The bad news: South by Southwest 2017 is over and the nearly 2,000 bands who played have packed their gear and left Austin. The good news: many of them are heading to clubs in the Bay Area. Here are seven bands that made big impressions at SXSW and are worth checking out:
The vitals: From Oakland;
Bay Area show: 9 p.m., April 22; Rickshaw Stop, San Francisco; $13-$15;
Listen to: “1 Billion Dogs,” “The Bus Song”
Oakland-raised 22-year-old Melina Duterte took a chance a couple years ago and put some songs for which she’d written and recorded all the parts on the Bandcamp music merchandising site to see if there’d be any reaction. And Duterte — using the name Jay Som — got just that with plaudits from NPR, Spin and Pitchfork — and a record contract.
Her sound is a diverse mix of Sade-like soul, smooth R&B, pop and guitar rock. And she pulls it all off in concert; at SXSW she performed an amazing 10 shows over the week.
The set lists consisted mostly of material from her brand new “Everybody Works” album, which has been featured on NPR’s “First Listen” and elsewhere.
While Duterte plays all the instruments on her albums, she has rounded up a crack band to take on the road. In Austin, she had fun trading her spare but inventive guitar solos with those of her blazing lead guitarist.
See her in the clubs now. She has the breadth and talent to appeal to all kinds of listeners. She will be playing theaters soon.
The vitals: From Philadelphia via Los Angeles;
Bay Area show: 8 p.m., May 24; The Chapel, San Francisco; $16-$18.
Listen to: “Crowded Stranger,” “Emily”
At its core, Girlpool is an indie folk band. But this isn’t the folk of gently strummed guitars; this is folk run through a cacophony filter, and delivered by two women of immense musical imagination.
Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad lit up Austin’s Cheer Up Charlies at SXSW, with devoted fans lining the front row and singing along to every lyric.
The pair’s origin was as a duet, trading licks back and forth rather quietly on guitar and bass. But for the upcoming album, “Powerplant,” they added a drummer and second guitarist, and that additional firepower brings even more to the natural explosiveness of the band’s songs.
Girlpool albums are filled with poignant, personal lyrics and nice instrumental interplay, but the expanded lineup makes it a whole new game now.
Girlpool has not hurt for recognition. They were chosen for the lineup at Coachella last year, and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy had been lined up to produce “Powerplant,” but couldn’t fit it into his schedule. The new album, coming May 17, should make for another well deserved leap forward.
The vitals: From Glasgow, Scotland,
Bay Area show: 8 p.m., April 11; The Knockout, San Francisco; $10,
Listen to: “Sore Tummy,” “Jellyfish”
PAWS did well on its first trip to Austin in 2013, playing 10 gigs over the week and landing on a Spin magazine list of the best bands that year. But as PAWS continued to grow on its home turf in Scotland, it wasn’t making as much of an impression in the States.
So the trio came back to SXSW for a second try, playing its distinctively Scottish indie rock four times during the week. The band’s anthemic, melodic rock is in the vein of its countrymen Frightened Rabbit or We Were Promised Jetpacks. So many Scottish bands seem to share some of those elements without ever really sounding like imitators.
PAWS had to fight through equipment problems in its main Austin showcase show, having the pedal on the bass drum break midset. But the band still turned in a fine show in the second-to-last hour of the week’s festivities.
The vitals: From Northampton, Massachsetts;
Bay Area show: 8 p.m., March 27; Rickshaw Stop, San Francisco; $12,
Listen to: “Damage,” “The Spins”
Potty Mouth is a punk band that just happens to be made up of four women. But that doesn’t mean they’re “riot grrls,” says bassist and founding member Ally Einbinder. Or that they are some kind of voice for women in rock. “When you read a review about an all-male band, the gender never comes up,” she told an interviewer.
But the Northampton quartet has done a good job of establishing itself as just a solid indie rock band, without regard to gender. Its superb 2013 “Hell Bent” album showed off an evolution from the pop-punk of the band’s earliest recordings to a darker, more mature sound. And a new album is nearly finished, with likelihood of a fall release.
Potty Mouth mixed a few of the new songs into its SXSW sets, and they sounded as good as the best of “Hell Bent.”
The vitals: From New York,
Bay Area show: 8 p.m., July 16; Great American Music Hall; $16,
Listen to: “Answer My Text,” “I Wanna Boi”
PWR BTTM produced the most theatrical, funny and entertaining moments of the week at SXSW. But the surprise was that the New York band that won many fans with their humor at last year’s South-by is now a musical force as well.
Liv Bruce and Ben Hopkins, who describe themselves as “genderqueer,” take the stage in flowing gowns and thick makeup and sing songs about alienation and identity, love and connection. In one song, Bruce tells of teaching family members “a new trick,” using correct gender pronouns.
They do it all in power pop/light metal anthems with superb guitar work and brilliant lyrics. The band, a duet last year, is now a four-piece, and the volume and power are what seemed to be missing before.
The vitals: From Brooklyn, New York,
Bay Area show: 8 p.m., April 13; Rickshaw Stop, San Francisco; $10-12,
Listen to: “Don’t Call Me,” “#23”
Jilian Medford studied voice at the esteemed Berklee College of Music and can sing opera and jazz. But she’s brought her training to indie pop, and the result is the trio Ian Sweet, a band that doesn’t provide the instant accessibility that usually comes with pop.
The music is a little halting and off-kilter, and so more challenging for the listener. And that’s fine with Medford. She’s told interviewers that “catchy” is not what they’re after. But the challenge doesn’t go unrewarded.
In Austin, the trio played mostly material from the new “Shapeshifter” album, but they included earlier material from Medford’s solo projects. She has had a turbulent past few years, and the lyrics reflect some of the desperation and loneliness she felt. Paired with the beauty of Medford’s melodies, it’s a powerful package.
The vitals: From Brooklyn, New York,
Bay Area show: 8 p.m., May 7; Rickshaw Stop, San Francisco; $12,
Listen to: “Ruby,” “Glitter”
Every year, there are a few really buzzy bands on Sixth Street in Austin. New York produced its share of them this year, with the Lemon Twigs drawing the biggest crowds of the week. But Brooklyn’s Charly Bliss came to town with nearly as many appearances on the ubiquitous “10 Bands You Must See” lists.
Lead singer Eva Hendricks leads the quartet in a sunny, bright, bouncy variety of power pop that’s leavened with a pretty massive guitar attack. Hendricks’ lyrics match the brightness of the music, celebrating what’s good about being young, rather than exorcising any trauma.
In concert, she’s just as upbeat: bouncing, leaping and power-strumming, while her brother Sam (drums) and the other members turn up the volume.
This was one of many bands that worked tirelessly during SXSW. After playing at various parties and events over the festival’s first four days, Charly Bliss played three shows on its final day. And still, Eva Hendricks was smiling.
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