Of all the music we heard: The best of South by Southwest 2007

AUSTIN, Texas – Of all the bands we saw this year at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, the following bands had the biggest impression on us. They either made us dance, cry, giggle or a combination of all of these, so check ’em out online and look for them live in a town near you.

Artist: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals (Waitsfield, Vt.)
Genre: Rock/Soul
Web site: www.gracepotter.com
For those of you who caught Grace Potter and the Nocturnals at GW’s Spring Fling last year, opening up for Talib Kweli, you should know how insanely talented and lovely this young woman is. With a solid rock band (The Nocturnals) to back her up, Potter enchants her audience with a perfect rock/soul voice that has been compared to Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin, all the while playing keys on a full-size Hammond B3 Organ.

Artist: The Whigs (Athens, Ga.)
Genre: Rock
Web site: www.thewhigs.com
Seeing The Whigs play at the Blender Bar at SXSW was like having a religious experience – for those of us whose religion is Rock and Roll. For only having three members, the band can certainly deliver a very energetic and very loud show, all the while keeping it musical and coherent. Named one of Rolling Stone’s “10 Artists to Watch” in 2006, The Whigs have been increasingly gaining popularity since the re-release of their latest album “Give ‘Em All a Big Fat Lip” in September.

Artist: 28costumes (Liverpool, England)
Genre: Rock
Web site: www.myspace.com/28costumes
We caught 28costumes at the Liverpool Live showcase on Saturday afternoon, not really knowing quite what to expect. The quartet rocked the house, combining fierce party-guitar licks with bombshell British hooks. One highlight of their show was when they pulled out their toy keyboards to play pre-loaded midi lullabies along with snoring sound effects.

Artist: The Binary Marketing Show (Carboro, N.C.)
Genre: Electro-Experimental-Pop-Rock
Web site: www.myspace.com/thebinarymarketingshow
With the sole intention of finding a bathroom and drinking more cheap PBR, we found ourselves inside an extremely small makeshift club with the Austin-based quartet Binary Marketing Show setting up to play. The crowd consisted of ourselves, about 10 loyal fans, and what appeared to be the singer’s parents; but with a flurry of drum machines and samplers, they whipped their humble crowd into a frenzy. Just another testament to how many underappreciated bands are at this festival.

Artist: Exit Clov (Washington, D.C.)
Genre: Rock
Web site: www.exitclov.com
After playing their third set in one day at SXSW on Saturday night, guitarist (and GW alum) Aaron Leeder said it best; “We’re fucking tired!” Based in D.C., the band is continuing to tour around the US after their SXSW appearance. Having described their music as “kaleidoscopic pop noir,” the band plays a multitude of instruments – including guitars, drums, cowbells, violins and synthesizers – all the while highlighting the vocal prowess of identical twin singers Emily and Susan Hsu.

Artist: Lesbians on Ecstasy (Montreal, Quebec)
Web site: www.lezziesonx.com
Genre: Electronic
On another whim, we decided that this particular band was too unique to pass up, based entirely on their name. Their rapid set drew equally from The Pixies and LCD Soundsystem, and although we cannot attest to whether they were lesbians or if they were actually on ecstasy (or both), we were hooked. You would think that after hearing drum machines during 40% of the shows for three days we would be tired of it, but Lesbians on Ecstasy brought the rock.

Artist: Christian Scott (New York, N.Y.)
Web site: www.christianscott.net
Genre: Jazz
Every now and then, it’s nice to step back from the non-stop Rock and Roll and take in something completely different. Not that there’s anything wrong with tight jeans and long-haired hipsters . A New Orleans native, Christian Scott is a jazz trumpeter based in New York with a kick-ass band that encompasses an intensive, brooding tone. Scott plays the hell out of his Gillespie-style trumpet, exploding each note into his microphone with ferocious energy. And Scott’s band is just as amazing as their frontman.

Artist: El-P (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Web site: www.definitivejux.net/jukies/el-p/
Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap
A true hero of the underground hip-hop scene, Brooklyn-based rapper El-P rocked the back room at Red Eye Fly, thoroughly confusing the greasy indie-pop kids who were expecting to see something a bit more obscure and/or inaccessible. Sorry guys, he doesn’t care that your Chucks are vintage. A founder of Definitive Jux (Aesop Rock, Mr. Liff), El-P has been doing what he does best for over a decade, beginning his career and releasing his first record at age 17.

Artist: Architecture in Helsinki (Melbourne, Australia)
Web site: www.architectureinhelsinki.com
Genre: Rock/Dance
Having decided to roam around and find a random club to wander into, we found that none other than Architecture in Helsinki was about to take the stage at Emo’s. We were treated to a frenetic drum machine-fueled set fueled with live horns and percussion that made for one hell of a dance party. Unfortunately, the band took the stage 15 minutes late, and the sound guy wasn’t receptive to the crowd’s demands for “ONE-MORE-SONG! ONE-MORE-SONG!” at the end of their set.

Artist: MuteMath (New Orleans, La.)
Web site: www.mutemath.com
Genre: Rock
Vocalist Paul Meany flipped over (yes, flipped over) his keyboard so hard that he broke it – and after his poor tech managed to hotwire it back on amongst the on-stage chaos, Meany proceed to jump all over it again. By our count, they broke two microphone stands, one floor tom, at least one microphone, and of course the keyboard. By some stroke of luck, however, the Keytar stayed intact – and he shamelessly rocked it for the rest of the set. The whole band is terrifyingly talented at their respective instruments, but they didn’t let their technical prowess overpower Meany’s hooky songwriting.

Artist: Andrew Bird (Chicago, Ill.)
Web site: www.andrewbird.net
Genre: Rock/Pop
The ubiquitous Andrew Bird held his own in front of the curious but unfamiliar Stubbs crowd, and played a wonderful set assisted by Dosh (one-man-band on drums and keys from Minneapolis, MN.) Admittedly, Bird is best seen in an intimate club rather than a massive outdoor venue, but he didn’t disappoint as he looped his violin and guitar licks over his excellent whistling skills.

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