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^^^, That’s a picture of Will. Here’s some sets he saw at SXSW:

Torres

I harbor a bit of a prejudice against Nashville based musicians; I’ve heard enough soulful, twangy singer-songwriters in my life. Torres, who follow in the mold of Sharon Van Etten and Wye Oak, don’t break any new ground. It’s verse-chorus songwriting prone to noisy distortion, slow burners that build from reserved, haunting murmurs to abusive cries of the depressed and distraught lyrics. But as clichéd as it may sound, it feels like a true emotional expression, songs that relate a sentiment in a way that few artists can and makes the simple lyrics and songwriting work the way they do. I’m proud to admit I got chills during “Honey” and had tears well during “Jealousy and I.”

Shugo Tokumaru

I guiltily admit that seeing an artist from Japan made me feel cool in a foreign intrigue sort of way. Having never heard of Shugo Tokumaru, whose name I continually butchered over the course of the week, I was interested to hear an outsider’s take on American indie rock and was surprised with the consistent results. His performance was a  pleasant, disjointed memory that consisted of the following: a surprisingly moving cover of “Video Killed The Radio Star” that felt like some cross-cultural artistic piece, a toolbox of toys (literal toys) and strange instruments that I cannot begin to name wielded by his band mates with engrossing enthusiasm shining from their faces.

You, Me & Us

After stumbling upon this Palm Springs, California group through a Eureka California Bandcamp recommendation and listening to their track“Steve Holt!” I fell in love. But it was a strange love, a sort of unrequited passion to something that didn’t feel real. Yes, the music snob in me loved the fact that I discovered this awesome group that I was pretty confident not one of my friends had ever heard of. Then they popped up in the SXSW schedule, I was standing in front of a column at B.D. Reily’s, a restaurant/pub type deal, trying not to block the view of people seated eating at their respective tables. Strangely enough, the KWVA (University of Oregon) music director Thor Slaughter (what a name) who I had seen speak at CMJ was in the crowd yelling “THIS IS THE BEST BAND EVER” after every song. It was surreal and I loved every short, summery, lo-fi, female fronted scuzzy pop tune that played right into the terrible acoustics in the venue. Don’t worry, before they dived into “Steve Holt!” they included a short preamble praising anyone smart enough to catch the Arrested Development reference.

Blue Hawaii

It only took me three go-rounds with singer Raph Standell-Preston (two with Blue Hawaii, one with her other group Braids) to understand that Braids and Blue Hawaii are two different things. I much prefer the latter; an EDM guilty pleasure cloaked in patient waiting. The thumping club bangers went all too well the outlandish lighting in Hype Hotel. They  beats aren’t build-ups per se. The tension just isn’t there, at least not until you look back and wonder how you got sucked into jumping around with that annoying group of teens beside you (every song isn’t made to be clapped or chanted along with, guys). The blue eye make-up, witty chatter and bubbly demeanor of Raph Standell-Preston didn’t hurt either and it was pretty cute to see the duo up there, bouncing along and innocently telling the crowd “It’s crazy to be on this stage.”

By Will Guerin

(Will photo credit: Alex Laughlin)

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