While most UT students can’t wait to get out of Austin and hit the beach for spring break, I always look forward to sharing the city with the crowds that flood in for South by Southwest. SXSW has been my go-to spring break plan since freshman year, and now that I’m a junior, I can’t imagine missing out on the wonderfully weird week that I look forward to all year. This time, I volunteered with SXSW and helped check in festival-goers, filmmakers and musicians alike. I not only got a free music badge out of it, but also got to meet some of my favorite bands while helping them get checked into the festival.
If you’ve never experienced SXSW before, it’s an overwhelming festival composed of interactive, film and music events and showcases that all intertwine and overlap in hundreds of venues across Austin. With two years of SXSW experience under my belt, I embarked on the music portion of the festival with a carefully planned and color-coded schedule of all of the set times of my favorite artists. This year, I made it to 16 incredible shows and discovered my new favorite bands. I know I’ll be listening to my SXSW playlist nonstop for the next few weeks, so here are a handful of my top songs from the festival if you want to listen too!
No Matter Where We Go // Whitney
I started off the week with a band called Whitney, a group with a laid-back, summertime sound who exploded after SXSW last year. They were only in town to play one rare show this year, and I somehow managed to grab a spot on the front row. The lead singer of Whitney also plays drums for the band, so the stage was set up with the drum set front and center, unlike any show I’d been to before. They played my favorite song, ‘No Matter Where We Go’ right off the bat, and I couldn’t help dancing around with the new friends I’d met in the crowd.
Answer My Text // PWR BTTM
One of the bands I was most excited to see at SXSW this year was a rock duo called PWR BTTM. I’d seen them play last fall, and was completely enamored with their elaborate and hilarious live performance. The band is set to release a new album called Pageant in May, and I was so excited to hear them play a track from it called ‘Answer My Text’ live for the first time at SXSW. Throughout the week, I went to four incredible PWR BTTM shows, and by the end of the festival, the band knew me by name. All I’ve ever wanted in life is to be actual friends with one of my favorite bands, and thanks to SXSW, I can check that off of my bucket list now!
Lucy // Ten Tonnes
Last year, a friend recommended a song to me called ‘Lucy’ by 19 year old British singer-songwriter, Ethan Barnett, who makes music under the name Ten Tonnes. After quickly becoming obsessed with the catchy melody and lyrics that you can’t help but sing along to, ‘Lucy’ moved to the top of all of my playlists on Spotify. Barnett is the younger brother of ACL-veteran George Ezra, and has the talent to match. I was lucky enough to see Ten Tonnes play to a tiny crowd at The Sidewinder, and I am confident that the next time he tours in Austin, he will be playing at much larger venues and to many more people.
Emily // San Fermin
If you ask any of my friends, you’ll know that for the past few months I’ve been making everyone I know listen to a song called ‘Emily’ by a band who played everywhere at SXSW, San Fermin. I helped check-in the keyboardist of the band while I was volunteering at the registration desk, and I gushed to him about how much I loved ‘Emily’. He replied to me, “Do you know how many beats per minute that song is? The band and I couldn’t remember while we were rehearsing it last night, but we want to play it at SXSW!” Sadly, I didn’t know the musical composition of the song, but they must have figured it out because it sounded incredible live!
First Class // Rainbow Kitten Surprise
When I first heard about a band called Rainbow Kitten Surprise I was extremely skeptical about what their music would sound like. However, after being an avid listener for over a year now and finally seeing them play live at SXSW, I can vouch for how incredible they are. If you are a fan of The Head and the Heart, I think you’d totally be into this band. Sam Melo, the lead singer, has an incredible energy on stage that made the crowd go wild. I got his setlist after the show and it’s my new prized possession.
Face Like Thunder // The Japanese House
The lead singer from The Japanese House walked right up to my station at registration and I kept my cool but was low key freaking out the whole time I was talking to her. I told her that I loved her music and saw her open for a band last year, and she was so surprised that I knew who she was! I saw them play this week at the SXSW Radio Day Stage and they totally killed it. If you like The 1975 or Broods, you should definitely check out their music.
Way It Goes // Hippo Campus
I met up with a group of Kappa Deltas at Waterloo Records to see Hippo Campus and groove together, and it was definitely a highlight of the week. Their music sounded like the sunshine felt. Their song ‘Way It Goes’ is reminiscent of summertime and good vibes. I got to chat with them after their set and they said they remembered me from when I saw them perform a few years back! They nicknamed me St. Claire and I think I might start going by that. Thoughts?
deep the water // Lewis Watson
Lewis Watson is a lyrical genius. I’ve been listening to him since high school and was gutted when he cancelled his Texas debut at SXSW in 2015. Luckily, he made it to Austin this year and I had the pleasure of experiencing his music live at St. David’s Church. The acoustics in the church were unreal, making his voice sound even more pure than I thought was possible. Lewis played my favorite song off of his upcoming album called ‘deep the water’ and gave me a huge hug after his set. My heart.
Die Young // Sylvan Esso
I spent one evening of SXSW at Mohawk seeing Noname, SOHN and Sylvan Esso perform. I ran into Evana, a KD sister, in the sea of dancing bodies and we sang along to all of our favorite tunes together and watched in awe as the lead singer of Sylvan Esso flawlessly moved to the beats of her music. ‘Die Young’ is the newest single from Sylvan Esso, and with soft verses that crash into catchy, electro-pop choruses, I haven’t been able to get this song out of my head since we heard it live at SXSW.
PC 14, Claire Culbertson is a junior biology major here at the University of Texas and is she is well on her way to med school! But aside from being a smarty pants and sharing the same Myers Briggs as Pope Francis—she has the biggest passion for music. Seriously, tell her about your favorite bands, she’s already met them. All in all, Claire is your go to, whether it’s for a scoop of ice cream, the next concert, or a great friend!
Editor: Evana Flores | PC15