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Here it is, what you haven’t been waiting for!! It is the Final Review of SXSW 2022. But wait, two of you say, it is only Friday, surely, what happened to your imaginary Saturday. Well, there have been a number departures for SXSW in 2022. A massive rise in hip/hop/rap acts. A substantial increase in the number of local bands. A sadly considerable decline in international acts, especially from the European mainland. And. Understandable, given all of the aforementioned changes, a ditching of the “Only one formal showcase” rule. As such many bands played two showcases, a lot played three and some of the hyped acts played four official showcases. As a result, as many of these repeats were on Friday and Saturday, I have decided to combine the last two days into one final two day review, highlighting only new bands first showcase of the week.

Enough!!! To the music….


There is always a few acts that you find out about and look forward to who just don’t play SXSW for one reason or another. One day I will compile a review of bands who have done this. But given I also did not show up this year, I felt it hypocritical not to include at least one no show. So…. They Said: The LA-based witchy poet of pop music, Bitch, is back. Musically, this is pop at its most bouncy and playful with synthesizers and drum machines that feel carbonated like a can of La Croix or a bottle of bubbly. From the initial pop of the cork, you’ll feel the uncontrollable urge to dance to this power anthem (even if it’s just a wiggle in your seat). It’s intoxicating and can lighten anyone’s day. As the pop coven gather next to her, they take flight with ethereal gestures, popping shoulders, and brooms of their own. I Say: A standout pop anthem from SXSW 2022 that never happened. Must be lighting up clubs all around the world.

Big Bill

An Austin band takes the accolade for worst band title of SXSW 2022. They Say: Big Bill is known for their chaotic live shows and ironic take on punk rock. Embracing an ethos of profundity through absurdity, Big Bill takes deadly serious the perspectives of the unsatisfied, the overworked, the unfairly (or perhaps fairly) misaligned. I say: Wild, mad, bunches of three minute power pop nonsenses.

Riley Downing

The USA dominating the final days, to Missouri…. They Say: You may know Riley Downing from his work with acclaimed New Orleans combo the Deslondes. This singer-songwriter’s ability to set gripping, evocative narratives within soundscapes that weave together country, blues, folk, r&b, bluegrass, rock, soul and whatever else catches his ear is something that, once you hear it, is hard to shake free from. Same goes for that voice – deep, dusty and drawling, it’s an instrument that can stop you in your tracks with its character and expressiveness, as well as through Downing’s knack for laying out complex emotions in plainspoken, direct language. I Say: Hard to explain how they missed the words “gravelly voice” in that.

The Mary Veils

Four bands in and the final days would be piping hot. They Say: From Philadelphia, The Mary Veils are finally the band they were always supposed to be. A fully-fledged, incendiary punk four-piece. I Say: Like their songs the bio is to the point, more sixties driven rawk.


I would have been on about my eighth chicken taco by now. They Say: Blood is a band based in Philadelphia whose beginnings can be traced to lead singer Tim O'Brien's Austin bedroom. After years of performing poetry and singing in experimental projects, Tim took to the bedroom with the sole intention of making a tape for his best friend and has become a constant in the bijou punk scene of the southern music capital. Considered a must see live act by Austin music goers, Blood consistently shirks genre while at all times operating in a state of unshakable urgency. The band considers themselves to be one of many telling the drawn out, ultimately lonely, sad story of pop music in an ending world. I Say: Sounds like Conor Oberest (Bright Eyes) got himself all mad and punkified. Sounds great too.

Silver Synthetic

New Orleans join in the party. They Say: It makes sense that the Silver Synthetic's first gig was in a record shop ‘cause folks, this is record nerd-core in a major way, evocative of the LP’s first golden era, as the late sixties oozed into the strange 1970s, with the requisite T-Rex stomps, Britfolk twists and turns, and dueling Verlaine/Lloyd guitars. It’s about warmth, and you can practically smell their gently glowing amp tubes. I Say: Spoiler Alert - first vinyl album purchased by me of the new to me SXSW 2022 alumni was by this lot, sublime.


Finally, some international competition, back to London. 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, they've been involved in underground and experimental music for some years now. I Say. It is not too original, it is not too spectacular, but it is catchy and fun and you can imagine them on fire live.

Enjoyable Listens

What? Rivalling Big Bill for worst band title. They Say: Hypnotic baroque pop" "Indie serenades" "The avant garde act you've been waiting for" "This is a resounding lift of a track""Atmospheric...marvellously melodic” . I Say: On this day two acts from the UK play who could have been the same person. This is one. Watch out for the other later in this report. And compare.

Macy Rodman

Another feature of this year’s SXSW is the number of drag performers making great sounds. They Say: Here is the massive, sugary, propulsive sound of the record — confession and heartbreak set to club-ready beats with ‘90s radio rock inflections. It's the sound of reemergence, of rebirth, the return to the dance floor. The dance floor after all, is where Rodman has always called home, combining sneering punk attitudes of Marianne Faithful and Courtney Love with the giddy joy of a New York nightclub. I Say: One of the great trans stars of SXSW 2022!

The Americans

A joy of SXSW is the wildly different music experience that hit you one after the other . So from that, to this. They Say: Distinctly American rock 'n' roll. Throaty, firin' on all cylinders, road trip rock, charged with intense composition choices that call to mind the history of roots music, from Chuck Berry and Tom Waits to The War On Drugs.

Anthemic guitar hooks and a heartland sense of urgency that’s tailor-made for road trips and late-night parties beneath a field of brilliant stars. I Say: Americana from The Americans, I mean, what could go wrong.


