The very best of SXSW Music 2018

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Crumb the band, Crumb

Crumb

AUSTIN, TEX. — After attending 42 hours of showcases and watching 70 bands, we found five favorites (and five honorable mentions) worth watching for at your local live music venues. With an environment as raucous and as full of sensory overload as SXSW, these five acts transcended their setting to deliver exciting and noteworthy sets at SXSW 2018. First, the honorable mentions: The Weather Station, Soccer Mommy, Hop Along, Stella Donnelly and G Flip.

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Shame – It’s appropriate that Shame was the last rock band on the cover of the NME–these young post-punkers are full of fire. During a sweaty and blistering set at Cheer Up Charlie’s, the band lobbed out screaming punk numbers (interspersed with more melodic fare) while shedding shirts, complimenting international fans in the audience and even checking on fallen crowd surfers after a spill. “You lot may be more entertaining than we are!” said singer Charlie Steen–he was decidedly incorrect. MORE INFO.

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Crumb – “Avant,” “experimental” and “psychedelic” didn’t exactly have us feeling secure about liking Crumb. The Brooklyn band’s entrancing mix of complex lo-fi, sedate vocals and jazzy melodies hooked the crowd from the start, though, with a nearby audience member saying,“this makes me miss Broadcast.” Fans of Stereolab or Add N to (X) will find plenty to like here, with a pleasant group dynamic that really enraptures a room. MORE INFO.

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Hoodlem – If you can pull off a great set inside a Diet Coke-themed brand activation, you’re probably a step or two ahead of the game. Such was the case with the youthful Toronto-via-Melbourne Hoodlem, who deployed a MacBook, mixer and live microphone to beautiful effect during an early evening showcase. There’s a groove and sense of rhythm in Hoodlem’s tracks that are undeniable, with solid vocals and samples providing some strong ornamentation. The young woman performing as Hoodlem may hide behind a moniker, sunglasses and a puffy baseball jacket, but her music is destined to break through the wall. MORE INFO.

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MEUTE – MEUTE is an enormous marching band from Hamburg, Germany. There are around a dozen members. The drummers, horn players and percussionists essentially produce live techno music by individually producing the collage of loops, breaks and samples that would appear on a dance record. In theory, this sounds odd, but in practice, it produced a rollicking dance party at an overstuffed bar at SXSW, with audiences sinking to the floor, then rising with the beat, all with eyes transfixed to the stage. Don’t miss them live. MORE INFO.

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Ratboys – The return of the Breeders and Belly of late has made more than a few listeners rediscover why those bands were so damn good. Ratboys are kids who discovered those records at some point–this is the sound of smart, jittery 90s indie-rock done with melody and style. The affable band got the attention of the notoriously jaded SX day audiences during an early afternoon set where lesser acts would have floundered–the strength of their tunes was rock solid, and an underpinning of twang in the guitar accents made the sound fresh. They are worth watching at a venue near you. MORE INFO.

Follow writer Tom Thornton at Twitter.com/tomthorntontx.

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