Thursday at SXSW was a great mix of old favorites and excellent new discoveries. As the Music portion of the festival hit its mid-week stride, everything seemed to be going full-tilt. Check out some of the highlights below:
We have to thank Sean Moeller for hipping us to Mitski, whose set at the Brooklyn Vegan day party at Red 7 felt raw and emotional while also managing to rock pretty hard. Frontwoman Mitski Miyawaki allows herself to be vulnerable onstage, singing about being lonely and not feeling like a real adult, but she retains a certain power that had the crowd at Red 7 eating out of the palm of her hand.
This particular set didn’t include Hannibal Buress, unfortunately, but it remained engaging even without the comedian’s contributions on the kit. Besides cracking jokes about their 4:20 set time, Sadie Dupuis and company spent plenty of time shredding, all the while looking like they were having a blast doing so.
It may seem a little odd for The Zombies to be returning to SXSW so soon after their high-profile 2012 appearance (watch their performance of “Time of the Season” at our party at the Stage on Sixth here), but we’re not complaining. The legendary band debuted a good amount of new material—which, happily, sounded catchy and similar to their old material—but also made sure to play hits like “Tell Her No,” “This Will Be Our Year,” “Time of the Season” and “She’s Not There.” If the sea of iPhones raised during the latter was any indication, fans were eager to witness anything The Zombies had to offer.
White Reaper was my first real “holy shit, who is this band?” moment of this SXSW. Already at Cheer Up Charlie’s for an earlier set during the Polyvinyl showcase, I found myself sucked in by their live energy. Imagine Diarrhea Planet, minus a few guitars, plus one awesomely enthusiastic headbanging keyboardist. Keep an eye out for these guys.
Once in a while, you’ll find a band at a festival who has been booked in a room far too small for them. That was the case with Girl Band at the Mohawk’s indoor stage. The buzz around these guys—and yes, Girl Band is a band of dudes—is obvious, and they were able to parlay it into a strong set on Thursday night.
A late start meant a short set from Alvvays, one of our favorite new bands of 2014, but they sure made it count, playing select cuts from their breakout self-titled album to a packed crowd and closing with their undeniably great “Archie, Marry Me.”
Leon Bridges seems poised to be this year’s SXSW breakout star, and that was apparent at his Hype Hotel performance on Thursday where you’d be hard-pressed to find a single person in the crowd not swaying along to his smooth, soulful tunes. If you’re at all a Sam Cooke fan, this guy is a must-listen.