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Here we go, my 14th SXW and my first since 2019. How would it be? It would be absolutely fine. It would be fantastic. It is what SXSW is.

Last here in 2019, 2020 cancelled, the first major music event struck down by covid. So what is different? Well lots of venues which were stalwarts of Austin have shut down, mostly on Sixth Street which is no longer the epicentre of SXSW. Maggie Mays. Shut. BD Rileys. Closed. Latitude 30. Shut. Buffalo Billiards. Closed. In fact only venues still having SXSW showcases on Sixth were Esther’s Follies, Flamingo Cantina and Velveeta Room. For those who have been to SXSW you know how drastic this is. In fact I was hardly on Sixth street and it was never very busy. Instead, East side has taken over and Red River was as busy as ever. Oh, and no major events at Stubbs, only open two nights, one for a hip hop night and the other far an all local Austin band night. Rainey Street was also very busy although now dwarfed by giant condos and hotels. Ok, on to ra music.

Day One: Monday

Smart planning found me in Austin five days after arriving in the USA from Scotland, partly to see some old friends in Portland and Seattle, as well as to mitigate against jet lag so I could have the full SXSW experience unhindered by body and brain deficiency.

So after a lukewarm first show seeing GEN AND THE DEGENERATES, hyped, dull, with a big crowd because they are British and getting a push, my latest SXSW started to take off with FATAL JAMZ. The LA times said of their local boy “insouciance and decadence reign when FATAL JAMZ mounts any stage”. Right. Anyway. A decent angst ridden popster to get going. I will be posting links to videos I recorded on my phone and uploaded to YouTube. Here is the insouciance soaked man himself on stage at 13th Floor with, how shall we put this, a backing band that obviously had a different wardrobe choice.


I then headed to the Montreal showcase at the Swan Dive Patio, as over the years the Canadian showcases are some of the absolute best. First band to see are LA SECURITIE, a great high energy combo who say they have spent years of writing earworms for the pleasure of beautiful weirdos. I object to that classification of myself but hey, here they are, the video featuring an Eno like synth wig out.


Now one of the highlights and also lowlights of every SXSW is Japan night. I have seen some amazing shows there but also witnessed some of the worst shows possible. It is a lucky dip. Off to Elysium I went and caught BACKDROPCINDERELLA. Quite literally. Check out this. Nutters.


After that jolt to the system, I floated around a few places and endured PUPPY ANGST, THE SEWING CLUB AND LA COLEURE. Nothing to write home about, as I write home about that that. Then a **SXSW MOMENT **. My rules for seeing acts at SXSW include not going to see a band I have seen previously as there is so much new stuff so I always default to new over seen. However, I break all the rules constantly and went to see the magical one man electronic pop show by RICH AUCOIN, back at Montreal night at Swan Dive. His thing is to get audience participation. Did he achieve this? You decide.


The night’s peak had arrived and after seeing CHAUSE SAVAGES and YOU SAID STRANGE, I went back to my hotel, happy that I had returned and looking forward to the next five days of music mayhem!!

Monday Show Of The Day: Rich Aucoin

And here is one of my all time favourite videos. It is Rich once more. How many movies can you spot in his video for “It” from eleven years ago??


Day Two: Tuesday

Ocht, it is Tuesday already. And it is not off to a good start. After going back and forward between Cheer Up Charlies and the Side Bar, I had got to three in the afternoon and was seriously wondering if SXSW had actually peaked and this was me on the other side. Sure I saw AVA MAYBEE perform her tik/tok Spotify sensation six million listens Colours in glorious afternoon sunshine accompanied by typical Texan “hospitality” but there has to be more than this.


So SEA LEMON, KATIE TOUPIN and YOUTH GROUP all filled in time then I popped into Hotel Vegas. Sanctuary. RINSE AND REPEAT. A madcap performance including jumping into and then onto the crowd (of about ten) then being carried by them before resuming singing, just yer normal live thang,

Not the last band I would see who had some Factory records in their collection.


So after checking out FAR CASPIANS, meh, I headed back to my hotel, being a disciplined, eating a breakfast and evening meal every day, sort of ancient guy at SXSW sort of fellow.

