell, Eddie Floyd, or Otis Clay).

This isn't every non-local artist I saw in Austin. Some just missed the cut (Times New Viking), some surprised me but not enough to crack this list (Wye Oak), some I didn't see enough of (Hayes Carll), some I saw but not quite in the right context (Surfer Blood), some I just didn't like (Cool Kids), and many I tuned out after a song or two even while stuck waiting for something or someone else (sorry Kurt Vile and Portugal the Man).

There were also many, many artists I wanted to see but just didn't get a chance to for one reason or another. The top of my missed list: 1. Givers, 2. tUnE-yArDs, 3. Curren$y, 4. Cults, 5. Yelawolf.

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