NPR logo

Why SXSW Matters: The Best Of What We Saw, 2017

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/520951281/520988380" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Why SXSW Matters: The Best Of What We Saw, 2017

SXSW Music Festival

Why SXSW Matters: The Best Of What We Saw, 2017

Why SXSW Matters: The Best Of What We Saw, 2017

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/520951281/520988380" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Clockwise from upper left: Jason Lytle of Grandaddy, Fragile Rock (an emo puppet band), Lizzo, Aldous Harding, Allison Crutchfield, Anna Meredith Courtesy of the artists hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of the artists

SXSW isn't a rock festival, a hip-hop festival or a global music festival — it's a big bundle of everything rolled into five spring-warm Texas days. For artists, the choice to attend can be an expensive risk, traveling from Taiwan, Mebourne, Brixton, Brazil, or Italy hoping to be seen and heard. But sometimes it pays off. We go there to find music we're unlikely to see in our own backyard, find something thrilling, then shout out our fervent support.

On this edition of All Songs Considered, Robin Hilton, Stephen Thompson and I talk about the things we're most excited about following our time in Austin. From the ecstatic music of Britain's Anna Meredith, the dark and alluring work of New Zealand's Aldous Harding, the genuine joy of Bogota's Tribu Baharú, the provocative and fearless soul of Lizzo or simply puppets from Austin (yes, they even crowd surfed), what we hear at SXSW often serves as a signpost for the year ahead.

We also revisit our own showcase in Austin: Watch concerts from PWR BTTM, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Lizzo, and Big Thief. (One more set from NPR Music's showcase is on the way.)

We also shared some personal moments with bands amidst all the craziness — I urge you to take time and watch our escape from the madness with intimate sessions from Nina Diaz & Luz Elena Mendoza, L.A. Salami, Let's Eat Grandma, Valerie June and Jealous Of The Birds (and a couple more still to come) for our South X Lullabies series. — Bob Boilen

Songs Featured On This Episode

Cover for Weepy E​P

04Stay Felt (Live)

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/520951281/520953709" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Buy Featured Music

    Song
    Stay Felt (Live)
    Album
    Weepy E​P
    Artist
    Fragile Rock
    Label
    Tin Pan Pally
    Released
    2017

    Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Fragile Rock

  • Song: Stay Felt (Live)
  • from Weepy E​P

We begin our show with what is almost definitely the world's first puppet emo band, Fragile Rock. During the show Bob saw, one of the puppets even crowd surfed. Fraggle Rock, the Muppety namesake of the band, taught kids about the importance of compassion — Fragile Rock preserves that tradition with its song "Stay Felt."

Buy Featured Music

Song
Weepy E​P
Album
Weepy E​P
Artist
Fragile Rock
Label
Tin Pan Pally
Released
2017

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Cover for Stinger

01Stinger

  • Buy Featured Music

    Song
    Stinger
    Album
    Stinger
    Artist
    Hard Proof
    Label
    Modern Outsider
    Released
    2017

    Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Hard Proof

  • Song: Stinger
  • from Stinger

You can draw a straight line back in time from Hard Proof to foundational afrobeat musician Fela Kuti. Hard Proof rocked the South By stage with a upbeat and incredibly danceable performance. "Stinger" showcases its remarkable horn section.

Buy Featured Music

Song
Stinger
Album
Stinger
Artist
Hard Proof
Label
Modern Outsider
Released
2017

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Cover for Worship (Live)

Lizzo

  • Song: Worship (Live)
  • from Worship (Live)

During her set at the NPR Music SXSW showcase, Lizzo gave one of Robin Hilton and Stephen Thompson's favorite performances of the entire week. The singer is having a breakout year after three previous trips to the festival.

Cover for Varmints

07The Vapours

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/520951281/520955182" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Buy Featured Music

    Song
    The Vapours
    Album
    Varmints
    Artist
    Anna Meredith
    Label
    Moshi Moshi Records
    Released
    2016

    Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Anna Meredith

  • Song: The Vapours
  • from Varmints

Composer Anna Meredith takes elements of 70s progressive rock and a mix of classical minimalism to create new and ecstatic music. "The Vapours," from Meredith's solo debut Varmints, is enthralling, featuring an unorthodox ensemble of clarinet, cello, tuba, two percussionists and more. Bob describes her SXSW performance as one of the "most uplifting musical moments" he's seen in his lifetime.

Buy Featured Music

Song
Varmints
Album
Varmints
Artist
Anna Meredith
Label
Moshi Moshi Records
Released
2016

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Cover for Deep Six Textbook (Live)

Let's Eat Grandma

  • Song: Deep Six Textbook (Live)
  • from Deep Six Textbook (Live)

Childhood friends Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth formed their fiendish-sounding, nursery-rhyme-inspired English band in 2013. Four years later, they delivered a South X Lullaby from within a wood-slatted Airstream trailer.

Cover for Last Place

05The Boat is in the Barn

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/520951281/520956649" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Buy Featured Music

    Song
    The Boat is in the Barn
    Album
    Last Place
    Artist
    Grandaddy
    Label
    Columbia Records
    Released
    2017

    Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Grandaddy

  • Song: The Boat is in the Barn
  • from Last Place

Grandaddy is back from a 10-year break with a stellar full-length album called Last Place. Robin was overjoyed to see the group share highlights from the album, along with older favorites, during a SXSW performance for nearly 2,000 adoring fans.