Then, Tuesday and SXSW took off…… !!! Asterisk asterisk.

A false start in the foyer of Downtown Hilton watching ALBERTINE SAGES do a soundcheck for twenty minutes - note to band, you are at SXSW, there are three people in seats watching you, about to be two as you faff about to get that sound just oh so perfect, might want to consider how you reach your crowd. For their crowd shrunk to two as I went to an old friend venue, Central Presbyterian Church to see THE OPHELIAS. Now they say that The Ophelias is a band inspired by nostalgia, nature, the Midwest, horror movies, and the moon. If so, it would have been good to see some of that come through in their performance. Still one of the best one line self descriptions which got me to go see them, so it worked.

But then, as I pre warned you, SXSW took off. First the best Talking Heads tribute band I have ever seen. SAFER not only sounded like them and sort of dressed like them, the lead guy even wore a Talking Heads Tee shirt. Added brownie points, they played in a taco bar!! Vaquero Taquero


Revitalised I head to The Belmont, a very classy venue. I wanted to see BARTEES STRANGE and went early as I felt it would be mobbed. So I arrived as a motley crew entered the stage, words intentionally chosen. A rock pop melange ensued. A typical accidental SXSW wild fun moment. They were TRIBE FRIDAY whose blurb says they are a band of guitar slinging kids from the woods of Sweden who marry the rugged indie rock dancehall sounds of early 2K with Gen Z post-pandemic party vibe bliss. Upbeat songs about self deprication, identity, confusion, love and death are anchored by sarcasm, wit and charm. I just read that again, upbeat songs about self deprecation. And confusion. Regardless of all that nonsense they put on a great show.


Then BARTEES STRANGE, with a stripped down show, just him, his geetar and a rhythm guitarist player. Bartees maybe had the best song of all new acts that I had researched, called Heavy Heart, it should be globally huge but like many great indie acts unfortunately is not. I love this song.


The night was on fire. Off to a new venue 13th Floor, where I saw Scotland’s IONA ZAJAC before one of the expected highlights of SXSW 2023 would take place with none other than the majestic HAMISH HAWK, from Edinburgh, taking one more step on his route to global domination. His stage presence, crowd banter, dance moves and brilliant band served up a bar that would be hard for anyone to match. Joyous to watch an artist at the peak of their game knowing themselves that they are on a stellar incline.


The night sort of frittered away from there, caught CATBITE, a fun wee ska band, then RATBOYS followed by ENJOYABLE LISTENS, who did not live up to their name before a 1am show at another new venue Sellers Underground, to see the mad WARMDUSCHER. I should have said the mad as a hatter WARMDUSCHER. Seeing bands like this from, two yards away with less than 100 folk in attendance, well it is what you experience at SXSW.

A thoroughly Austin March SXSW day. 2am. Bed. Happy.

Tuesday Show of the day - Hamish Hawk

Day Three: Wednesday

Went over to Congress area to another iconic venue, The Continental Club, a place where everyone who was anyone in the sixties and seventies played here. I went to see a 1pm show by another fast rising Scottish artist. Tremendous voice and dance moves with some very catchable tunes, BROOK COMBE will, I predict, be huge and even at this relatively early stage of SXSW, would be my pop pick of the festival. Great start to the day.


The afternoon was, let’s say fine, as once again my confidence wavered and I thought that perhaps I had come back to SXSW one time too many. Decent shows by FREE RANGE at Hotel San Jose, LAVEDA at Chess Club and RAMONA and BIKE at the Convention Centre Day Stage, were all ok, but not worth traipsing al the way to Texas to see, hell, as they say, I would not traipse from my home in Ayr to Glasgow to see any of them ( 34 miles). But as the afternoon drew to a close and I started, worryingly, to think of eating a meal rather than seeing a band, I had a good one. You will definitely hear about CHEEKFACE, in months to come. A talk speak band in the vein of Sportsteam/Wet Leg. Decent. Did not appear to take any photos, so here is a link to a song.


On to Wednesday night and if it was a Country and western star it would be called Slim Pickens. FRIKO from Chicago were a good live act at Mohawk.

Glasgow’s HUMOUR are rambunctious but a tad derivative, no hall passes for being Scottish.

