Since my last post, I quit my job of 14 years, started working in Hollywood (for a social media platform), and ran off to SXSW in a van to help tour manage one of my favorite pop artists. Talk about a whirlwind year so far.

When I sit here and think about it, the events of the past three months, hell, the past two years seem unbelievable. Yet, here I am.

My very first SXSW was a blast. It was 10 days of sleepless nights, exhaustion, anxiety and frustration, all overcome by the mere fact that I was on a high doing what I’ve dreamed and surrounded by music the entire time. I was also lucky in that I was adopted by veterans, nay, SXSW professionals. They knew the best parties, the best swag, the best people. Though half my time was spent working, at the end of the day I was the happiest that I’ve ever been.

But enough about personal epiphanies. Here’s a list of my best musical experiences (in no particular order):

Night Riots
Caught these guys last minute at House of Blues in Anaheim last year. Bit of electronic infused rock with a hint of 80’s new wave inspired vocals. Super catchy, lots of singable chorus parts. Also happy to have reunited with bassist, Mikel who rescued us at said House of Blues show when there were issues getting in. Definitely a band to watch.

Wild Party
I didn’t know this band existed until a friend came back raving about them after a show. Caught them by accident when I couldn’t get into a different show and immediately started dancing. Fun, mellow rock reminiscent of Free Energy. I’m sad they’re not on Spotify so I can’t add them to my SXSW playlist. Give them a listen on Soundcloud though.

Vinyl Thief
This was an accidental discovery. I went in to see Night Riots but the venue was running behind. I couldn’t have been more pleased. Solid pop rock with dance-able beats. Curious to see where they will take themselves in the future.

One of the best things about SXSW was the ability to just… be walking somewhere and get drawn in to a place you didn’t expect by music. In this case, I hadn’t wandered far- they were playing the bar in my hotel- but it was one of those magic moments where I just followed where the music led. After the show, they gave out free EPs. Two weeks after SXSW, theirs is the one I keep coming back to on endless repeat. “Let It Go” is infectious, eternally singable and sounds hopeful though the words have a slight tang. It’s all kinds of perfect for my current headspace.

American Authors
I had a few opportunities to see this band in LA but kept missing them for one reason or another. Then their single, “Best Day of My Life” started playing everywhere. I was determined to see them at SXSW. However, our paths continued to be at odds. Even in Austin, I kept missing show after show for various reasons. Finally, vocalist Zac ended up at my table for brunch one day and I managed to get in to their last performance, at Perez Hilton’s bash. Mission accomplished.

The Foreign Resort
A surprising trio from Denmark whose infectious Cure-reminiscent sound drew people in from the street. Lots of keyboards, effects and layers for three people. Also lots of fun. They were the last band I saw before leaving and I’m glad to have closed on such a great note.

Nightmare and the Cat
This is another band that had eluded me in LA and whose music has sunk hooks into my psyche where it refuses to be dislodged. Got to see them twice at SXSW and grew to love them more each time. They have a way with rhythm and harmony and let’s not get started on the lyrics. Which tend to be epic.

“Wake up to the blackbird song
Ringing out your heart
Howling all night long
Free now
As the darkened sky
And then I smile
As the blackbird smiles

I’m not afraid anymore.”

The Silent Comedy
If you had told me two years ago that I would develop a massive love for blues-infused southern rock, I might have given you the hairy eyeball. Yet my love for this band has blossomed into something fierce since I first saw them play a semi-stripped down set at Standing Sun Winery. Their live show is almost cathartic, a little bit manic, with a whole lot of foot-stomping and singing along from your gut. It’s interesting to compare the clip above to this live version of the same song. Talented and versatile. I am on the bandwagon and I’m not getting off.

I didn’t expect to be anywhere near this but found myself headed the a private event after a stroke of luck (and knowing the right people, being in the right place at the right time, etc.). If I’m not mistaken, it was the debut of the Yoshiki vs Yoshiki concept, where the artist played piano against a hologram of himself. Equally fascinated to meet some of the staff behind it, to hear about the work that had gone into preparing the stage. The performance itself was brilliant, but I would expect no less. Yoshiki is a master of his instrument. Totally worth the 2AM walk back to the hotel.

John Flanagan
Funny how things work out- a little over a year ago, his “Tomorrow” kept my head above water during a really rough period in my life. Seeing him perform at SXSW was incredible. The man’s songwriting skills, vocal range and sheer charisma are insane. He just continues to get better. The clip above doesn’t even begin to cover how talented he is. I cannot wait for the rest of the world to discover him.



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