Austin bands pushing through. They Say: Bringing together their combined classic influences from bands like Lush, The Sundays, Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine, they developed their own sound as it is today. I Say, a great sound but not quite their “own”. But, hey.

Voka Gentle.

And as we head to the end of SXSW there are still acts making their debut performance of the week and trying to stand out. Hard to be original. Here is one. They Say: London’s Voka Gentle peel back the curtain on a whole world of their own making - chaotic, euphoric and full of sadness. Avant-garde pop, krautrock, softcore guitars, whirring electronica, recurring dreams, techno-inspired noise and ecological dread, delivered with a sobriety that cuts through to the most devastating nerve ending. I Say: This feels like it would have been a spectacular show.

Mr He

Bands only included here on merit. Here is another drag queen act who sounds great. They Say: MR. HE is blue over you and searching for closure. The drag queen ghost under Parker Allen Stanley’s bedsheets. A multidisciplinary performance artist from Orange County, California. Currently living in Brooklyn, New York. MR. HE is now a bicoastal phantom with a signature “BLUEBOY” face, a sand castle heart, and a knack for all things spooky. MR. HE focuses on creating “queer cult horror,” hoping it inspires the living to sneak out of their houses late at night with some lipstick on. I Say: Follow That.


Florida trying to recreate California’s rockypunkpop stuff. They Say: With an emphasis on catchy melodies, vulnerable lyrics, emotive vocals, and driving guitars, Ivypaint cites influences such as Blink-182. Presents themselves as an emotional therapy of sorts, covering topics such as failed relationships, and questionings of mental stability, all while still maintaining melodic sensibility. I Say: Are they serious? Comedy gold bio. Decent diversion for a few minutes for the kids.

Billy King and the Bad Bad Bad

Another Austin band. They Say: Billy King and The Bad Bad Bad is a band whose band name alone evokes a curiosity that lurks in the mind dangerously. Like an amalgamation of rebellion, acid-laced beach parties, and anti-establishment activism, you can’t help but recall a sensation of déjà vu; connecting each other through familiarity while forging new pathways. These outlaws came from nowhere, like creatures of the night, to indoctrinate you into an era since been forgotten. Once their first chord is struck, these emerging luminaries awaken a spark deep within your soul that will transform and conform your life forever. I Say: Good ole fashioned rhythm and blues rockin’ it out style.

Hamish Hawks

Scotland’s very own. They Say: Vivian Comma paints the Madonna, visibly on the verge of fainting. Christopher Wren walks amongst us once more, forswearing designing cathedrals for singing them. One half of the 1973 Mauritian Badminton Doubles Champions has a perfect serve. The boy who inhabits Track Three of John Lennon’s Imagine repeat-dials, passive-aggressively, to Tiree. A funeral, swinging to the Gay Gordons. A latter-day Paul the Apostle is offended by the sight of Edinburgh Castle – and, infinitesimally worse, can’t finish a beer. These are the people and places, scenes and scenarios of the songs of Hamish Hawk. Rich of voice and even richer of imagination, the singer-songwriter from Edinburgh creates musical pen-portraits as vivid in lyric as they are in melody. In all the wholly best ways, these are chamber pop songs that have swallowed both a dictionary and a compendium of modern urban (and island) fairy tales. I Say: This is the act who are like psychic twin to the earlier band Enjoyable Listens. Two other things though. 1. How can you not like someone who has a song called. Mauritian Badminton Doubles Champions 1973? 2. Hamish works in my local record store in Edinburgh - working on him to do a living room show.


The 14th American band of the day, this one from Chicago, bring the proceedings to a close. They Say: One can hear elements of the ‘80s and ‘90s independent music the band love so deeply and sincerely—the scuzzy melodicism of what used to be called “college rock,” the cool, bubbly space-age sheen of the ‘90s vamps on lounge and noir; the warm, noisy roar of shoegaze; the economical hooks and rhythms of post-punk. There’s even a bit of no wave mixed in for good measure. But as Horsegirl fuse all of this together, it feels not like a pastiche or a hacky retread but something as playful and unique as its predecessors. With lyrics intentionally impressionistic and open-ended, and a sound that ranges with joy and enthusiasm across a range of styles, Horsegirl offers many pathways. I Say: Got to have time for a band who reference Tall Dwarves, Belle and Sebastian and The Pastels in their lyrics!!

That is it!!!. SXSW 2022 is over with 62 acts making my best of collection. A dearth of great international bands, only three in my list not from North America or the UK and Ireland. Three!!! One from Australia, one from Spain, one from Italy. None from New Zealand, Iceland, France or anywhere in South America. Normally I would say at least a third of all the bands I would see and really like would be from this international set. A sign of the sad times. Who would have received best new band of SXSW accolade? Well, SXSW themselves award the Grulke Prize for both best Developing US and Best Developing Non-US Act. The winners were Horse Girl and Yard Act. For me the absolute top finds from SXSW this year are:

  • Silver Synthetics
  • Blood
  • Zoon
  • Population II
  • Alexalone
  • Horse Girl
  • Macy Rodman

I will definitely be at SXSW 2023. If anyone cares to join……

For this year though I am off to The Great Escape in Brighton, England in the middle of May, for a version of SXSW, many bands and many little venues over three days. If you want another of these reports, actually with photos too proving I was there, let me know. Failing that I will remove you from the list and give you peace.

Hope everyone is a safe and healthy as is possible in these worrying days.



Yer final playlist Feel free to Ley me know what stood out for you: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5kWcp1YDEM1ch9QRHOjzfa?si=5243225956a244cb