Lone stars

Freshly re­turned from Texas and with his ears still ring­ing, picks out the bands and acts that shone the bright­est at SXSW 2015

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC - Jim Car­roll

ZZ All is quiet in Austin on the day af­ter South By South­west 2015 has come to a close. The vis­i­tors are head­ing home; the lo­cals are get­ting back to keep­ing Austin weird.

This bout of Lone Star state March mad­ness may have highly re­garded in­ter­ac­tive and film strands, but it’s the mu­sic fes­ti­val that is still at the heart of the SXSW ex­pe­ri­ence.

Mu­sic is the big­gest con­trib­u­tor to the stats that make the event look so im­pres­sive to the world at large. In the space of five days, you’ve more than 2,000 bands in town to play to around 300,000 peo­ple – en­sur­ing a bo­nanza of $315 mil­lion for the city.

SXSW is big busi­ness. You can see it in the num­ber of brands jostling for a toe­hold in Austin . Some got trac­tion for all the wrong rea­sons. McDon­ald’s landed here for the first time this year, but faced crit­i­cism for ini­tially plan­ning to not pay acts who played its events. Ev­ery time we cy­cled past its stage on Red River & 5th, it was largely de­serted, save for a for­lorn look­ing Ron­ald McDon­ald.

The McDon­ald’s mar­ket­ing team’s post-mortem won’t be the only glum one from this year’s event. It would seem that all the bad press around SXSW 2014 – from the tragic car crash dur­ing the fes­ti­val to the cor­po­rate heavy hand­ed­ness that was par­tic­u­larly strik­ing last year – has had a knock-on ef­fect.

Crowds ap­peared down over the course of the mu­sic fes­ti­val, judg­ing by the ease of get­ting into day­time shows, while a lot of mu­sic-in­dus­try folks clearly de­cided to give Austin a miss this year. There was a dearth of crowd-pulling tal­ent, with a lot of mar­quee bands de­cid­ing not to play the branded shows and grab a big pay cheque. While there were some well-known acts in town (from Fu­ture Is­lands to D’An­gelo to Flam­ing Lips), it wasn’t a patch on pre­vi­ous years.

But we weren’t here to see acts ev­ery­one al­ready knows about. The best thing about SXSW Mu­sic is that it’s still a mag­net for the best new bands around. You could spend all day ev­ery day, from mid-morn­ing to the wee small hours, check­ing out wannabes, will-bes and, in­evitably, never-gonna-bes on stages in bars, venues, clubs, backyards, car parks and other makeshift spa­ces all over the city.

Here, then, are 20 acts from this year’s SXSW draft that we reckon are go­ing to hang around.

You could spend all day ev­ery day, from mid-morn­ing to the wee small hours, check­ing out wannabes, will-bes and, in­evitably, never-gonna-bes

Court­ney Bar­nett Girl Band

Madisen Ward & Mama Bear

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