Flavorpill's Favorite Discoveries From SXSW 2012

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We’re still far from recovered from the total insanity that became our lives for five days this week at the ever-expanding South by Southwest music festival that invades Austin, Texas once a year. The number and density of shows is staggering, and though there were times we wished we could hide under a rock and take a nap for a little while, some of the best experiences we had were entirely accidental. We didn’t witness Arcade Fire playing with Bruce Springsteen, but we did see a bunch of new, interesting bands that inspired and surprised us. We bet you’ll be hearing more about them soon.

Javelin (Flavorpill day party at Lipstick24 and True Panther showcase at Cheer Up Charlie’s)

If you had told us a week ago that we’d be getting down to a Lil Wayne cover featuring a kazoo, we’d probably have been more than a little skeptical. But that’s exactly what happened at the end of Javelin’s excellent set at the True Panther showcase at Cheer Up Charlie’s on Saturday night. We love Javelin enough that we needed to see them again, after they brought their hyper, diverse electro-pop to our own showcase on Wednesday, and their Saturday set had an even more ecstatic vibe. Not only does the duo flawlessly produce dense, creative pop music, but they’re also fantastic performers, and they rallied an exhausted Saturday-night crowd into a full-fledged dance party. – Sophie Weiner

TacocaT (Hardly Art showcase)

Some bands don’t need a lot of intellectualizing to make sense. Sure, we could talk about how TacocaT, a girl-fronted Seattle pop-punk band, are descendants of the northwest riot grrrl tradition, how their name could reference the female anatomy two times over, or how they have a song about wearing a leotard to fend of a guy’s advances (see above), but seeing them live, all that really matters is, to quote a friend, “they sound like rainbows and kittens shooting into your ears.” We danced our asses off to their gleeful noise in the grungy bar they played for their label Hardy Art’s showcase, and would happily see them again tomorrow. – SW

Photo credit: Marley Magaziner

Apparat (Finest Lunch with the Germans)

Finest Lunch With The Germans has been, for the past few years, one of the most consistently fantastic SXSW parties, and this year was no different: lots of wine, lots of incredible food, and, best of all, lots of amazing German techno and house. This year the star of Finest Lunch was the darkly charming Apparat, who, on the heels of his 2011 release The Devil’s Walk, closed out the afternoon with a generous DJ set. Gorgeous, swooping electronic music is Apparat’s calling card, and this outing was no different, filling our hearts to the brim. Bonus: Apparat showed DJs everywhere a thing or two (or three) about how to properly mix, as he played without headphones flawlessly — except for one moment when a bass drum threatened to crash an otherwise perfect mix and, keeping time with his feet, he managed to pull the mix out, temper the timing, and return it to perfection. – Russ Marshalek

Sea of Bees (Swan Dive)

With garage rock and electronic acts comprising the dominant themes this year, it was a welcome breather to see a band that was quiet, pretty, and featured — dare we say it — vocal harmonies. We’ve been fans of Sea of Bees since All Songs Considered’s Bob Boilen professed his love for their 2010 album Songs For The Ravens, which was full of mournful, beautiful folk songs. The band consists of two women playing guitar and singing, and yet the complexity of their lyrics and the lead singer’s unique voice keep them from becoming bland or predictable. Particularly pleasant during this mid-afternoon respite from noise was their cover of “Leaving On A Jet Plane,” a simple, sweet song that will always be imbued with nostalgia. – SW

Today the Moon, Tomorrow the Sun (Flavorpill day party)

Atlanta-based Today the Moon, Tomorrow the Sun is the sort of acts that SXSW 2012 was painfully short on: bands that make it worth attending the festival simply as a music-loving spectator. This four-piece merges rock and electronic in a way that is, in a word, fierce. This was TTMTTS’s first SXSW, and judging by the dropped jaws, wide eyes, and huge smiles following their show, we’re pretty sure it won’t be their last. – RM

Turbo Fruits (Panache Kick Off Party)

