SXSW 2015 highlights: Tove Stryke, Jack Garratt, Mansionair, United Fruit + Meg Mac, Ryn Weaver, Broncho, Blank Range, Only Real

The 3rd annual SXSW roundup is here!
As always, I start by the numbers: I listened to roughly 2,300 artists (115 of which I was already familiar with), narrowed it down to 165 artists worth considering, re-listened to those 165 artists, and honed the number to 87. I then proceeded to schedule the 87 artists + some of the artists I already knew. Once at SXSW, I managed to catch 41 gigs in 3.5 days, walking an average daily distance of 11 miles.

And now, the highlight reel based on what I was able to catch (sadly, there were a few I attempted to see and ended up missing due to shifty set times…Daniel Wilson, for one):

Tove Stryke


Wow, what an unbelievable surprise! I heard a lot of hype about this energetic Swedish pop starlet, which usually poisons my first impressions – with the attitude of “Oh yeah? Let’s see it then!” – but she aptly crushed all preconceived notions and blew me away. Not only is she genre-bending with a hard-to-pronounce name (not unlike her fellow Scandinavian Lykki Li), she also has some massively catchy tunes and killer stage presence. I love her air of confidence and quirky style to boot! It is so refreshing to see electronic/pop artists who still play real instruments on top of their tracks. It adds so much life (literally) to the sound, and obviously makes for a more exciting live show. Believe all the hype for Tove Stryke!

Jack Garratt


Despite my preference for a live band over a dude and his computer, I’ve got to hand it to Jack Garratt. He pulled it off with true artistry and kept me captivated the entire time. His vocal versatility was remarkable and the songs actually felt like songs, instead of a never-ending club dance track.

Mansionair


These Aussies were super compelling – so much so that I saw them twice! They played with such intensity and created an amazing vibe that seemed to captivate fans no matter what the venue or time of day. Their sound was incredibly full and rich for a three-piece, and it’s hard to beat a band that’s so obviously in love with being on stage and playing music. It makes all the difference.

United Fruit


This four-piece from Glasgow nearly blew everyone out of the venue. It was 25 minutes of Interpol-meets-Foo Fighters- thundering guitar licks, accented by semi-abrasive, yet undeniably appealing vocal melodies. Their newest material shone brightest and was approachable even for those who aren’t typically drawn to hard rock.

Other outstanding acts include: Meg Mac, Only Real, Ryn Weaver, Broncho and Blank Range. I would highly recommend checking them out live whenever or wherever you get a chance.
Honorable mentions go to The Blossoms and Sego.

I can’t rightfully conclude without mentioning the few favorite bands I allowed myself to see, despite the fact I’ve seen them each several times before: The War On Drugs were lose-your-mind good, Wolf Alice completely slayed, and Catfish and the Bottlemen never cease to amaze me. All three of those bands reinvigorate my obsessive passion for music and remind me that while this business is rough, there will always be diamonds in that rough. And the way those make me feel – make us all feel – is the reason it will always be worth my commitment to it.