Day four of SXSW Music kept up the pacing of Thursday, with shows at various locations throughout the day. The Spotify House, Pandora Discovery Den, Fader Fort by Converse, and more hosted day parties with freebies and great music.
In the evening, people attended showcases with anywhere from a few to ten or more artists. These showcases were the best way to see more music, as transitioning and traveling from venue to venue took time- transportation was a nightmare, and lines to get into venues grew steadily as the night went on.
The GRAMMY Museum hosted a showcase of Los Angeles bands they called their “Homegrown Showcase”. Strangers You Know, PHASES, Grizfolk, Kitten, SWIMM, and The New Regime all came out to the Tap Room at the Market to represent LA.
Strangers You Know, a self-described “deep-indie-folk-pop with a tinge of electro” band, was started by two guys who met in the crowd at Coachella. They did a good job of warming up the waiting audience with tracks off their latest EP, Loosen Up the Leash, that came out March 11.
PHASES, an electro-pop-rock band with a distinct 80’s sound, is a deceptively new band made up of old pros. Comprised of members of bands such as Phantom Planet, Bright Eyes, and having originally formed with a member of Maroon 5 who has since left the band, PHASES (formerly JJAMZ) signed with Warner Bros Records last May. Their debut album For Life featured the track “I’m In Love With My Life” that has been gaining traction and even garnered a Big Data remix last summer. (Check out WQHS’s exclusive interview with PHASES too!)
Z Berg (born Elizabeth Berg, though she claims Z Berg as her birth name in our interview), lead singer of PHASES, is equal parts coy and crazy, and truly put on a performance for the tightly packed Tap Room. Wearing a short red floral dress and bright red lipstick, Berg danced around the stage, batting her eyes and taking moments in between songs to say whatever was on her mind (“I’m feeling frisky”, “Wow we’ve played so many shows today”). Berg’s spunky personality was perfectly balanced by the stoic silence of her band members, who never opened their mouths besides for backing vocals that give songs a chorus-y feel as in the set closer “Cooler”. PHASES really comes together through its production, with a satisfyingly smooth mixture of synthesized riffs and bouncy basslines giving PHASES their unique sound that feels fresh but still retro, like it belongs in the Back to the Future 2015 rather than the actual now, a perfect soundtrack to dehydrated pizza, automatic dog walkers, and holofilms.
Grizfolk, a five-man rock band from LA, performed next, taking the stage with matching black brimmed hats and facial hair. Having recently released Waking Up the Giants with Virgin Records in January, Grizfolk has toured with Bastille, Smallpools, The Fratellis, and X Ambassadors, building a solid fan base with their high-energy live shows. On their albums, Grizfolk’s music is pop-rock augmented by synths but live, they trade the synth-y sounds for a hint of Americana and more rock. Whether this is just an issue with volume or balance or a purposeful change is unclear, there’s something to be said for a band that sounds different live than recorded, giving their live performances a uniqueness that can’t quite be recovered after the concert ends. Lucky for fans, if Grizfolk’s live set left them thirsting for those toned down synths and turned up rock, Grizfolk was slated to play a total of 7 shows at SXSW this year.
In between Grizfolk and the next performer in the showcase, Kitten, a Louisiana band called GIVERS played at Antone’s down the street and around the corner. GIVERS has a happy festival-style indie-pop sound to their music, having been “discovered” by Ra Ra Riot to be a supporting act for their tour. GIVERS share the lyrical and melodic optimism of Ra Ra Riot, and have been described as “island pop” or Afro-pop, citing Cajun and jazz influences from their home in Louisiana. Having formed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when the multi-talented vocalist, guitarist, and drummer Tiffany Lamson and vocalist and guitarist Taylor Guarisco left New Orleans after having their apartment flooded beyond repair, GIVERS music is surprisingly buoyant. “Up Up Up” encourages people to find themselves (“you’re gonna find your way to be”) and “Record High, Record Low” feels supportive (“it’s not to fall back, when out of step, take it all, take it low”). Though the whole band offered great energy and talent, Lamson was the star of the show, trading her guitar for a drum kit every other song and belting out choruses with perfect pitch accuracy.
Back at the Grammy’s Homegrown LA Showcase, SWIMM, a self-described “genre-blurred” group, took the stage with free-flowing melodies and pensive lyrics. Like their hometown of LA, SWIMM’s music feels sunny above all, and though there’s substance to the “genre-blurred” claim, they fit decently well in the indie-pop landscape. The duo’s blog compliments their wild hair, tight patterned shirts, and ambient music (latest on the blog: “I tackle the topic of gentrification after being publicly scorned in LA and present my argument as to why I’m not a hipster”), and it looks like SWIMM has the whole package with a bright future for their forthcoming LP.