At the same time every year, Austin is flooded with hopeful artists and thirsty music lovers searching for a taste of something new and exciting. For over 30 years, SXSW has been at the forefront of supporting creative innovation in every field. From tech and education to film and music, the world-renown festival and conference is a cultural mecca in every right.
This year, we had the pleasure of lending our ears to the hundreds of sounds and acts that not only flooded the official stages, but Austin’s holes-in-the-wall as well. We swayed at donut shops, jammed at record stores, and swooned inside churches–in every way, SXSW was as magical as it’s ever been. For us though, it was the songstresses and female-led acts that stood out with powerful voices in tow. Girl power is ringing loud and free. Proud and severely girl-crushing, check out the women that inspired us at this year’s festival:
This year’s Grulke Prize winner for Developing Non-U.S. Act, Jade Bird, came to us from the U.K. Floating on a cloud of cherub-like vocals and surprisingly passionate guitar riffs, we loved her old soul sound. Not only did she kill a kaleidoscope of colored jumpsuits, but her comfort on stage seemed so mature, that you’d forget she was just 20 years old.
We hear the words “Northeast African violin” and you know our hearts flutter…hard. Sudan Archives has been making waves on the scene with her unique approach to the fiddle, as well as the powerfully expressed messages in her music. The self-taught artist produces her own music, artfully blending the roots of folk with electronic foundations and world sounds to yield a gritty yet charming result.
What can we say about Lola Marsh that hasn’t already been gushed? With just one look at the Tel Aviv outfit’s effortlessly breathtaking front woman, Yael Shoshana Cohen, you’re immediately hooked. But she isn’t just a Penelope Cruz doppleganger, she has the timeless voice and darling performance-style to back those looks. The band is also dreamy on every level, touring the world and spreading their upbeat music along the way.
Tank and The Bangas
When Bob Boilen, the man behind NPR’s All Songs Considered and Tiny Desk concerts, introduces a band as “the best live band in America” you have to listen. If you ever catch Tank and The Bangas live, you’ll know exactly why. They are a walking New Orleans parade, led by the infectious energy of front woman Tarriona “Tank” Ball whose singing style is a perfect blend of André 3000, Missy Elliot, and a classic musical theater songstress. If you’re looking for a smile, a sweat, and a good time, there really isn’t anyone else that can compare.
From the surface, Annalise Azadian might look like another singer messing around with musical technology for fun. But when you stop and listen to her lyrics and take a dive into her soothing melodies, you know this is a true calling. She’s comfortable in the way someone with a natural cool can only be, and she’s good at what she does to boot. Her presence screams “I don’t care, but I’m still listening” and we appreciated it.
A reigning queen of SXSW, Gina Chavez is your classic well-rounded performer. The award-winning bilingual Latin-folk artist is a staple around the Southwestern parts and beyond. She’s the epitome of executing a complex melody, or a strenuous vocal run, while making it look as easy as can be. It’s comforting in a way, to see someone like the Austin-native take the stage, making us all feel a little taller with every smile or every song. Talented is an understatement, but then again, we are speechless.
I M U R
Rounding off the list is the Vancouver-hailing electronic pop outfit, I M U R. Although one of the more “green” artists in this round-up, we were just as inspired by their performance as anyone else. Led by songstress Jenny Lea, whose vocals seem to have been carved perfectly for their trademark dreamy sound, the trio has a bright future ahead of them. They’re loose, they’re catchy, and most importantly, they’re really really fun.