SXSW: The 10 Best Of The Fest This Year

Categories: Live Shots, SXSW

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Photos by Craig Hlavaty
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Valerie June
This SXSW wasn't a pretty one by any means, with a camera boom falling on fans at Stubb's before Orchestral Manoeuvers In the Dark, Ben Weasel lashing out physically at unruly fans, the Death From Above 1979 police party, and the massive crowds seemingly dwarfing the numbers from the past few years.

Add to that Rebecca Black, the super-moon in the sky, and the UN allies bombing Libya, and it was a virtual pop-culture maelstrom.

But aside from the mace, Kanye West, and the harried SXSW staff, this wasn't a bad year for music at all. We found ourselves wide-eyed and grinning every night in front of one or two artists, thankful to be in the right place at the right time. Here are our ten favorite things we saw last week.

Honorable mentions go out to the Black Angels, Buxton, and especially Billy Gibbons for showing up to the Rachael Ray Feedback party and playing Elmore James' "Dust My Broom" with a bottle of his own BFG hot sauce in his back pants pocket.

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Charles Bradley: This SXSW we found our soul in Charles Bradley & The Menahan Street Band, during their opening slot in front of TV On The Radio at Stubb's. Bradley's R&B wail and stage gyrations and shimmies were like watching a scratchy, forgotten 45 from the back of a dusty record store come to life. Great stuff, and we hope to see more.

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Sallie Ford: The PR hype was correct; she was just a like a female Buddy Holly, glasses and all. Ford's set at the Creekside Hilton came with lines dissing a boy for listening to emo-pop and enough of a humbled glow to show that she is still new to the game, but not a shrinking Violet.

J. Mascis: During his opening set at the Queens of the Stone Age show, Mascis played us cuts from his new solo LP, Several Shades Of Why, proving that even without his stacks and stacks of amps and only an acoustic, he can still wail. Plus, the material is highly personal and affecting.

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Wanda Jackson: The Queen of Rockabilly played songs off her new Jack White-produced album at Rachael Ray's day party, and gave us all the warm and fuzzies as she related her own Elvis Presley stories from her long and illustrious career. She's truly a gem to see live.



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Jason Smith
Jason Smith

Here are my top 11 shows. I was only there for 3 days and did it without a wristband or badge, but I managed to only spend $30 on covers. I haven't counted my bar receipts though!

11. Honorable Mention goes to Suuns. I can't believe they didn't make the top 10. These guys from Montreal deserve your attention.10. Tacks the Boy Disaster - gorgeous piano pop with harmonies. Somewhere on the spectrum between Rufus Wainwright and Billy Joel.9. Wild Flag - I wasn't expecting them to be so good, but they knocked it out of the park.8. Battle Circus - Early Muse influenced rock from New Zealand.7. The Bright Light Social Hour - Saw them the first day at The Parish and they owned it with their 70s arena rock. They ended up winning a bunch of Austin Music Awards, so expect to hear more from them.6. The Joy Formidable - Whoo hoo! They are so fun. Hard to believe they are human or that this band came together naturally. They just look so straight out of central casting...5. Deerhunter - They played a packed day show at Deville. It was way more rocking and shoegazery than their album.4. The Antlers - They played most of their new album and I can't wait to buy it.3. SuperVolcano - I discovered this Boston band 2 years ago at SXSW and they have evolved into one of my favorite bands. They are a somewhere between Shudder to Think and The Mars Volta.2. Craig Wedren - Speaking of Shudder to Think... Craig Wedren did a solo set at a little bar called Clive. I've never met him so I took the opportunity to say hi and enjoy his set.1. Jimmy Gnecco (Ours) - I was expecting him to play a solo acoustic set like last year, but he brought out the full band! Next to Muse, Jimmy is my favorite artist of the last 10 years, so it was a great thrill and surprise to see the band back together.


Why was'nt Ill Liad at South By does any one no....He cancelled a house party up here................Can someone get back to me thanks....


hell yeah, ive been jammin to charles bradley's "no time for dreaming" album all week. shit slays.

Jim Porter
Jim Porter

(psst, you forgot to mention The Joy Formidable)

Bobby Freshpants
Bobby Freshpants

I was in the alley and this show and the events made my sxsw.


I never heard anything. He could have played a day show...

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