The one highlight was seeing Stirling’s finest and a band that I have luckily got to know quite well. CONSTANT FOLLOWER. Recent finalists in the Scottish album of the year awards, none other than the Austin Chronicle described them as “ A gorgeous struggle, deeply human and complex moments that seem to carry lifetimes within them.” only downside was that their venue was Stephen F’s bar, a fairly noisy place for their dream pop extravaganza. They put on a great show nonetheless. Easily the highlight of Wednesday and a saving grace!!

Then I tolerated the hype of LA’s DEATH VALLEY GIRLS at Lucilles, saw a few songs by KROOKED KINGS in the Drafting Room and enjoyed THUS LOVE at Creek and Cave. I finished off with MOTHER MARY. You have to read this. MOTHERMARY makes retro-futuristic Art Pop. Named after the mother of Christ, the ultimate symbol of religious hypocrisy and the impossible expectations placed on women, the bicoastal project is the brainchild of identical twins Elyse & Larena, who grew up in a Mormon family in Missoula, Montana, the youngest of nearly a dozen children. “It was our world… our paradigm,” Larena says about those days. “We were brainwashed.” Well they took the stage with virtually no clothes and absolutely no songs. Dancing around to a backing track. People were queuing up to drive them back to Montana.

Wednesday was saved by the two Scottish acts, BROOK COMBE and band of the day CONSTANT FOLLOWER.

Day Four Thursday

This was one hell of a day. Five of the best shows of the whole week were on this day, as well as a host of other top shows. SXSW lived up to its bill of stunning new acts in small or odd locations.

Quarter past midday and I am in Empire ControlRoom to see MANDY INDIANA, who many thought were one of the highlights of SXSW, but I found them a bit Black Midi unlistenable albeit with a more tuneful Sonic Youth angle occasionally.

Then to Cheer Up Charlie’s to see a band I had seen before ALGIERS. High energy but it was only 12.30, mid day and the crowd were lethargic which seemed to infiltrate the band. Definitely a band to follow though.

A pleasant hour passed. FROST CHILDREN at Mohawk wanted to show their St Trinian’s school look, so got a big crowd. But not a big reaction

PRIMA QUEEN at Valhalla (which is one of the old school venues who had great line ups all week), were decent and then I accidentally was in Empire Garage when TOMBERLIN played, a one woman folky show who were an internet and Jimmy Kimmel show sensation. Impressive tunes.

Then SXSW finally got going.

I next saw a band with one of my favourite albums of 2022, Chopper, by KIWI JR. This Toronto outfit were brilliant. Their own blurb is accurate this time. “ The album is overseen by trusted pilot Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs) on storied Sub Pop Records. Turning nocturnal with necks mock turtle, our Local Kiwi Jr. takes neon flight off the digital cliff, like The Monkees starring in Blade Runner”. Well as it reads on paper. It sounds even better on the ears. A great show. Jangly geetar heaven.


On to Side Bar inside, where they appear never to have installed lighting to see TEENAGE HALLOWEEN. The band name should give you a good idea of their sound. But if not here is how they describe their art. "Stand by your friends that are hurting. That’s what New Jersey power punks Teenage Halloween do through soaring arrangements of melodic angst, wracked vocals that insist “I love you so much I would die for you”, and passion-packed two-minute dispatches tackling topics from gender euphoria, to state abuses, and an eternal quest for mental wellbeing. The results are potent punk dioramas that document young queer life at the edge of America." Grand half hour ensued.

The day just got better and better, to Chess Club, a dive bar which would feel busy if there were let’s say three people plus me there. To see LIFEGUARD who the NME, no less, had cited as one of the Ten Acts you must see at SXSW. I was happy to learn this after I saw them as I may have body swerved, but they were right. They could have added……by three kids whose average age appeared to be 16.


Heavy prog rock still lives.

Checked out another Scottish band POSTER PAINTS at Side Bar then HOTLINE TNT, a much touted and enjoyable punk NYC band.



Remember this name AYSANABEE.

Aysanabee is a multi-instrumentalist, producer and singer songwriter currently based in Toronto. He is Oji-Cree, Sucker Clan of the Sandy Lake First Nation a remote fly-in community in the far reaches of Northwestern Ontario.

