Our first SXSW experience was one we will never forget and it was filled with memorable performances but here are ten in particular that stood out
It’s safe to say that SXSW was a dream come true for the CLUNK team, in particular myself (Kieran) as it was thanks to SXSW I discovered Osees, Ty Segall, and many more artists, all that shaped the vibe of CLUNK and my own music tastes. 10 years later there we were in Austin, Texas a part of the festival itself, truly a bucket list moment.
We were of course spoilt for live music but here are 10 performances that stood out for us, including the riotous headline of the BME on Wednesday with Dream Wife, the horse infused Saloon Dion show at JNL Smokehouse, and more!
Dream Wife – British Music Embassy (Wednesday Evening)
Dream Wife have had an exciting journey from the first time I saw them at Knee Deep Festival in Cornwall. Since that time (roughly 2016) the band have released two albums (with a third on the way), had critical success in all the major publications and radio shows, as well as building an incredibly loyal fanbase. It’s no wonder this is the case though, Dream Wife are one of the most exciting, ferocious, and wild rock outfits to come out of the UK in the last decade. Their punk infused sount (that is remiscent to Le Tigre) is highly infectious and most importantly fun. This was all on display at their SXSW show on Wednesday at the British Music Embassy. They were a band determined to awaken the spirits of the mostly jet-lagged British audience, and they did this with masterful ease. Each member dominated the stage in their own way with a confidence that is enviable. It was a solidification for me the Dream Wife are one of the best around doing it right now and to be apart of their journey is nothing short of an honour.
Osees – Hotel Vegas (Thursday Evening)
Where does one even start with this? Osees are a band that have been pivotal to my own personal music tastes and one that has shaped the very fabric to what CLUNK is. They are the band that started it all for me. I wanted to be a part of their journey, I had never seen a band so fun and so energetic in my life, I was desperate to witness it live. Fast forward 10 years and that dream was a reality, not even a tornado warning or a thunderstorm could stop me witnessing this (although it nearly did). The band were playing a four night residency at the Hotel Vegas, just on the outskirts of downtown Austin. We caught them on the third day of their residency, but the energy they brought to the table you’d never know they’d been playing shows all week. The set was delayed slightly due to the storm that ripped through Austin that day but the crowd was as enthused and ready. Truly, I have never seen an entire venue jump up and move in the way that I saw that night, the whole place erupted from the first chord of ‘I Come From The Mountain’.
Due to the delay the Osees changed their set, explaining that they’ll just be “playing the hits for you tonight”, and it was a barrage of the most popular and vey best from the band. Particular highlights being ‘The Dream’, ‘If I had My Way’, and ‘Nite Expo’.
To have been part of this show, to see John Dwyer and his twin drummers in action, the be in the audience for this show was nothing short of magical. It’s an experience that I will take to my grave and a real bucket list moment. Thank you Texas, thank you Austin, thank you Osees!
Prima Queen – British Music Embassy (Wednesday daytime)
Prima Queen are fast becoming one of our favourite bands, one that blends hard and soft, masculine and feminine in masterful fashion. The heartwrenching honesty in their songwriting and the emotive themes that run through make them one of the greatest musical exports from the UK (and US respectively). After being a fan after hearing ‘Chew My Cheeks’ I was incredibly eager to witness this band live, and to say they didn’t disappoint was an understatement.
The true power of their music was on full display, the harmonising vocals, playful rhythm section, and the confidence of Kristin and Louise was completely infectious. The band have already had support from the likes of Wet Leg, The Big Moon, and more and there’s good reason. Prima Queen are the next big thing and catching them at SXSW (twice!) was a special moment and has us buzzing for the bands future.
Lime Garden – British Music Embassy (Wednesday daytime)
Brighton is a hub for music and has been the breeding ground for some of the most exciting bands in the UK. Lime Garden are no exception to this but their show at SXSW split them apart from their peers. They are effortlessly cool, wonderfully laissez faire, and nonchalant. You cannot help but fall into the bands allure. The band blend a variety of sounds into their music, dancing through the many indie spectrums, yet they remain fresh and have an instantly recognisable sound. This was out in full force during their SXSW performance at the BME. Lead singer and guitarist Chloe Howard also has a captivating stage presence that is hard to fully articulate into words, she truly has that special something that made her destined to be in front of a band.
Lime Garden are another UK band that are on the precipice of dominating the airwaves and we’re truly here for it.
King Stingray – Australia House (Thursday morning)
King Stingray entered SXSW off the back of winning the Australian Music Award, essentially the Australian version of the Mercury Prize. The band played a quickfire set that lasted around 30 minutes but in that short time they provided a barrage of psychedelic infused aboriginal inspired rock, a sound that is beautifully infused. In their short set they managed to showcase why they’re being hailed as one of the best bands to come of Australia in recent years. The vocals sat neatly over the cascading guitars and chimes from the didgeridoo, creating an authentic sound that has been tailored for the modern ear.
As the rain fell down in Austin that day King Stingray felt like the perfect band to remind one about the natural world we live in. Something that is easily forgotten in a city such as Austin that is fast becoming dominated by Skyscrapers.
