Highlights from SXSW: R.E.M., Bon Iver, More There are 1,700 bands preparing to play at least once during one of music's premiere gatherings in Austin, Texas, this week. NPR's Bob Boilen recounts the action so far at the annual South by Southwest music festival.
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Highlights from SXSW: R.E.M., Bon Iver, More

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Highlights from SXSW: R.E.M., Bon Iver, More

Highlights from SXSW: R.E.M., Bon Iver, More

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/88226449/88226396" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Go team America. OK. So, it's time for another check in on South by Southwest Music Festival going on down Austin, Texas. More than 1300 music acts buzz were the bands and the music lovers who love them. So maybe we could make it out to Austin this year I couldn't either. Don't worry about that. NPR's music. We've all these people who work on music at NPR now. It's great, and they have got you covered. Twenty of the festivals hottest bands live in concert for your viewing and listening pleasure, streaming webcast on npr.org/music and live broadcast on NPR stations across the country. Joining us now live of course from South by Southwest is Bob Boilen, host of NPR's All Songs Considered. Hey Bob!

BOB BOILEN: Good morning.

MARTIN: How are you doing?

BOILEN: Ah. Well, I might sound a little like Barry White.

MARTIN: You do sound.

BOILEN: I'm doing great. I've seen some amazing music.

MARTIN: OK. Let's talk about some of the best stuff, some of the highlights from a few of the bands that performed earlier this week some of your favorites I hear. Let us start with Dead Confederate. This is a Georgia-based band known as champions of southern rock. What is southern rock, Bob?

BOILEN: It's got a lot of hair.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BOILEN: It's got a lot of guitar. These days, it seems pretty psychedelic.

MARTIN: Really?

BOILEN: Yeah. These guys are pulsing. They were louder than REM were and, you know, usually the sounds people just reserve the right for the headline and tend to be a lot of these guys were bombastic.

MARTIN: Oh, OK. I think we have got a little bit of this actually, the last song from their set on Wednesday night. This is a track called "Tortured Artist Saint." Let us listen.

(Soundbite of song "Tortured Artist Saint")

DEAD CONFEDERATE: (Singing) (Unintelligible)

MARTIN: They are not really rocking right there. That might not be the best illustration of the rocking Dead Confederate.

BOILEN: Yeah, they kind of had the Pinky Floyd-y bills to their rockin' this too so there are moments where it got pulsing instead of rocking. It was all the counterpoint so when the rocking happened, it was that much more powerful. They are good.

MARTIN: So, there are a whole lot of music acts down there. It is like a cornucopia of good music-ness and admittedly, a lot of bands that I have heard of one clearly that I have, you already mentioned them, REM. How was their show?

BOILEN: Their show was good and then it got real good at the end. I can't quite explain what it was, but here is a crowd who's going to try to see, you know, probably a hundred bands most of them during the course of the week. I felt that there was a bit of jadedness going on in the audience. I did not know that the band lit up the audience, but at the very end of the show, they sang happy birthday to the man - their man behind the curtain, and it was very personal and there was something about it that I think was very personal to the crowd, and then they lit up and their last two songs were just joyous.

MARTIN: Well, we do not have the happy birthday song, but we do have a little bit from that...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: From that concert. Let's listen to some.

(Soundbite of song "Drive")

REM: (Singing) What if I ride, what if you walk What if you rocked around the clock Tick, tock, tick, tock What if you ride, what if you walk What if you tried to get off, baby...

MARTIN: I love Michael Stype. OK, so that is "Drive" from REM. They have got a new album though, Bob, huh? Their 14th coming out in the spring. What's the early word?

BOILEN: They are really trying hard to bring themselves back to a place where they feel...

MARTIN: Relevant?

BOILEN: That spark again. Well, relevant is going to be up to the audience, but in terms of just making themselves a band making great music and very guitar driven, it is not for the acoustic REM folks hang on to those records because you are going to want still to listen to them. It is in not in Accelerate which is the name of the new record. But the guitar-driven Peter Buck really good.

MARTIN: Cool. OK. I am going to wrap up with the musician that I hear you are quite fond of, musician named Bon Iver, a pseudonym for...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Take it easy Bob. Take it easy. A pseudonym for singer-songwriter Justin Vernon and we did - I am going to out you little a bit - we got an email from one of your NPR music colleagues who shall...

BOILEN: I bet it was Steven (ph).

MARTIN: Who shall remain anonymous. It was not actually. He wrote quote "I think Bob wants to marry this band."

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: You love them. Justin Vernon apparently wrote the songs for his album "For Emma, Forever Ago" while living in a remote cabin in a winter in Northwestern Wisconsin, really?

BOILEN: Yeah. He was - I hear he was running away from something. He was in band in the Carolinas. He took off and I don't think he even intended to write a record. The record poured out of him, and then he started to take this material and play it on stage and what is cool about is though he wrote the record - recorded the record all alone in that cabin in Wisconsin - it was his dad's. He called up and old student, a guitar student of his, and he joined the band and then some guy in the audience saw him and said to Justin Vernon, hey dude! I could really do justice to your music. That is not a quote...

(Soundbite of laughter)

BOILEN: And the three of those people make fantastically dynamic music. The music came from somebody's heart and soul all alone and now the three of them are reinventing the music to make it even more dynamic and if you hear the record, you'll fall in love. If you see them live, it's just a wondrous event.

MARTIN: OK. Well, we are going to listen a little of a bit. Here is Justin Vernon AKA Bon Iver performing last night.

(Soundbite of music Bon Iver)

BON IVER: (Singing) Sold my red horse for a venture home To vanish on the bow Settling slow Fit it all, fit it in the doldrums Or so the story goes Color the era Film it's historical

MARTIN: I like it Bobby. It sold me.

(Soundbite of laugh)

BOILEN: Wait until you hear the rest.

MARTIN: The rest? OK. I will go back, I will go back. I will listen to it. Oh, hey Bob, have fun.

BOILEN: Thank you.

MARTIN: Bob Boilen, host of NPR's All Songs Considered. Thanks for being with us always and you can check out these bands and today;s concert line up down in Austin online in npr.org/music. I will be going to put that link up on our site npr.org/bryantpark. Let us listen to a little more Bon Iver.

BON IVER: (Singing) In my arbor 'till my ardor

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