SXSW Music: Day Two Recap

On day two of SXSW Music, the schedule started to pick up. With tons of bands playing every hour at different venues, various sponsored venues hosted full lineups throughout the day. These sponsored venues were a concert-goer’s best shot at catching multiple bands without being stuck in long lines outside venues.

The Spotify House, a setup that boasted a huge festival-style stage as well as a more intimate back porch setup, drew Austin residents and visitors alike. Lines to enter the venue stretched all the way down the street and around the corner. Inside, free healthy food and drinks were available, as well as a jukebox that could recognize band t-shirts and play their music, a photo-booth, and even a Soul Cycle setup where artists such as Neon Indian and AlunaGeorge performed live as people attempted to spin away the barbecue and breakfast tacos they’d been eating all week.

John Moreland, a folk artist from Oklahoma, played a set on the porch stage in the afternoon. With comforting melodies and emotive lyrics, Moreland’s music compelled a silence that other artists hadn’t. His stage persona was plain, and he didn’t speak much between songs, but his music connected, in a beautifully melancholic way, in “Hang Me in the Tulsa County Stars” and “You Don’t Care Enough for Me to Cry”. Moreland’s fingerstyle folk guitar melodies will reel you in, and when he opens his whisker-framed mouth to sing, he’ll punch you in the heart (it’s therapeutic, like watching The Notebook).

Just after Moreland’s performance on the porch stage, Rayland Baxter (stylized rayLand baxter) took to the outdoor stage with a small band. With a blue hat and a green t-shirt, Baxter and his alternative country sound were perfect for a late afternoon in Texas, with sun shining and free drinks flowing. “Yellow Eyes” was a crowd favorite, and “Mr. Rodriguez” was another highlight, both from his most recent album, Imaginary Man.

Back on the porch stage, Midland, a Texan country band not to be confused with the electronic artist of the same name, played a set full of energy that even self-proclaimed country anti-fans could enjoy (speaking from personal experience). Although their use of the word “honky-tonk” multiple times may have made some people uncomfortable, their unabashed Texas-ness gave them character onstage. With a full denim suit, cowboy hat, and belt-buckle, lead singer Mark Wystrach seemed like a caricature of a Texas cowboy as he called for the audience to form a dance circle and dance along.

After Midland’s performance, Kacey Musgraves played on the outdoor stage. A singer-songwriter from Nashville, Musgraves brought in a huge crowd of country fans who raised their beers in the air and sang along to every word.

As the afternoon turned to evening, bars and restaurants (and even a donut shop) transformed to music venues, hosting artists of every genre. A walk down 6th Street allowed listeners to catch snippets of different live acts and choose which showcases to attend. Ron Pope, a pop-rock singer-songwriter, played Antone’s on 5th Street. He played with a full backing band of talented musicians who rotated from keyboards and guitars to trombones and saxophones, a mixture of tracks from his latest album, Ron Pope and the Nighthawks (2016), and his older pop hits such as “One Grain of Sand”. During one song, Pope engaged his guitarist in a guitar-riff-off, dropping to his knees and leaning back as the crowd cheered.

Later in the evening, Stubhub hosted a lineup boasting Grizfolk, Poliça, Baio, and Miike Snow. Lines to enter the venue were down the street, and upon entering, getting close to the stage was nearly impossible. Grizfolk played a sweaty but happy show, and Poliça’s synth-pop had the crowd fixated, with frontwoman Channy Leaneagh full of tenacity and finesse despite having recently given birth.

Across town, K-Pop Night Out was underway. Earlier, SXSW favorite Mamamoo, a girl’s group from Korea, sang and danced in perfect synchronization. Victim Mentality, leather-clad headbangers out of South Korea’s metal scene (they personally told me they would “kill Zion T” and then asked for my phone number) also performed. Korean electronic experimenter Haihm set the stage for Dean and later Zion T, who brought throngs of screaming fans to the Belmont.

Zion T was the highlight of the night, singing smooth R+B and jazz in Korean and English. He punctuated his performance by joking around with the audience, indicating his bassist as his translator whenever he wasn’t sure what to say. He spoke to the audience in Korean, asking how they were enjoying the performance before switching to English to ask the audience: “Good? Fun?” to which the answer was a resounding “yes”. A highlight was Eat (꺼내 먹어요), Zion T’s gentle vocals layered over jazz-funk-soul fusion instrumentals.

Read the Day One Recap here.

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