Panic Shack – British Music Embassy (Monday evening)
The Welsh punk outfit Panic Shack have been causing a stir back home in the UK, particularly after a clip of their track ‘The Ick’ went viral on Tikok. After wrapping my ears around this song and not fully understanding how it was deemed divisive, with comments varying from outright misogyny to comedic hate, through to praise and love. I was curious to experience this band live as that is arguably the best way to get a full feel of what they offer. What Panic Shack offer is a frantic, wild, and tongue-in-cheek experience that is nothing but pure fun. Their live set has a visual element that is completely entertaining, particularly with ‘Mannequin Man’, which sees the band doing mannequin poses whilst playing. Not to mention, that although they joke about being shit, they’re a live band through and through and all play their part perfectly, it sounded great and was overflowing with energy. You literally cannot ask more from a live band.
Panic Shack are not like marmite, there is no love or hate, they’re one of the best punk bands to come out of Wales and the UK, no argument. Their SXSW show was belting and they have fast become one of our favourite bands. Get behind Panic Shack or get out the way!
Saloon Dion – JNL Smokehouse (Monday daytime)
The boys from Bristol headed to Austin, Texas with the plan to dominate, and dominate they did. Every show they played they left an imprint and left the audience with a story. Although they played countless shows during SXSW their debut show at the JNL Smokehouse has to be a personal standout. It was pure chaos in the best way. Let’s start with the venue, the smokehouse was a half BBQ joint, grocery store, and bar, an interesting mix. Then in the beer garden/outdoor eating area there was a stage ripe for Saloon Dion‘s taking.
After two songs the band had the venue shuffling towards the front with a few punters getting jiggly from their seats whilst munching on brisket. However, it was midway through their set where the magic happened, two horses donned with two Texans on the saddle came through and started rocking out, whilst seated on the hore, on the pavement, real casual. It was crazy, and as mentioned I have never seen anything like this, ever. The band all nearly collapsed due to laughter but kept the music going, playing their hearts out. It was a classically Saloon Dion story but a show that further solidified the bands position as an exciting Bristol, UK export. A city that is absolutely blossoming with talent they are at the front of this new south west wave and we cannot wait to see what comes post SXSW.
Avalanche Party – Seven Grand (Tuesday evening)
The Dance To The Radio showcase was a brilliant collection of some of the best artists from the UK, in particular Avalanche Party. The Seven grand provided the perfect backdrop for the bands intense, hypnotic rock n roll sound, with taxidermy deer heads adorned on the walls of the venue that was remiscent of a hunting lodge. The crowd hustled towards the front to get a taste of the bands chaotic sound, no one was left disappointed. Within moments their crushing sound came flying downwards towards the listener, guitars came flying out like a wall of sound, whilst the drums came down like the hammer of Thor.
It was an overwhelming sound but one that was undeniably satisfying. It was rock music in its truest form, channeling the energy and showmanship of old whilst remaining completely fresh, a very challenging thing to achieve. From the moment the first chord was struck it was evident that Avalanche Party were going to be show stealers, now we await for their inevitable UK domination.
Personal Trainer – Scholz Garten (Thursday afternoon)
Just the day before I had the pleasure of sitting down with the lead singer Willem Smit and percussionist Kilian Kayser, two of the calmest, temperamental chaps I have maybe ever sat down with. Fast forward to the next day and the band were playing the Scholz Garten, to say I was shocked they were the same people would be the biggest understatement of the year.
The bands calm demeanor was gone, in particular Willem Smit, who was flailing and running around like a wild man during their performance. Their frantic, fun indie sound was on full display with all the creative elements being boasted left, right, and centre. It was an eye opening show and proved why they are selling out shows across Europe and the UK. To see them in a half busy beer garden was something of a rarity to say the least. The band are hot topic and after watching them live it’s easy to see why.
They played through their growing back catalogue but mostly taking songs from their debut album ‘Big Love Blanket’, including the popular singles ‘The Lazer’ and ‘Former Puppy’. All seven of Personal Trainer were incredibly tight which for a band with that much energy is eye wateringly impressive. You’d have to be soulless to not find yourself bopping your head or dancing to their music, it’s fun incarnate.
Watching Willem and the band play with such passion, large smiles, high-octane energy and confidence was nothing short of fantastic. They truly are one of the greatest live bands I have witnessed and they pretty much stole the entire SXSW for me. I cannot wait to see them in the summer in Cornwall for a show at the Cornish Bank, it’s going to be the highlight of 2023 for the Cornish music scene.
Iguana Death Cult – Scholz Garten (Friday afternoon)
We had one rule for SXSW and that was no repeats. The only band to make us break that rule was Iguana Death Cult, who’s garage rock sound was daringly infectious. The second time we caught them was when we truly fell head over heels in love. Their brand of chaotic guitar driven rock is remiscent of Parquet Courts and early Ty Segall. It’s raw, full of fun, and contagiously entertaining. This is felt sonically and visually, they’re a real treat to watch live.
Frontman Jeroen Reek is a complete natural, commanding the space in which he occupies, throwing himself wildly around the riffs he throws out into the audience. The rhythm section is also one worthy of mention, with bassist and precision keeping the sound firmly moving forward with the pulsing and bouncy sound.
For me, Igauna Death Cult is everything good with rock music. It’s fun, guitar driven, and can be listened to at home or with beer in hand at a gig. It’s fantastic and more bands like them need to exist to distract us from the modern day bullshit we all have to put up with.
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