Day 2 at SXSW was a big one for Paste and Daytrotter over at Same Sky Productions, where we hosted the likes of Wyclef Jean and Big Star’s Third ensemble. Miss it yesterday? Check out videos of those sessions here).
But dividing and conquering is the name of the game this week, and those of us who weren’t posted up at the studio all day managed to take in plenty of sets across Austin on Wednesday. Check out images from Day 2 in the gallery, and read about some of the performances we caught on Wednesday below. And of course, stay tuned for more SXSW coverage all this week.
“We have a new album coming out this summer, with a lot of songs that’re great for commercials. So if Mazda is listening…” singer Michelle Zauner joked during Japanese Breakfast’s set at the Mazda Studio at Empire showcase. I can always appreciate artists poking fun at the inescapable corporate hoopla at SXSW. Zauner delivered expansive and ambitious vocals in the band’s short set, from the great “Everybody Wants To Love You” to a cover of “Dreams” by The Cranberries.
Japanese Breakfast’s sophomore album is due out this summer and new cuts range from ‘80s pop to an auto-tuned track “about being in love with a robot.” While the stylistic fluctuations indicate that Zauner is very much still experimenting with who she’s becoming as an artist, SXSW is the perfect place for such fluidity, and her charisma is promising. —Adrian Spinelli
When an artist is in the zone, it’s unmistakable, and Jay Som’s Melina Duterte is in it. With an Austin skyline building as the backdrop for her afternoon set at Lustre Pearl, the pint-sized Duterte seemed larger than life. One of SXSW’s buzziest acts (and the most recent feature in Paste’s Best of What’s Next series) is truly multi-faceted, and carries a delightfully humble presence on stage. At one point, Duterte shredded on “Take It,” only to chide the crowd about Taco Bell, the party’s sponsor, as soon as the song ended. But when the jokes ended, it was all business for Duterte and Jay Som as aband. They have four more shows on Thursday and two more showcases on Friday, so don’t sleep on seeing them if you’re in Austin this week. —Adrian Spinelli
Noname is a rapper. Don’t let the the playful keys and jazzy beats of her band fool you into calling her an R&B singer. And she flows. I closed my night with Noname’s midnight set at Jansport’s Bonfire Sessions at Cheer Up Charlie’s, and while most of the crowd seemed like they were rearing for Lil Yachty’s closing performance, Noname was a gem. There was a welcome familiarity to the well-executed instrumentals from her stellar debut Telefone, and she worked the diverse crowd. On “Freedom,” everyone joined Noname in chanting “Dance with me, dance with me, dance with me…” and we swayed and smiled happily into the wee hours of the Austin night.” —Adrian Spinelli
PWR BTTM was the best band I saw on Tuesday and it was an easy choice at the end of the day. I remember seeing them play a smaller showcase late into the night last year and it felt like a worthy coronation to see the queer punk band on the big stage at NPR’s showcase at Stubb’s tonight. Perhaps the most important band in the business, PWR BTTM has made it their priority to bring the voices of queer, gender neutral and anyone who’s just weird, depressed or unsure of themselves, to the forefront of our daily conversations.
“This is another new song and it’s about teaching people how to use gender neutral pronouns if they haven’t before,” Ben Hopkins told the crowd. And it just brought a massive smile to my face, because their message is one of empowerment and understanding different lifestyles, while they’re out on stage shredding like hell. Hopkins and Liv Bruce—the core members of the duo, who had two other musicians on stage with them for this show—take turns switching off on lead vocals. New tongue-in-cheek single, “Answer My Text,” resonated brilliantly on-stage and the band played through feedback with dexterity, making it an integral part of their delivery.
Despite a serious underlying message, Hopkins and Bruce are forever playful with their crowd banter. They reminded the crowd to “tip your bartenders!,” proclaiming that they’re going to “slide into La Croix’s DM’s” for an endorsement, and likened a story of not getting a text back from a boy to Homer’s Odyssey. Between witty banter, meaningful music, and confident, yet, earnest delivery PWR BTTM encapsulates the America that I want. —Adrian Spinelli
Plain and simple, this is a great band and as tight as a unit as you’ll find anywhere. The Brooklyn eight-piece had high energy at their 4pm set at Lustre Pearl, playing a combo of songs off of their upcoming third LP, Belong, (out April 7th on Downtown/Interscope) and favorites like “Sonsick,” “Emily” and “Parasites.” The most notable growth in San Fermin’s live performance, came in the form of lead singers Charlene Kaye and Allen Tate—both coming off worthy solo debut record —just vocally flexing like nobody’s business.
“No Promises” and “Better Company,” were standouts off of Belong, and saxophone player Stephen Chen’s physical style of play on the latter, jacked the crowd up on this very pleasant sunny afternoon show. —Adrian Spinelli
The Shelters’ Tom Petty-meets-The Kooks hard rock might not have been created with day drinking in mind, but this Los Angeles-based quartet provided the perfect soundtrack to the outdoor party Lagunitas and Independence Brewing threw at the Scoot Inn. Simply laying a backdrop of steady beat, sun-drenched harmonies and tight guitar interplay would have been enough to set the mood, but The Shelters rose above the level of backyard barbecue band; they seized the crowd’s attention with incredibly adroit stage presence. Guitarists Chase Simpson and Josh Jove and bassist Jacob Pillot prowled the stage like restless tigers, playing off each other’s riffs and visibly having as much fun as the assembled crowd. It’s not hard to see why Tom Petty himself was so impressed by The Shelters’ live act that he co-produced their debut album and invited them to open for his band Mudcrutch last year. —Zach Blumenfeld