The weekend before he played SXSW he played at the Juno awards in his native Canada, their Grammys.

This is him rising above the afternoon bar yard drinking crowd noise at Swan Dive’s backyard in front of around 100 folk.


And this is him at the Juno awards in front of 12,000 people a week earlier.


Grand afternoon, it is only 5pm. I went back to the hotel. To rest, I know, sacrilegious, but necessary.

Hey now it is 8pm. I am out on East Side and there are forecasts for violent electric storms. What would the night bring? Well, violent electric storms, forcing folk to shelter where they did not intend. More of that later. I start at Low Down Lounge and see RHINESTONE PICK UP TRUCK, winner of worst band name of SXsW 2023 but also with craziest drummer of the week.


Next door almost was the Latch Key where I witnessed PARTY DOZEN a two piece, drummer and sax outfit from Sydney, Australia. Kirsty the sax player sings by screaming into the bell of her sax. Hi energy gig.


It was around about now that the electrical storm came down on all of Austin. Wild lightening, and a downpour. I went not the Parish to see DESIRE, self announced as Dream pop for the broken heart. Desire is an electronic band whose vocalist Megan Louise pivots between French & English while draped in latex from head to toe. They also rose to fame with the great song “Under Your Spell” which featured in the classic move Drive. Unfortunately it was a singer singing along to loads of electronic backing tracks so much so I was “driven” to leave but the weather had made me a captive of the Parish. So I stayed and then on came another band. I had never heard of them so I asked someone what I should expect. “Well they rap and do hip/hop whilst paying ethnic instruments and wearing folklore costumes.” I headed to the door once again but it looked like my hometown, Ayr, on a Glasgow Fair weekend, that is to say, it was torrential rain. So back inside to watch. The band were KULASH ORCHESTRA ….and they were brilliant. It turned out to be the Ukranian band that won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2022. The place was packed, the crowd danced, the band were on fire. A great show.


I left and headed back into the SXSW heartland to Valhalla and then Elysium where over the next few hours I saw URBAN HEAT, BLACKLIST and ROSEGARDEN FUNERAL PARTY, before calling it a day around 1.30 am watching ARDWAITH from Wales. All four of these bands were fine but my stamina is not what it used to be and my interest wanes as soon as I realise that I don’t absolutely love the act in front of me. Sorry.

Thursday band of the day, so hard to pick, LIFEGUARD, KIWI JR and PARTY DOZEN were all really good but AYSANABEE was way out there special.

Day Five: Friday

And so to Friday!! And it even topped Thursday. After watching SARAH SHOOK in the Side Bar we all headed to a new venue for us Cahoots way out on East Austin. We were going to watch two of the hottest UK bands play there one after the other. Problems were twofold, we found the venue - a new boutique hotel but could not find anyway to get to the roof where the bands would be playing. And, secondly, it was freezing cold, the temperature dipping into cold desert night stuff following the tropical storm the night before. Eventually we saw someone who told us how to access the roof through a few corridors and a lift. However we had also seen a sign which said it was going to be an acoustic set. We asked him if he knew anything about that. “ Well I am in the band and no-one told us about an acoustic set. They are in for a fucking surprise”. The band you see were PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS. A wall of noise followed. Despite the cold, Baty, the insane lead singer, played in a vest and shorts and consistently poured bottles of water over his head. Mad half hour of fun.

The wind picked up and next on stage all in cold weather gear were the wonderful SPORTS TEAM. This was another SouthBy ( because that’s what we say) moment. On an open rooftop seven floors high, wind blowing and watching one of the UK’s best bands, in overcoats and hats, of the last few years along with about fifty other folk, up close and SXSW personal. Magic!!!!


Fridays are usually amazing at SXSW. So many of the best bands seem to play Fridays. So after a leisurely walk to the other side of Austin to what used to be the Bristol St Courtyard and is now just the Courtyard, we saw Hamish Hawk blow everyone away for the second time this week. Big stage, big crowd, big sound, big success.

Last show of the afternoon was in same venue. DREAM WIFE played. I have seen them before a fair few years ago on their USA debut. They went down well but their punky pop did not do too much for me this time around and I left to go and get ma dinner.

