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I decided to pass on this year and resume my affair with March in Austin in 2023. So for only the second time since 2006 I was not at a SXSW that has gone ahead. But that did not stop me doing my several months of prep and exploring who would be at Austin. So, It might feel like I was there but I was not. Here is what would probably have happened had I been at SXSW next week. My imaginary reviews following my obsessive behaviour which involved having some sort of listen to most of the 1,400 bands that appeared. I also faked the reviews as most of the words come from the artists’ own description of themselves.

Ready? Steady!!!


Constant Follower

And off we jolly well go!!!! As one would expect, it is Scotland leading the way. They say: With soaring-ambient-dreampop-experimental-folk, Constant Follower is the band formed around Scottish songwriter Stephen McAll. As a teenager, McAll survived an attack by a gang that left him with a catastrophic head injury and every memory of his childhood gone. The next decade was spent in a cabin on Scotland’s Western coastline, where he eventually began composing again. The band are uplifting though, not downhearted. I Say: They will be a breakout band in 2022. One of several Scottish bands to light up this year’s SXSW. The bar is set.

Low Hummer

Keeping it in the north of Britain, the temperature turns up a notch. They Say: Low Hummer are a fast-rising six piece from Hull (UK) that write about their life in deepest darkest East Yorkshire and their place in a world of consumerism and bad news stories sold as gospel. I Say: Very representative of indie UK’s annual onslaught of great wee bands that would just sound great in the wee Austin venues. Female bands taking over too!!! Tough competition too with Wet Leg and Pillow Queens also making the trip.


Rest of the world better get moving, this lot are from London and you can just see the inside of Cheer Up Charlies bouncing. They Say: Scrounge are a noise-rock/art-punk duo from South London, who combine industrial rhythms with taut drum machines and soulful vocals to create something new and exhilarating. Stalwarts of their city's lively DIY scene. I Say: A lot of noise for only two folk, would have been a wild show.

Walt Disco

They Say: Walt Disco are a band who defy all convention to create a world of their own, truly like no other. Their fearless, unique pop songs are created without constraint, with a message of self expression at the very core of everything they do. Blending a cacophony of sounds ranging from New Wave and glam rock to queer modern art-pop, the Glasgow-based sextet’s youthful songs are as much dance floor fillers as they are anthemic earworms. I Say: Eve and I have seen this crowd live. Eve said they were one of the best and one of the scariest live shows they had seen. An exhilarating experience would have been had by all. Best dressed frocks on stage too.


Finally, an act not from the UK. They say: PYNKIE is the musical project of Lindsey Rae Radice, a singer/songwriter & registered nurse by day from New Jersey. Pulling inspiration from cartoon theme songs, lo-fi demo tapes, golden oldies, and melancholy alternative from the 90s and early aughts. I say: Silky vocals and pleasant pop.


But the rest of the world don’t last long, back to the UK. They Say: South London's ME REX experiment with shouty, electronic bedroom pop with a collection of songs that is coloured in shades of melancholy and happiness in equal parts. I Say: The obligatory angst ridden vocals work well over a decent song.

Ezra Furman

The most diverse set of acts at SXSW ever, I would say, with a great number of bands lead by LGBTQ+ artists. Here is one of the leaders. They Say: Exploring themes of identity, religion, political angst, love, anxiety, Furman has become an icon for the misunderstood and the oppressed. Her live show has built a fierce reputation with The Guardian dubbing her “the most compelling live act you can see right now”. I Say: I have seen Ezra play live throughout her career including on one occasion doing a complete show stripped to their y-fronted underpants. An inspiration and one of the big stars of this year’s SXSW.

Yard Act

The largest bands in the indie, rock, pop world from the UK are all at SXSW 2022, perhaps the best ever line up from this part of the world. Here is one. They Say: Yard Act formed in Leeds in September 2019 settling into a system of programming, looping and layering, the alchemy between the two main folk created a base from which to build their complex and ever expanding narrative world. Their debut album “The Overload”, was released in January '22, landing a number 2 album in the UK, smashing vinyl sales records in the process and making them one of the most talked about band on the planet. I say: Vying with three of four other acts for the title UK Band of The Year. Definitely would have been one of the hottest tickets in Austin.


Welcome Canada. They Say: In the Ojibway language, the word Zoongide’ewin means “bravery, courage, the Bear Spirit.” It’s no wonder Daniel Monkman adopted Zoon as his musical moniker. The Toronto-based musician has spent the better part of his 28 years finding and channelling his strength to overcome such adversities as racism, poverty and addiction. His debut album is the first true document of what has been dubbed “moccasin-gaze,” a tongue-in-cheek nickname for the amalgamation of Monkman’s shoegaze influences with traditional First Nations music. I Say: Always great new Canadian bands at SXSW, I would aways favour their shows along with Australian and New Zealand acts, as seeing the best of the new bands from these three countries never failed to impress me. Zoon are very good.

Duquette Johnson

Anyone who starts their bio with "In a career that's taken him from stages with Pavement, Foo Fighters and The Strokes, to the Etowah County Correctional Facility” has my attention. They say: For more than twenty years, Duquette Johnston has been amongst the vanguard of Alabama music consistently pushing the boundaries of what Southern American music can sound-- and feel-- like. I Say: A rock survivor, now thriving.

Los Bitches

Back to London. They Say: Panthers prowling through a desert. Cowgirls swaggering into a saloon and kicking up dust. Riding shotgun with a Tarantino heroine. Having the fiesta of your lives under a giant piñata with all your friends. Los Bitchos’ hallucinatory surf-exotica is as evocative as it is playful: the London-based pan-continental group could well be your new favourite party band with their instrumental voyages that are the soundtrack to setting alight to a row of flaming sambucas and losing yourself to the night. Their unique sound binds them together, though, taking in a retro-futuristic blend of Peruvian chicha, Argentine cumbia & Turkish psych. I Say: What they said. For fans of Khruangnin and Altin Gun.

Pillow Queens

Ireland’s turn. They Say: Pillow Queens approach issues such as religion, the imbalance of queer and female representation, and the unaddressed financial plight of Ireland’s youth. The swathe of relentlessly crashing guitars add to the power and urgency, layered over rousing melodies that rival some of festival season’s biggest hitters. Pillow Queens are outwardly frustrated but comfortable in themselves, and their sound succeeds in finding the often-untapped ground between the two. In a world that often paints the marginalised youth as insecure and rueful, they arrive with a refreshing and much-needed assertiveness. I Say: Always a couple of outstanding bands from Ireland at SXSW every year. Here is this year’s.


We round off Day One with a trip to Atlanta, Georgia. They Say: Red-leather-clad and pitchfork-wielding in a playful nod to Grant Wood’s celebrated painting of 1930, Mattiel’s Mattiel Brown and Jonah Swilley proffer songs which ponder the American everyday of the 2020s as they serve up an album tasting more like home than ever before. I say: Anyone with a song called Jeff Goldbloom is either worth checking out or a band to avoid at all costs. I go with the former.

And there you have it. Wish I had been there but now we can all imagine that that we were. First day, thirteen great bands. Eight from Scotland/Ireland/England (three from London alone). Four from USA and one from Canada. Seven that I knew beforehand, five new to me. New band of the day? Zoon, the Canadian outfit with his fuzzy, early eighties indie stuff. Three more days to follow. Here is Wednesday’s playlist: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4g8kTGZ2AtSpNlpOiQn6jX?si=2aa5af72b0194800