Catherine Harris-White of the hip-hop duo THEESatisfaction performs at Red 7 in Austin, Texas during the South By Southwest music conference.
Catherine Harris-White of the hip-hop duo THEESatisfaction performs at Red 7 in Austin, Texas during the South By Southwest music conference. Mike Katzif/NPR
After three long days full of music, Austin sounds like a party that's just getting warmed up. I really mean sounds. Bob Boilen, Ann Powers, Stephen Thompson and Robin Hilton gathered at three in the morning to discuss the best of Friday at SXSW; listen — you can hear the street around them vibrating with activity.
Our quartet was glowing with love for Austin itself, too, after spending a day exploring parts of the city not limited to the 6th Street strip. (Visit our main SXSW page for audio of concerts and lots more coverage.)
Robin hopped in a cab and drove out to a part of town he'd never seen to catch a performance by Kishi Bashi, a violinist who has played with Of Montreal and Regina Spektor. Kishi Bashi, has been recording music as a soloist for less than a year, but he should be well known to regular All Songs listeners — his music has been played on each of the last two podcasts.
According to Robin, we should be hearing even more from him soon. "I really felt like I was witnessing history, not in a grand scale," he says. "In a couple of years we'll be talking about, 'Man, I saw him at this intimate little show.'"
In terms of instrumentation, Kishi Bashi bears a resemblance to NPR's Stubb's showcase headliner Andrew Bird — violin and vocals plus loops that create a sound that seems bigger than the single person making it. Kishi Bashi plays less "elegantly" than Bird, says Robin, but no less deftly.
"He's a super-talented person, and it's great seeing young, budding musicians," says Bob Boilen, who was at the same show. "I was knocked out by him, but I cannot wait two years down the line when we talk about him again when he's playing on our showcase at Stubb's."
Stephen caught a different set by the violinist during an eclectic day that featured a sets by The Frames and The Swell Season's Glen Hansard, the Minneapolis trio Now, Now and the group Deafheaven, which mixes shoegaze with death metal for a result that sometimes sounds like "getting screeched at by a large bird."
He was also part of a huge crowd who turned out to see fun., a pop band that currently has the No. 1 single in the country with "We Are Young." The group, led by Nate Ruess, who has been singing in marginally successful bands for nearly a decade, was "tremendously delightful," Stephen says. "You could sense the excitement and appreciation of suddenly getting to perform for thousands of people."
Ann and Bob caught two female rap acts together. THEESatisfaction, a duo from Seattle who performed on Shabazz Palaces' album and will release their own debut on Sub Pop later this month, mixed melody with rhythm, and Lady Leshurr, a "rapid fire rhymer" from England, had the crowd "going crazy.
Zeus, a group from Toronto, also made an impression. "All of the members look like Billy Crudup in Almost Famous," Ann says. "I swear to God, it was 1974 again. It was a little prog. It was a little bit what we delicately call 'butt rock.'"
The Sub Pop showcase gave Bob, Robin and Ann a chance to see Debo Band, a Boston group that plays Ethiopian-inspired groove with a rock influences. "There's a real drive to their rhythm," Bob says.
Sometimes bands are better than their terrible names: Gashcat, who also played at the Sub Pop showcase, sound like "Neutral Milk Hotel for the 21st century," says Robin.
Bob ended the night with Patrick Watson, one of Thursday's highlights. But Watson wasn't on stage. "I was going to Antone's to see Lost In The Trees and standing outside was Patrick Watson," Bob says. "He said, 'Do you have any idea where I should go?' And I said, 'Patrick, come with me.'"