SXSW: Our Favorites You Probably Never Heard Of

Little Hurricane at Hype Hotel

Little Hurricane at Hype Hotel

I headed down to Austin on March 11th knowing how unprepared I was to experience South by Southwest. I only say I was unprepared due to the fact it was my first time heading down to one of the largest music festivals in the country and no one can truly be prepared for what I had in store. At least I was aware of my ignorance and knew the best way to have fun and learn the most about music was to expect nothing, plan nothing and go with whatever happens to me.

You’ll learn more about my day to day of SXSW in the diary entries to come later this week but I’m most excited to share my top five list. It’s, simply put, the best bands I’ve never heard of until the fest. I’m dying to share them with you so with no further ado, here they are.

1. Little Hurricane
My first night in Austin I headed out to the “Hype Hotel”. It was open to anyone as long as you’d stood in line for (at least) forty-five minutes to grab a wrist-band. I was lucky enough to hit the line early in the week when it was relatively short. I dropped in on the Hotel Tuesday (the 13th) night on the advice of a friend noting that Miniature Tigers were not to be missed. While I was there waiting for her suggested group to hit the stage a duo, Little Hurricane, got up and blew me away. No joke. They have a simple setup of drums and guitar with occasional mandolin, but in no way does simple define their sound. Some songs are sweet and on the folk side like the video below, then others (like the majority of the set I saw) were full-on rock with the adorable CC killing it on drums.

2. Vintage Trouble
There have been a rash of blues and soul revival musicians cropping up in the last year or so. Like last year’s big winner at Bumbershoot Charles Bradley with his fancy duds and powerful performances. I was lucky enough to happen upon one of the best shows all festival on Thursday during Paste Magazine’s day party at the Stage on Sixth with Vintage Trouble. Lead singer Ty Taylor is a force to be reckoned with but what really sealed the deal for this group is how much energy the entire band throws out during their set. A lot of groups like this might let the dynamic lead take all the attention on himself and Ty is more than capable. However, the bassist, guitarist and drummer all threw themselves into the music dancing, going down on bended knee and sliding around the stage with ease and grace. This group is the full package with a killer vocalist, truly soulful sound and incredibly talented musicians.

3. The Barr Brothers
The Barr Brothers were another lucky happenstance at Paste Magazine’s day show. Seriously, Paste pretty much knocked it out of the park this year; I knew if I slipped into Stage on Sixth anytime before 5pm I would see something pretty damn good. As they set up their slide guitar, full-sized harp and several other instruments I knew I was in for something fun. Out of the five groups in this post, their sound most closely resembles the music coming out of our neck of the woods in Seattle, but they were an unexpected surprise nonetheless. The guitarist pulled thread across his strings to create an odd violin-like squeak while simultaneously fingering chords. Off to the side I spied what looked like a Harmonium blowing through dulcet tones to create an almost eerie sound but did anything but bring down the sweetness of the songs.

4. Oh Look Out
This band is one of my proudest finds of the whole week. I decided on Friday that I would simply walk around during the day popping in and out of day parties to see what there was to offer. Most of SXSW is luck. Luck seeing the groups you are dying to hear, luck falling into the front row of the most incredible performance you’ve ever seen, luck finding a group you’ve never heard of and probably would never have heard of save for this bar with an open window pouring out their music. That last bit of luck is how I found Oh Look Out. I stopped by for a cheap Lone Star beer and looked up to find a moose head staring at me. Then came the familiar sounds of 8-bit Nintendo Gameboy-style digitized sound and I knew I’d found something good.

The Austin-based band combines somewhat typical rock with 8-bit sound-bites and electronica piano parts to create a fun, charismatic sound you’ll want to put on repeat… which is exactly what I did. They were handing out the cds for free and I immediately snatched one up. To add a little more whimsy they printed out their “album cover” art (a la Napoleon Dynamite) on college ruled notebook paper and wrapped a home-made cd in it.  Hopefully these guys will head out on tour to our neighborhood.

5. Micah P. Hinson
To be fair, Micah isn’t exactly one of my SXSW finds. The night before I jumped on a plane to Austin (because I’m insane) I hit up the Twilight Sad show at the Tractor Tavern.  The headliner was the only band I’d even heard of, but I got there early.  I recommend everyone get to shows early because you never know what you’ll find in openers, especially when they’re traveling along with the band you do love. Micah came on stage and it was weird and awkward because he tuned for a couple minutes then left, then came back on and tuned more. I started getting annoyed thinking he was completely unprepared, but it was more likely he had to grab food between sound checking and the show with little to no time to do any of it. As soon as he opened his mouth I was intrigued. He sounded like an 80 year old blues man and he admitted as much later in the set. He also has a smartass mouth on him and tells stories like a weathered war vet with just as much hyperbole and humor. The down side of this venture is he only has music released in Britain and Europe for the last long while, but luckily I snagged a cd and haven’t stopped playing it in the couple weeks since.

Full disclosure, I wasn’t able to catch his shows at SXSW but since he was there and he’s even a native Texan, I consider him a festival find. If you are able to find any of his music you’re lucky and should snatch it up as quickly as you lay eyes on it. If I’m able to get permission, I will write up an interview as well as stream his music in a later post. He is well worth writing a dedicated piece for.


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