The Best Shows We Saw At SXSW Music 2018

On March 18th 2018 » By Vinyl Me, Please Staff

Natalie Prass

Vinyl Me, Please Staff spent the last week at SXSW in Austin, Texas. Here are the best shows we saw.

Nilüfer Yanya

West London artist Nilüfer Yanya is the product of a voice engineered for weightless, crystal-y R&B funneled into romantic, jazzy pop rock. She’s got the kind of unique voice you hear live and kind of can’t believe it’s coming out of actual person, leaving a room full of people standing there in awe during her SXSW set. Her studio recordings — sonically sprawling, dynamic, a bit moody — translated surprisingly well on stage, considering their magically-engineered quality.—Amileah Sutliff

Nikki Lane

Nikki Lane’s Highway Queen was one of my favorite country albums of last year, and seeing her play at Pandora’s country night on the first night of SXSW Music was the perfect way to launch into a week of music. She had a slide guitar player wearing the best jacket I’ve seen on any guitarist, and was magnetic as she crushed takes of “700,000 Rednecks” and other songs from her breakthrough. She’s a shit-kicker and her set was one of the most assured I saw all week.—Andrew Winistorfer

Vundabar

The Vundabar boys had been up for almost two days straight, arriving to Canada House in the initial stretch of another grueling tour in support of their Smell Smoke album. Judging by the 50ish bodies in the room, fatigue was nowhere to be found and everyone came prepared. The 1 a.m. performance embodied everything the Boston-based three-piece stands for: unprecedented skill, topped with a borderline-slapstick quality that feels precise and effortless all the same. There were cartoonish playing faces, stage tricks involving tightroping on amps and walking around the drum set while playing, and an extended Vape & Red Bull break. Each member’s energy contributes to an odd, reckless orbit that invites smiles and incites dancing to the most jubilant renditions of painful experiences. It’s one of the best rock shows out right now, and I’m not just saying that cuz they’re my boys; catch them in a small room near you, cashing in their sweat equity in the name of an amazing time.—Michael Penn II

Natalie Prass

Prass’ latest single “Short Court Style,” for lack of better words, just feels like a winner. You know the type — that contagious, “I didn’t realize my hips were swaying,” windows down letting in the spring air, made to put your makeup on to, winner of a single. Seeing her perform — dressed in electric magenta ‘70s-esque ankle boots to match her soulful, glam presence — just confirmed my suspicion we should all be holding on to our hats in anticipation for her June album release.—AS

Moses Boyd

In terms of sheer awe-inspiring power, the most overwhelming show I saw at this year’s SXSW was U.K. jazz phenom Moses Boyd. Boyd, the most steady drumming hand in the U.K. jazz scene, played a solo set accompanied by programmed beats and improvised drum patterns; it felt like getting attacked by the waves from the cover of Unknown Pleasures for 40 minutes. I spent most of his set with my hands on my head and my mouth open. See him if he gets remotely near you.—AW

Gang Of Youths

I know it might read as homerism for me to pick a band that I only saw as part of our Vinyl Me, Please Rising showcase (unlike Amileah, who saw Caroline Rose twice), but Gang of Youths live were everything they are on record; passionate, sincere, loud, brash, and totemically anthemic. Before SXSW, they’ve been a band that feels like one break away from touring theaters and hockey arenas in America, and their set at our showcase only cemented that feeling. The fire will never go out.—AW

Caroline Rose

The highlight of my SXSW was literally any time Caroline Rose and her band got on stage. Between watching her ice a beer, crush the cup on her head, throw it into the audience with a growl and ask someone to “please recycle that,” the most color coordination I saw all week, and literally dancing my braids off my head during the first set of hers I saw, I love Loner even more than I did before and am already chomping at the bit to see more from her.—AS

Sammus

Sammus has one of the most restorative, healing rap shows in the game today. I’ve witnessed this twice now: both at 7th Street Entry, flanked by only her laptop, Sammus conjures her magic and shares her light in a manner that should be the default for anyone performing rap music today. This time, at the Karma Lounge in Austin, she was backed by The Galactic Federation: a band of two women of color. In that tiny bar, Sammus stood with her Federation with pride, giving a rock-tinted medley of her best, shaking the block from the outside window and setting the crowd ablaze with all things Black and woman and nerd. Given it was a Nerdcore Showcase, she was among her flock, ending every song to an ovation. As her own producer, she found the right touch of adding the live element without spoiling the originals; should she expand on the idea for the future, she’ll be even more unstoppable of a force.—MPII

Sheck Wes

Of the 31 rap performances I caught in seven days, I can count on a hand how many MCs didn’t use a fucking backing track. As a critic, I hate that shit; as a rapper, I hate that shit the most. Yet, decked in Texas Longhorns gear, Sheck Wes - the 19-year-old Harlemite signed to Travis Scott’s Cactus Jack imprint - played the YesJulz-hosted 1AM Live event at the Highland Lounge, rapped over his two major singles, and disappeared. For eight minutes, time stood still: the moshpit took a fury unseen all night, photographers forming a death wall at Sheck’s back as limbs and iPhones went flailing to the ground. Since we were in Texas, “Mo Bamba” had to be this way; Sheck tossed his cap to the ceiling like the Bobby Shmurda of his skin tone, before him, letting the “Oh! Fuck! Shit! Bitch!” cut through the dead air before taking off again. On wax, I had no idea why people juiced the kid up; in eight minutes, I felt the electricity of a new star before me, writhing in the void of the new rock ‘n’ roll.—MPII

Totally Mild

Totally Mild’s Her is one of my favorite albums this year; a delicate, tidy slice of self-doubt pop that rewards again and again on repeat listens. Their early show at Australia House on Friday night was as charming as Her; I swear it literally changed the weather from super hot to breezy and cool.—AW

Anemone

Watching Anemone gives me that feeling of watching that Cool, Aloof Canadian Foreign Exchange™ student you desperately want to be friends with, or just be. Effortlessly cool and intoxicatingly mysterious, their songs are the beachy, psych-pop equivalent to a 35mm photo taken out of a moving car. Amid Texas heat, a long week of walking, and constant BBQ-induced meat sweats, they gave a trance of a set that brought me back down to earth.—AS

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