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South by South West; Day 1

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Huw Stephens Huw Stephens | 17:56 UK time, Thursday, 19 March 2009

The best new music festival in the world? Without question, really. Based around 6th St in Austin, Texas, this is my fourth time at the music conference and showcase, bringing hundreds of bands from around the world to Austin every year.
I've been on planes in to Austin with Lady Sovereign and Gallows, and this time it was Esser who was on the flight, out to play SXSW for the first time ever with his brill blend of wonky pop.
Walking the streets on the Wednesday I bumped into the artists formerly known as Cheeky Cheeky and the Nosebleeds, now known as The Cheek, who've been put up in a house with a resident chef. A chef! At least they'll get to eat well between playing partying, making new fans and friends and getting on down in the Austin sun. Their new tracks sound very good indeed, and different to the ones we know.
Previous Introducing session bands Sky Larkin, Rod Thomas and Post War Years were also on the lean mean streets of Austin, venue crawling and checking out where they're going to be playing throughout the week. There's music everywhere in Austin, at one point a guitarist actually came out from behind a bin strumming and rehearsing before a gig down a back alley. Such is SXSW, I didn't bat an eyelid. I heard a bit of London's Let's Wrestle from across a car park and every pub, shop and venue has an instore, showcase or party going on.
The band Beast are from Canada, singer Betty an owner of a most powerful voice, reminding me of Saul Williams and setting things up nicely for the day. Vic Galloway was checking out the Canadians too, awaiting Sebastien Grainger, who didn't turn up because of flight problems. bound to happen when there's this many bands playing. There's more Canadian action with Shout Out Out's yelpy building electro, which gets better and better.
Having seen a bit of his excellent talk on music, Jarvis Cocker was hanging outside the British Embassy Venue where Slow Club from his native Sheffield played a set, mixing their folk and accappella beautifully. Things got heavier with Dananananaykroyd, their name perplexing and exciting the Americans in equal measure. Scottish music godfathers the Proclaimers are out here too, and their gigs are all rammed apparently.
Baltimore rapper Rye Rye I'd heard on a wicked remix of MIA's Paper Planes a while back, so it was good to catch her solo set, all beats and rhymes delivered with attitude and sass. She was playing Pete Tong's showcase along with Late of the Pier (who by all accounts rocked the place into a rave-a-thon later that night), Deadmaus and Kissy Sell Out who's out here with his band.
Over at a confusing am I indoors or outdoors venue on Red River (street names in Austin grow on you when you're out there), Shilpa Ray is from Brooklyn, but unlike MGMT, Amazing Baby and Hockey, there's not a trendy headband in sight. Instead we get a psychedelically grooving show with an incredible frontwoman with one hell of a voice, screaming and bouncing onstage, with a harmonium and some really great songs.
Another New Yorker, Lissy Trullie, is the guitarist in a band of the same name, and her direct approach to lyrics, riffs and sounds makes a pleasantly direct impact, her cover of Hot Chip's Ready for the Floor a nice surprise, and her tunes wile seeming innocent enough at first do get under the skin. It was an entire set of covers by Phosphorescent, coming out from the underground with covers of Texan singer songwriter Willie Nelson's tunes. I'd only seen Willie in a Jessica Simpson video before but these songs are breathtaking. A good first day of music of all sorts; highlights on future Introducing shows of course, and another update tomorrow! Can't wit to see Wax Fang!, The Low Anthem and Dent May...


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