Andrew from Brooklyn Presents: The SXSW 2019 All-Star Team

Andrew from Brooklyn Presents: The SXSW 2019 All-Star Team


For one week a year in March, thousands of artists from all corners of the world descend on Austin, Texas, for South by Southwest. For the second year in a row, RPM sent down a couple of team members to scope out the scene in the hopes of helping you discover your new favorite artist. Here are Andrew from Brooklyn’s top 40 acts of SXSW 2019.


Seven days, over four thousand acts, and two guys. Seems like a tall task, huh? You’re not wrong. But my trusted gig buddy Jay and I navigated through scheduling conflicts and tired feet to trek our way across Austin in the hopes of bringing you the acts that are gonna change your life. Cutting this list down to 40 was an odyssey in itself, and that’s just from the acts we had the opportunity to see perform. That being said, I now present to you, in loose narrative order, the best of the best that we saw.


Fontaines D.C. (Dublin, Ireland)

Fontaines D.C. - Full performance (Live at The Current Day Party)


The Dublin punks brought their brand of dark, brooding nonchalance to Mohawk Outdoor on the first day of music at the festival, and the crowd was there for it. Particularly enjoying the set was the group of young women--yes, women--who got the mosh pit started, because this is 2019 and your antiquated views on mosh pit gender dynamics are not welcome here, Buster.

Later on in the week, they graced the Barracuda stage on behalf of everyone’s favorite Minnesota radio station, The Current--which you can watch above.


Sweet Spirit (Austin, TX)

Sweet Spirit @Mohawk Outdoors SXSW 2019


Local music lovers in Austin consistently had one thing to say to me: check out Sweet Spirit. Everyone from my Airbnb hosts to a local photographer I met told me that they were the Austin act about to break out bigtime, and one look at their live show says they were right. Frontwoman Sabrina Ellis’ energy is both radiant and contagious, and her outfits are on-point--and both of those are on display in the fan-shot video we found here. Honorable mention to her side project, A Giant Dog, who as the glam punk siblings to the more power pop-oriented Sweet Spirit, bring the house down just as hard.


The Beths (Auckland, New Zealand)

The Beths - Little Death - 3/11/2019 - Riverview Bungalow - Austin, TX


The Beths released one of the best albums of 2018 and one of the best debuts in recent memory in Future Me Hates Me, the latest in a long line of quality records out of Australia and New Zealand proving that antipodean artists are the best in the world right now. Their stage presence is as lovably geeky as their lyrics suggest, and frontwoman/songwriter Liz Stokes is as hard rocking as she is awkward and endearing. Oh, and the other members (Jon, Benji, and Tristan) shred pretty hard as well.


Moving Panoramas (Austin, TX)

Moving Panoramas - "ADD Heart" (KUTX Live at the Four Seasons SXSW)


Inspired by a conversation with my hosts and my boundless curiosity for exploring local aural fare, I stopped by Empire Garage on a Monday night to check out some other local acts. And where Sweet Spirit left off, Moving Panoramas picked up. Shoegaze bands have a strong history in Austin--I’m thinking of Ringo Deathstarr in particular--and Moving Panoramas are carrying that torch forward in style. Playing songs off their splendid new record In Two, the band lulled the local crowd into a blissful trance, and this visitor was happy to be a part of it.

Plus, their bassist Rosie and I chatted after the set about her day job at a pet store and how great dogs are, so that was pretty soul-restoring. Seriously though--how great are dogs?


Bright Light Social Hour (Austin, TX)



Continuing the trend of local artists, I watched Austin’s own premier psychedelic funk rock act, Bright Light Social Hour, follow on from Moving Panoramas at Empire. With frontman Jackie O’Brien donning a sick red Lefon blazer, BLSH had me dancing with strangers until I physically couldn’t keep it up any longer. Now I can see why they’ve gained a reputation as one of Austin’s premier live acts over their 15-year career.


Ali Awan (Philadelphia, PA)

Ali Awan- Be a Light (Official Video)


Thanks to a recommendation from my friend Ryan, a local that I met here last year, I ended up checking out the Philadelphia House at Pour Choices, one of the many bars on the booze-fueled strip from hell known as 6th Street. Well, shortly after I arrived and caught up with Ryan and his friends, a 70s glam-blues inspired artist named Ali Awan took the stage and proceeded to absolutely blow me away. I don’t have any video from the event, and it doesn’t look like he played many other showcases at SXSW, but please take a gander at one of his videos. Now just imagine what that would sound like live…yeah, it was pretty sick.


