“LA teen mob Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (above) arrived in Texas with a deafening buzz behind them, and they didn’t disappoint”
included Kanye West and Jay-Z playing in a power station, P Diddy pimping for a car company, Foo Fighters boring all with their dumb power rock, The Strokes playing a packed-to-capacity open-air free show, TV on the Radio flexing their muscles ahead of a new album and Snoop Dogg doing his shizzle for a soft drinks brand.
The real draws for many, though, are the bands you may not have heard about yet. SXSW has a fantastic record of showcasing new acts who go on to be huge. It’s where The White Stripes, Norah Jones, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Janelle Monáe, Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes and countless others first came to prominence. A band you see today playing to a dozen people in a tent on East 6th Street could be tomorrow’s festival headliner.
Here, then, are 20 new acts who impressed at SXSW 2011. They came, they saw, they stagedived at every opportunity. Los Angeles teen mob Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All arrived in Texas with a deafening buzz behind them, and they didn’t disappoint. Every gig – well, bar the official showcase in a terrible venue called Buffalo Billiards, which ended with the group walking off stage after three songs – was a jawdropping blend of chaotic stage behaviour, dirty beats, offensive lyrics, punkrock attitude and loud-mouthed panache.
You know the way some people go on about legendary gigs? Well, Odd Future at the Thrasher party, the Fader Fort and the Mess With Texas bash are three to add to that list.
Beyond the onstage madness, though, it’s clear that Tyler the Creator, Hodgy Beats, Left Brain, Syd da Kid (the collective’s production wizard and sole female member) and co really do have the skills and smarts to tear things up. What hip-hop’s future looks and sounds like. We knew before SXSW that Jamie Woon had a good nose for the sharp remix – see Ramandanman and Hudson Mohawke’s takes on Night Air and Lady Luck respectively – but the Brit School grad has serious pop-soul chops too. Backed by a band who knew when and how to keep things subtle, Woon slayed ’em with a soft voice and off-kilter, slender, atmospheric tunes.
The only instance of an artist talking about “existential reckonings” at SXSW 2011 came from Kristine Flaherty. The Chicago-born, San Francisco-based rapper, singer and beatmaker keeps it smart and sassy with tough, sweet and very nimble rhymes such as Messin’ With My Head. Here’s a band who know what they’re doing. California’s Young the Giant are all about crunchy, robust, radio-friendly anthems. The tune that is going to do most of the heavy lifting for them this year, as they journey to arena and festival stages, is My Body, but there’s much more where that came from. The band from Oxford, Mississipi, came back for a second bite of the SXSW cherry after a promising initial appearance a few years ago. Fans of sparkling, swaggering indie-pop tunes with a tough folky underbelly and lashings of harmonies are going to swoon over fully developed songs such as Catapilah. Boston-born and New York-based Hooray for Earth’s trippy, tribal jams and spacey, groovefringed alt-anthems were given an extra dash of oomph by members of Zambri on backing vocals. Forthcoming debut album True Loves should see them gathering even more fans. There’s a lot of love out there for the Calgary four-piece’s beguiling debut album Native