Suitably recharged and on to the evening. I ventured out to Rainey Street, which has its own little scene going, well actually it has its own big scene going these days. Into Lucilles to see THE GOLDEN DREGS who won the SXSW 2023 Deepest Voice competition. You can tell a band are good and going to be big when you see a bunch of other bands there watching them right up front and loving the show. So we were stood beside half of Sports Team, lead singer of Algiers and half of Dream Wife. A spectacular thirty minute followed.

To Velveeta Rooms to see the very Manchester band IST IST. Very lazy to say it but say it I will, quite a Joy Division feel, absolutely brilliant live though.


Headed back to Cahoots but by now the temperature had dropped to Arctic levels. My staying power stopped staying as I watched LOUNGE SOCIETY play to a sparse crowd in a large open air space on a gigantic stage. I hung in though as the next act was in my Must See list. It was worth it. From Bogota, Columbia, BALTHVS. Yes they were a three piece. Yes they had a female bass player. Yes they play psychedelic instrumentals. But no, they are definitely not Khruangbin!! Most enjoyable.


Heading back into the epicentre of Austin I visit 13th Floor once more to see PLATTENBAU. Here is what I stole from somewhere - Not many bands can say that they were formed in the dark basement of the former Stasi HQ in East Berlin. Plattenbau can say that. My words now. To be frank they sounded like they did.

I headed over to see another of the midnight shows, because yes that was the time, and into Esther’s Follies for a chunk of LEMONADE SHOELACE. Pleasant. Then for the last show of the night to Parish for the 1am BRIGHT LIGHT SOCIAL HOUR. Variously described as frothy and festive, this was a band who have invited all to dance their way through the apocalypse and were doing it in their home town of Austin. The place was jumping.

So second last day over and a number of belting shows taken in. SPORTS TEAM, HAMISH HAWK, IST IST and THE GOLDEN DREGS stood out.

Day Six: Saturday

Saturday is never the best day at SXSW. The atmosphere changes - it is St Patrick’s day and spring break Saturday and March Madness College Football weekend too. It makes the crowd markedly different. Normally Sixth street is just a mess of people, usually in various stages of inebriation. Also most of the bands apart from the Saturday night showcase ones have left town and the free afternoon parties are much reduced and as a result of all I explained before, way too busy. So it is good to avoid that epicentre.

One more thing about this year’s SXSW. The authorities had cracked down on the visa rulings for international bands with the UK acts certainly being given warnings that they were not allowed to play paid afternoon showcases. This crippled many of the acts as the who were there without any financial backing from record labels or other forms of sponsorship as it was usually the afternoon gigs that funded their travel and accommodation. In support of my friend Stephen McAll, the bandleader of CONSTANT FOLLOWER, I managed to arrange a private party performance in a friends’ house. It was glorious.


I then potted around seeing a few bands over on that part of town, but did not watch the obligatory two songs to say I have really “seen” them, so cannot make comments here. I loafed around and headed back to hotel, had dinner and a nice glass of wine and then headed out for the last night. However not unexpectedly it was a bit of a damp squib. I saw a load of hotly touted bands. SALOON DION, (great name), MILITAIRIE GUN, CIVIC. All were fine. The crowds went wild etc. I went to my favourite venue, Esther’s Folies to see the supposedly wild glam rock troupe. LORD FRIDAY THE 13TH. They comfortably are in the all time bottom five that I have seen in 14 years of attending SXSW, abysmal. I did see saw one really good act, THE NUDE GROUP. A pleasing sound from an all denimed outfit at Mohawks Outdoor.

Then to finish off SXSW 2023 I went to see another Scottish group, VLURE, from Glasgow. Part Human League. Part terracing chanting. Part Slade 1070s. Part Trainspotting. Full anthems. Great full stop to a SXSW week.

And. It Is over.

Truth be shared. I felt my age at times. I spent more time than ever just sitting and eating. I had sore feet. I went to bed when bands were still playing. I resisted the Shiner Bochs and margarita afternoon freebies. I was actually not unhappy when Saturday came. But I was glad I came. There is nothing like SXSW in Austin, and I will be back….I think.

Nah, for sure. I will be at SXS2024.