As we may have mentioned, we saw a lot of garage rock this week. There were dudes with long hair and guitars out in force, and some, like San Francisco scene-rulers Thee Oh Sees seemed to be on nearly every line-up. Though the genre felt somewhat exhausted by day five, seeing this excellent Nashville-based, Southern-tinged garage band was an excellent way to start the week. Turbo Fruits can make any show feel like a party in your friend’s garage, and their performance fueled us for the days of show-going ahead. – SW

Nite Jewel (Fader Fort)

Something has happened over the past few years to Ramona Gonzalez’s Nite Jewel project. When we first saw her, she was part of a lo-fi three piece that sounded, essentially, the way a velvet painting of a wolf looks: cheep, cheerful, and cheesy. Then, when she played our SXSW 2011 show as a solo artist, she was mournful, lost in herself, and in a world of dark, cloudy visions. This year, though, after releasing her amazing One Second of Love, she’s become what she always was always destined to be: a Lite-FM crooner, presenting heartbreak and love in equal measures with a band consisting of throbbing bass and shimmering keys. This, then, is Nite Jewel’s lover’s rock. It may have been a long time in coming but it’s very, very welcome. – RM

Zorch (South by South Wendy’s)

In one of the more magical moments of this year’s SXSW, we were making the trek back to our hotel shuttle at the end of a long day of shows when we heard the sounds of what we thought might be Dan Deacon coming from behind what appeared to be… a bus. Parked on a hill. Next to a Wendy’s. What we came upon when we ventured back there was not Dan Deacon, but the Austin-based Zorch, and a slew of DIY kids nonchalantly drinking 40s, as though watching a band perform behind a bus by a major intersection was a perfectly normal way to spend a Thursday night. The band was great, and with a little more research we determined that this wasn’t just a one-off performance but an entire mini-festival of similarly great DIY musicians called, aptly, South by South Wendy’s. All we can say to this band, and to this DIY meta-festival is this: keep doing what you’re doing. – SW

Photo credit: Marley Magaziner

Zambri (Flavorpill day party)

Band crush: when you can tape three microphones together, each with different effects patched into it, and use them to conjure the sounds of storms, terror, heartache, and bliss, especially given the less-than-ideal sonic conditions that plague most SXSW shows, you win. Zambri did just that, taking kitchen-sink electronic clangs and woozy witch house synths and using what must have been magic to make them fit with incredible, to-the-heart vocals. Standout? Their song “From the Starts,” which was accompanied at their Flavorpill day party performance this year by an amazing fit of wind, courtesy of spontaneous stage manager Mother Nature. – RM

Photo credit: Sophie Weiner

Wojcik (Flavorpill day party)

We’re big fans of Hailey Wojcik, the up-and-coming Brooklyn rocker who plays under her last name and consistently blows us away with her seductive voice and catchy songwriting. Wojcik are usually a duo, but the drummer couldn’t make it down to Austin, and though this might have made Hailey a little nervous, it was great to see her usual rock ‘n’ roll stripped down and her voice and guitar playing take center stage. Keep an eye on this girl — she’s releasing her new album Wise Blood this year, and from what we’ve heard so far, it’s not to be missed. – SW

Emma Heartbeat (Kick Butt Coffee)

As if Austin was trying to prove just how inescapable SXSW can be, we caught what ended up being one of our favorite discoveries while we were honestly just trying to get some coffee on our “day off” from seeing bands. We heard the swell of a witch-y synth from the stage in the back of a pretty strange kung-fu themed cafe in north Austin, and before we knew it, we were watching a German rapper perform a song we assume is called “I Don’t Need A Boyfriend, I’ve Got An iPhone.” Emma Heartbeat is charismatic, clever and has great stage presence, so we can only imagine these qualities are amplified when she plays, you know, a real venue. She’ll be performing at Pianos in New York this Sunday, and we’re really hoping that by then we’ll have regained the will to see live music. – SW