No surprise, SXSW 2018 was busy. With over 2000 acts from 63 countries performing this year, Austin was jam-packed with industry professionals and music fans all week. Downtown was a human ocean in the wee hours, the crowds were rowdy at venues like Dirty Dog and tamer at the Central Presbyterian Church. I waited in line for many of our favorite NYC artists at venues that were filled to capacity hours before they were meant to go on (I’m looking at you, Anna McClellan). Here’s a short recap of my favorite performances from this year’s SXSW.
Beshken’s Ben Shirken adeptly took us far away from the noise of 6th street and into an ethereal world of eclectic dance music with a nifty setup and bassist/guitarist Ian White at Burnside’s Tavern on Wednesday.
Jukebox the Ghost is currently based out of NYC recording their fifth album Off To The Races at Studio G in Brooklyn. The band put on a stunning show at the StubHub Stage on Wednesday night, playing old songs such as "Girl" and "Somebody," and also debuting "Fred Astaire" and "Everybody’s Lonely," two singles from their upcoming record. Their final song of the night was a cover of Queen’s "Bohemian Rhapsody" that had everyone, sober and not-so-sober, singing along every word.
Soccer Mommy played songs from her acclaimed new album Clean in a great set at Cheer Up Charlie’s on Friday, followed later that night at the same venue by Brooklyn’s Topaz Jones, whose soulful, crowd-pleasing performance had us laughing and dancing alike. "Has anyone seen Stranger Things?" he asked, introducing his 2016 song "Winona."
Finally, my absolute favorite performance of this year’s SXSW was Kitten’s at Mohawk Outdoor (pictured above). Originally from LA, the band recently moved to NYC and enrolled local musicians BITS (Blu and Rex Detiger) in the live lineup. Kitten’s frontwoman Chloe Chaidez was a delight to watch: an unusual burst of energy and incredibly agile gymnast, all without missing a note or a beat. She finished out the night with a 20-foot jump (more or less) into the audience and then sitting down at the drum kit, completely nailing the rhythm section of the last song and taking us all by surprise. -Geena Kloeppel