Buy Featured Music

Song
Last Place
Album
Last Place
Artist
Grandaddy
Label
Columbia Records
Released
2017

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Cover for Arizona

01Arizona

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/520951281/520956746" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Buy Featured Music

    Song
    Arizona
    Album
    Arizona
    Artist
    Frances Cone
    Label
    Frances Cone
    Released
    2016

    Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Frances Cone

  • Song: Arizona
  • from Arizona

This deceptively named Brooklyn act is not a solo artist, but rather a four-piece band that makes tunes whose crisp production permeates hooky-yet-complex songwriting. Bask in the warm and billowy "Arizona," the first single from Frances Cone's upcoming third album.

Buy Featured Music

Song
Arizona
Album
Arizona
Artist
Frances Cone
Label
Frances Cone
Released
2016

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Cover for Time Owes You Nothing

011604

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/520951281/520956821" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Buy Featured Music

    Song
    1604
    Album
    Time Owes You Nothing
    Artist
    Calliope Musicals
    Label
    Calliope Musicals
    Released
    2016

    Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Calliope Musicals

  • Song: 1604
  • from Time Owes You Nothing

Calliope Musicals put on quite a show this year, musically as well as pyrotechnically, what with the lasers and a tablet computer suit beaming animated lips. Stephen compared the group's energy and showmanship to that of the spiritual jazzman Sun Ra. With "1604," the Austin band presents a rich and swirling example of modern space-rock done right.

Buy Featured Music

Song
Time Owes You Nothing
Album
Time Owes You Nothing
Artist
Calliope Musicals
Label
Calliope Musicals
Released
2016

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Aldous Harding
Courtesy of the artist

Aldous Harding

  • Song: Imagining My Man
  • from Party

Note: A bit of the unreleased song "Imagining My Man" can be heard in the full All Songs Considered episode with the listen link at the top of this page. The only full track currently available from her upcoming album Party is "Horizon."

YouTube
Cover for Pa'l Más Exigente Bailador

07Made in Tribu Baharú

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/520951281/520956924" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Buy Featured Music

    Song
    Made in Tribu Baharú
    Album
    Pa'l Más Exigente Bailador
    Artist
    Tribu Baharú
    Label
    Tambora Records
    Released
    2015

    Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Tribu Baharú

  • Song: Made in Tribu Baharú
  • from Pa'l Más Exigente Bailador

For a real party, look no further than Colombian band Tribu Baharú and its ode to... well, itself. "Made in Tribu Baharú" is one continuous celebration. With its cries and cheers and high-density percussion, the group champions the style of champeta — a feverish amalgam of Euro-African and Caribbean genres.

Buy Featured Music

Song
Pa'l Más Exigente Bailador
Album
Pa'l Más Exigente Bailador
Artist
Tribu Baharú
Label
Tambora Records
Released
2015

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Cover for Tourist in this Town

10Chopsticks on Pots and Pans

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/520951281/520956940" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Buy Featured Music

    Song
    Chopsticks on Pots and Pans
    Album
    Tourist in this Town
    Artist
    Allison Crutchfield
    Label
    Merge
    Released
    2017

    Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Allison Crutchfield

  • Song: Chopsticks on Pots and Pans
  • from Tourist in this Town

Earlier this year, NPR Music premiered Crutchfield's Tourist in This Town as part of the First Listen series. The singer's memorable performance at Waterloo Records in Austin closed with this cut, "Chopsticks on Pots and Pans," which includes the line, "More than anything, I just wish I didn't care."

Buy Featured Music

Song
Tourist in this Town
Album
Tourist in this Town
Artist
Allison Crutchfield
Label
Merge
Released
2017

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Cover for Smoke Signals

Phoebe Bridgers

  • Song: Smoke Signals
  • from Smoke Signals

From Bob's hotel room, Phoebe Bridgers performed a plaintive rendition of a song that's become a staple here at All Songs Considered. Bridgers strips away the strings, leaving only guitar, minimal percussion, and faint bits of harmony.

Buy Featured Music

Song
Smoke Signals
Album
Smoke Signals
Artist
Phoebe Bridgers
Label
Phoebe Bridgers
Released
2017

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Cover for Gold Hole / The Lick

02The Lick

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/520951281/520957378" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Buy Featured Music

    Song
    The Lick
    Album
    Gold Hole / The Lick
    Artist
    Shame
    Label
    Fnord
    Released
    2016

    Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Shame

  • Song: The Lick
  • from Gold Hole / The Lick

London band Shame captured the spirit of punk in a good-natured show of vulgarity and destruction during this year's festival. Member Charlie Steen lost his suspenders (and later his pants) before attempting to climb atop a photo booth (only to crash to the concrete). "At least I tried!" the singer hollered as he emerged from the crowd. With its evocative lyrics and sneering attitude, "The Lick" funnels contemporary themes through the classic sound of greats like Hüsker Dü.

Buy Featured Music

Song
Gold Hole / The Lick
Album
Gold Hole / The Lick
Artist
Shame
Label
Fnord
Released
2016

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?