Cougar Microbes headed to Austin, TX to experience SXSW 2014 in all it’s glory. Over the course of 4 days we witnessed some phenomenal performances in venues all around town covering every genre and sub-genre imaginable. As we had anticipated in our festival preview piece some of the biggest highlights came from those artists we weren’t expecting.
This is how it went…
Zella Day – B3SCI Presents: SXSW Day Party w/ Wind-Up Records, My Old Kentucky Blog and Unrecorded @ La Barbecue
We began our adventure by necking a couple of crazy Bloody Marys that was garnished with bacon and queso because that’s what needed to be done. Satisfied that our thirst had been quenched we headed over to watch Zella Day perform at Le Barbecue‘s outdoor stage. Undoubtedly a star in the making Zella‘s raspy vocals were an absolute pleasure to witness on this sunny afternoon and the amassed crowd show their appreciation at every chance. Her cover of “Seven Nation Army” was especially well received turning a well known rock anthem into a sultry folksy affair that was running through our heads for the rest of the day.
The Strypes – 1100 Warehouse Presented by: Live from LN Labs/mophie
A short walk over to the plus 1100 Warehouse saw us amongst the first in line to catch The Strypes. It is literally jaw dropping to think that these 4 kids from Cavan, Ireland are all between 16-18 years of age because their musicianship and stage craft puts many more established acts to shame. Playing their 60′s inspired high octane blues rock saw sparks fly every time they kickstarted one of their anthems. Frontman Ross Farrelly could be forgiven for wearing his shades throughout because his vocal delivery was always powerful and rough around the edges in just the right way. However, the real star for me is guitarist Josh McClorey who seemed like a man/boy possessed playing riffs after riff and solo after solos like he was born on a stage. He ended the show with a solo up above his head before throwing his guitar as high as it would go. Rock N Roll is not dead, long live The Strypes.
Banks – Hype Hotel Presented by: Gorilla vs Bear + Yours Truly
Next up we rushed to see Banks at Hype Hotel. The electro pop starlet has built a decent following with a series of well received tracks but it is live that her songs seem to really flourish. She switched between jazz infused sounds to strong bass line one minute and immersive beats the next. Her cover of Aaliyah’s “Are You Somebody” was a particular stellar moment with her hushed vocals and quasi-screams seeming positively authentic.
London Grammar – Hype Hotel Presented by: Gorilla vs Bear + Yours Truly @ Hype Hotel
We did not have to go far to see British trip-hop stars in the making London Grammar doing their thing. Frontwoman Hannah Reid was striking on stage giving off a cool aura and the interaction and subtle eye contact between the members on stage was worth watching alone. As this stand their sparse melodics where exactly what the doctor ordered and this was as intimate as a big show can get.
Sohn -4AD Presented by Howl @ Cheer Up Charlie’s
Watch out James Blake, Sohn is after your crown and on the basis of this performance he’s not too far behind the Mercury Prize winner. His R&B vocals delivered over a progressive electro backbeat easily won over anyone with working ears in the audience. Sohn is someone we will be watching closely in the coming year and if his remix work for the likes of Rhye, Disclosure and Lana Del Rey is anything to go by it will not be long until he picks up an award or two for himself.
Cashmere Cat – Empire Control Room Presented by: Mad Decent
Underground warehouse vibes seemed to be the word of the day for this ridiculous performance by Norwegian super DJ Cashmere Cat who manages to get every single body at the Mad Decent party moving. Crowd favorites like “Do You Like Drugs” mixes seamlessly with “Party Girls, his collaboration with Ludacris and Wiz Khalifa, but our personal highlight had to be a sick remix of Disclosure’s “Latch” that we had never heard before and could hardly imagine.