Last March, the cancellation of SXSW 2020 felt like a watermark. Little did we realise just how the next twelve months of live music shutdown would go. This year, as the first green shoots as recovery start to sprout, it’s back – but in virtual form. So, after a year of getting used to streamed sets and digital extravaganzas, does the world’s biggest new music festival work away from the packed venues? Crisps in hand, kettle boiled, here’s some of the key acts we saw on day two (Wednesday, 17th March).
When it comes to Dork favourites, SXSW feels like the first get-together we’ve had in a long time. Seeing what’s new, how things have been, where they are now – the usual stuff. Enter Phoebe Green. After two singles, you could say we felt we had an idea of who Phoebe was as an artist. Well, think again. Debut EP ‘I Can’t Cry For You’ leads the way tonight in a grunge-leaning set that gets its claws in from the very start. A true powerhouse display, it finds Phoebe coming into her own – opener ‘Grit’ managing to breathe life into what can so easily become a flat atmosphere over a virtual stream, while closer ‘Reinvent’ is as glorious as ever. Turning things up to 11, exploring those darker corners has seen Phoebe Green reinvent herself into something undeniable. Jamie Muir
Every bite of Tayo Sound so far has us dizzy in all the best ways. Seeing him bring it all into a live setting (even if the washing machine is going in the other room) is even better – taking that carefree charm and plugging it directly into the mains. Rex Orange County vibes ring out from start to finish, with latest sizzler ‘Runaway’ and ‘Hide & Seek’ just two brilliant schemes in a playbook already written to take over the big time. Personal, relatable and shimmering with optimism for a brighter tomorrow – after tonight it’s not a case of if but when for Tayo Sound to become a very bloody big deal. Jamie Muir
The time difference at SXSW means a lot of the good stuff happens late into the night. As if aware of our stifled yawns and heavy eyelids, Enola Gay turn up just before midnight to grab us by the shoulders and throw us through a plate glass window. A wall of post-punk guitars, screaming feedback and a vocal performance which is part IDLES, part Rage Against The Machine, they’re not here to mess around. Playing to an empty room is never an easy feat, but these guys manage to make the living room sofa feel like a packed basement venue where the ceiling might cave in at any moment. Jake Hawkes
It’s past midnight – that point where you’d normally find yourself stumbling into some unknown place to see something you’d never usually watch in a million years, before having the best time that you can’t quite describe to anyone the next day. That is very much the Flipped Coin Korea showcase. Starting with Haepaary and what is quite frankly the biggest drum we’ve ever seen, they smash ambient, trance and techno together in front of some handy scaffolding, and it’s ace. That freedom to break genres apart and see what’s inside is the thread that runs through the whole showcase as the very vibe-y Airy shows with her darkly drenched psychedelic dream pop. At its best on ‘Last Night’, some big old riffs arrive to rip through a set which builds a mood of mystery and mounting excitement. After all the calm, Y2K92 bounces into view like a Very Excitable Thing for a set that pulls on some classic jungle and hip hop threads to try on and smooshes them together with some bedroom pop into something unmistakably 2021. It’s plainly one of the best things of SXSW so far. Finishing off nicely with the hypnotic drone of Tengger, this is a reminder of why these festivals work best when they send you foraging off in the undergrowth of new sounds. Jamie MacMillan
SXSW contines until Saturday, 20th March. Check back for more tomorrow!