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SXSW 2018: Artists you should be listening to

Vundabar+performing+a+show+at+South+By+Southwest+2018
Vundabar performing a show at South By Southwest 2018

Vundabar performing a show at South By Southwest 2018

Photo by Mike Heinz

Photo by Mike Heinz

Vundabar performing a show at South By Southwest 2018

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After spending four days at Austin’s SXSW music festival, there is a lot that could be said. This is the short takeaway of the artists you should be listening to. So listen, or don’t, but your life will be enriched should you decide the former. With that said, after seeing them all live, each of these bands are greater than their recordings, no matter how high quality those recordings may be. 

SHAME

This band of ruffians from South London has some attitude. Lead singer Charlie Steen started the set (on a mild day, mind you) in a full suit and sunglasses. By the end his chest was shirtless and beet red from his own doing. At one point Steen took a stroll through the crowd, where he wasn’t afraid to cover a few unsuspecting fans in spit and sweat. The rest of the band waved and whistled like mad lads for the entirety of the set, creating a wonderful spectacle. If you enjoy old British punk or post punk, you will enjoy SHAME. 

U.S Girls 

WOW, this band got on stage, or rather half a stage, and it was standing room only. Comprised of two vocalists, a keyboard player who I’m half certain had a set of bongos too, a sax player with a sweet beret, a drummer and two guitarists, the members of U.S. Girls were fantastic. Each member of the band wore a better scarf than the next. One couldn’t help but shake their hips during the live performance, and that same body movement is bound to be inspired while listening to their album alone in a bedroom. This band mixes a whole bunch of genres, shakes them up in a Yahtzee cup and somehow produces mini gold cubes. Really love their tunes. 

Omni 

Hate to say it, or maybe love to say it, religious experiences are typically few and far between. But seeing the three gents from Omni play was close. The evil/beautiful creative genius behind the band is guitarist Frankie Broyles, formerly of the band Deerhunter. The man stands on stage rather emotionless and just shreds. He looks as if nothing else in the world matters, save his guitar and the beat. As a viewer, one forgets about the typical showmanship of musicians and instead stands, shakes, smiles and observes in awe of the technical masterpiece that is Omni. 

Crumb 

Crumb contains some of the warmest and nicest folks that I have come across in a long time. The style of music found on record and at their shows is much like seeing a jazzy show that you don’t feel bad about getting out of your seat and dancing to. All superb musicians, lead singer Lila Ramani has a smooth voice that soothes you into the jazz kaleidoscope that is their music. 

ORB 

A musician who stood near during their set and knows more about the difficulty of tempo shifts was in awe of these Aussies. They started out with their song O.R.B, and after eight minutes of non-stop ripping the men on guitar and bass traded instruments seamlessly. Their most recent record came out on Flightless Records, the home of fellow Australian psych rockers King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, and was produced by the Gizz’s Stu Mackenzie. ORB has a certain kindred spirit with their label mates, but they manage to craft a sound distinctly their own as well.  While walking around Marquette’s Rec Plex with tunes on, one might find oneself playing more air guitar than they are typically comfortable with.    

Ron Gallo ­

Ron Gallo gets on stage with his bandmates Dylan Sevey and Joe Bisirri and, as your favorite childhood basketball coach said, leaves it all on the court. The trio’s tunes are an amalgamation of the Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin and (insert choice of dad band here). If classic rock is your thing, Gallo adds a fresh squeeze of lime to that stale cocktail. Maybe a few ice cubes too. And he’s tall, so he probably does well on Tinder.  

Common Holly 

This band does a good job of keeping the crowd on their toes. Standing behind a telecaster is frontwoman Brigitte Naggar, with a set of drums and a cello to back her up. The music is calming, exciting and wild all at once. During the band’s set they flipped the switch often with hard riffs and heavy fills that kept all on their toes and made it a joy to watch. Their debut album “Playing House” is full of surprises, and Common Holly is going to probably make 2018 a sweet year.

Stuyedeyed 

This band is rather difficult to classify.  To assess properly, watch their Audiotree session and then sob softly because you missed their last pass through the Midwest. Then comfort yourself with the news that they will be at Bay View’s Cactus Club in April. They are intense, pointed, opinionated and loud, in all the right ways.  The crowd is encouraged to move with them and not fear allowing their faces to be melted. Stuyedeyed is a must see when they come to town next. They also know how to party (but their names aren’t Rod).

Vundabar 

What is there to say about the beauty and wonder of VundabarThe set keeps one limber and loose through its entirety.  When they get to their song “$$$ (Money),” most audience breath is lost.  Drummer Drew McDonald looks as if every set he is having another demon exorcised from him, and he couldn’t be happier for it.  Behind the guitar and microphone Brandon Hagen rips power chords and finger picks his way through the melodies, all the while sacrificing his body in the process. He makes sure to stretch before every show, a wise choice or else he would certainly pull something. 

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