Tuesday was the first day of SXSW music, a day in which I realized that you couldn’t avoid watching performers even if you tried. Wander the streets surrounding the Austin Convention Center anytime of the day and there’s live music in bars, restaurants, on street corners, everywhere.
My day started off in the afternoon with a set by LA-based Austin Brown at Clive Bar. Listening to the band’s infusion of pop and R&B, with a hint of funk, I watched Brown tear up the stage with his fancy footwork. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Micheal Jackson during his “Off the Wall” days. I later learned that Brown is actually Jackson’s nephew, meaning that being a crowd-pleasing singer and dancer runs through his blood. Super stylish and cute with a contagious smile, Austin Brown’s set was a very pleasing surprise.
Later that evening I headed over to the Whiskey Room to watch a showcase with Il Abanico, Candy, and Jotdog. The self-described “Post-punk New-wave” trio Candy started the evening off with a set that included dark and ominous sounding guitar riffs, mixed in with drummer Hector Villagomez’s pop beats with bassist Valentina Plasa sharing the vocal duties with guitarist Michael Klotz.
My favorite act from the showcase was Colombia natives Il Abanico, a duo whose sound is powerful and soft. Juliana Ronderos’ beautiful and penetrating voice captured the attention of the crowded venue, while the steady, comforting rhythm of Nicolás Losada’s guitar had everyone tapping their toes, nodding their heads, and raising their glasses in praise for the band. They’re currently living in the U.S. with many other dates planned in several cities around the country. They are definitely worth checking out.
I stuck around to watch the next band Jotdog, who I had doubts about after watching some of their videos which I pegged as over exaggerated pop-rock. But, despite having to go on after two impressive acts, the duo out of Mexico City surprised me with their tight set, keeping people dancing with their catchy hooks, and lead-singer Maria Barracuda’s alluring stage presence.
Using just the first day as a gauge of what’s to come, SXSW’s Music festival is already living up to all the hype.
[Photo of Austin Brown, sitting down on the far left, and his band members from Austin Brown's Instagram]