Yes, it’s over. It’s been over for a while now. We’re talking about South By Southwest, and we totally feel your withdrawal symptoms. Real life doesn’t seem quite as fun. At the very least, the weeklong festival left us with some fantastic new musical discoveries, and they’ll make the perfect soundtrack to our rainy afternoons spent brooding and planning for next year’s festivities.
Belicia — Badflower
Tuesday night at the Bat Bar, a tiny establishment squashed between two buildings, I saw Badflower perform on a small 7-by-7-foot corner stage. They only have one song on Spotify, “Soap,” so I wanted to drop by to see what the rest of their music sounded like. The crowd was sparse at first, but by the end of the second song, hordes of people left the sidewalks of Dirty Sixth and filled the bar. Their songs start off soft and haunting, with light guitar and bass backing frontman Josh Cole Katz’s tenor voice. Things take a dark turn quickly as the songs crescendo, with powerful guitar riffs and pounding drums cutting through the mix and working the whole crowd into a head-banging frenzy. Badflower writes songs from the perspective of dark human behaviors like cat-callers, murderers and tortured lovers, ranging from beautiful to deranged. By the end of the band’s set, people around me kept asking, “What’s their name again? I need to look them up!” I know that I will be checking Spotify every day to see when Badflower releases more of their mesmerizing music. .
Jenna — Night Riots
Night Riots is a pop band swimming in a punk sea. Playing with The Maine and Pianos Become the Teeth at Emo’s free showcase on March 18, the brand proved put on a show that allowed them to not get swallowed up among the bigger acts. Dressed in all black, the band took to the smoky stage, creating a theatrical and even supernatural entrance. Singer Travis Hawley’s charismatic stage presence and sharp facial features lured the audience into the performance. Driving rhythms, poppy guitar riffs and catchy synth hooks tell of a band far beyond their years — something rare to find in an opener. Hawley’s mesmerizing vocals tie it all together and give a unique face to the music.
Bryan — Title Fight
Let’s be clear on something: I’ve known about Title Fight for years now. Growing up with a close circle of friends who were all invested in the Pennsylvania hardcore scene to some degree, I had to be up-to-date on its forerunners if I had any hope of scrounging up some underground cred (plot twist: I still haven’t). But it wasn’t until last week that I twice witnessed Title Fight live in all their manic, hilariously awkward glory. These young punks have been flirting with shoegaze for years now, and they seamlessly melded their aggressive older tunes with slower, more contemplative new numbers. The real MVPs of the shows were the fans. Rarely have I seen such excellent displays of sportsmanship and exuberant moshing with no hard feelings, no split lips and no intentional crowd killing. At both shows, a boy who couldn’t have been older than 17 perched on his friends’ hands at the start of the slow-burning “Head in the Ceiling Fan,” and they rocketed him into the sky as the full band came crashing in. It was a triumphant, beautifully poignant moment, and one I doubt I would ever get tired of watching.
Tess — James Bay
James Bay is bae. I had heard his recent single, “Hold Back the River,” a couple times on Sirius XM’s AltNation, and knew he was a big deal in the UK, but had written him off as just another attractive musician with a cute accent and nothing special going for him. Nevertheless, I was sent to photograph him at SXSW’s Radio Day stage and ended up being completely blown away. He was personable, humble, a great storyteller and a master of sheer, honest emotion. Apparently I’m not the only one who was impressed, because his first U.S. headlining tour sold out in minutes. I recommend trying to catch him if you can, while you can, because he’s about to become a hit sensation.
Emily — Zella Day
I discovered Zella Day by accident one day while I was waiting for the West Campus bus and thought I clicked on a different song with my tragically fat thumbs. I listened to her EP a few times and dug her stuff, but life got in the way and I forgot about her for a few weeks — until South By Southwest. I got the opportunity to interview Day at the JW Marriot and see her the next day at The Palm Door. I learned that not only is she the sweetest and most stylish person alive — she also has one of the most powerful voices I’ve heard in a while. She began her career playing music in her parents’ coffee shop in their small Arizona hometown. She moved to Los Angeles at 17 to start recording her own music. Her sound is influenced both by her small-town upbringing and her West Coast lifestyle, and her powerful pop music has been described as the “happier” version of Lana Del Rey. I have faith that she’s about to blow up in a big way when her album releases in June. Day also has a song on the soundtrack for the summer blockbuster “Insurgent.” Check out her songs “1965,” “Sweet Ophelia” and “Hypnotic.”
Sarah — Post Malone
Though I didn’t get to watch the rising rapper in person, he was everywhere. By Tuesday, his song “White Iverson” was blasting on repeat through my headphones as I commuted to SXSW events. Post Malone has a few songs on Soundcloud and has worked with a few better-known artists like Makonnen, but aside from some short articles about the Dallas native in publications like Noisey and Complex, he has yet to get a lot of mainstream attention. I think the fact that I didn’t have to see him to discover him at SXSW is proof of the waves he is making. His name was a buzz word among friends I met from New York to Los Angeles. Post Malone seems to have grabbed the scene by surprise. His song is smooth and mesmerizing, and you can’t help but get lost in his verses that tell the story of basketball player Allen Iverson. I will be catching him live the first chance I get.