Gurr (Berlin, Germany)

Gurr - "Moby Dick" @ Cheer Up Charlies, SXSW 2019, Best of SXSW Live, HQ


I rocked up to the Stereogum “Range Life” Showcase at Red River Street’s iconic Cheer Up Charlie’s on a Tuesday afternoon, and the first act I saw had me transfixed from the moment they came onstage. That act was Gurr, a garage pop/riot grrl band all the way from Berlin, Germany, whose electric energy and open personalities led to some great onstage moments. That culminated in the final song of their set, where frontwoman Andreya Casablanca found herself writhing on the stage floor in a frenzy while playing a guitar solo. It was very rock and roll.

Real talk? This is one of the most fun acts of the entire festival, and I can’t stop smiling when I think about them. I’d catch them again in a heartbeat.


Ellis (Hamilton, ON, Canada)

ellis - the drain (official video)


Another hidden gem of the festival was this dreampop/shoegaze artist Linnea Siggelkow, who performs under the initial-derived nom-de-plume, Ellis. Her debut EP The Fuzz is a masterclass in a sound that a lot of artists try to capture, but few succeed. And while the Platonic ideal has yet to be found, her song “The Drain” takes a pretty good shot at it. Given the fact that she has just one EP out and hails from only the 9th biggest city in Canada, Ellis is likely to fly under the radar. But take note: if you like melancholy melodies that tug at the heartstrings and a voice that sends shivers down your spine, hop on the Ellis train now.


Thyla (Brighton, Engalnd, UK)


The seaside town of Brighton is home to huge acts like The Kooks, Architects, Royal Blood, and one of my favorites, Blood Red Shoes. Another band poised to join their ranks is Thyla, a young band making anthemic, atmospheric rock songs like so many great British bands before them. If you’re a fan of Wolf Alice or The Joy Formidable, you’re gonna want to get your ears around these folks.


The Bad Bad Hats (Minneapolis, MN)

Bad Bad Hats - Full Performance (Live at The Current Day Party)


BBH’s Kerry Alexander met Chris Hoge at Macalester College, which is also where yours truly spent four up and down but ultimately fruitful years--heck, this platform was first conceived there! So you can accuse me of homerism all you want with this one, but fortunately, these guys back it up. Great indie pop with relatable, witty, and heartwarming lyrics are one thing, but Kerry’s hysterical stage banter and engaging presence make them a can’t miss. Lucky for you Americans, they’re currently touring the States--with The Beths in tow, no less!


illuminati hotties (Los Angeles, CA)

illuminati hotties [Complete Set] - (SXSW 2019) HD


Before Bad Bad Hats went onstage at Side Bar, the venue’s PA system was playing Bon Jovi’s “Living On a Prayer.” I struck up a conversation with the woman next to me, who happened to be the only other person I could see singing along--and we chatted for a while about Jovi, Journey, and the magic of ’80s arena rock. Color me surprised when she got up onstage and introduced herself and the band behind her as illuminati hotties! The performance was great; if you like the witticisms of Courtney Barnett wrapped up in the skater edge of Wavves, you’ll dig this band.


Angie McMahon (Melbourne, Australia)

Angie McMahon - Pasta (Official Video)


Okay, I have a lot to say about this lady. First of all, she was awarded the Grulke Prize as the best international act at SXSW 2019. And while there were many acts deserving of the honor, the committee (or whoever gives this stuff out) made the right choice. I caught Angie twice during her time at SXSW, and once more in L.A. the following week. Her first SX set, at Music Victoria’s “Melbourne Hub” showcase at Lucille’s, was one of the most goosebump-inducing sets I’ve seen, not just at SXSW, but in my whole life. My friend Georgia and I spent that entire set watching from the sidelines in rapture--both trying to fight back tears, while at the same time, fawning over Angie’s incredible voice. That, and I was singing my guts out along to all her songs--because how can you not? Just watch the video for “Pasta.” How can you listen to that and not air guitar along with Angie?

I could go on and on about Angie’s vocal chops, as well as those on the axe--but that’s not all there is to Angie McMahon. She’s the complete package--a rare breed of star power that’s just waiting to be unleashed. As my friend Wardell, whom I brought along with me to the L.A. show and whose judgment I trust implicitly, so aptly put it: if this woman isn’t a global superstar in a few years time, then everything about the music industry is wrong.


The Chills (Dunedin, New Zealand)

The Chills, **ENTIRE SET**, Waterloo Records 3/15/19, Austin, SXSW


While SXSW is the go-to for up and coming acts, they’re not the only ones who take the festival for a spin every year. In fact, part of the aforementioned Grulke Prize goes to the best “Career Act,” meaning the more distinguished artists to grace the South-By stage. This year, that honor rightly went to Kiwi pop legends The Chills, a group who pioneered the so-called “Dunedin sound” of the ’80s and then promptly disbanded for the next few decades, re-emerging in recent years and doing SX this year as part of their first North American tour in god knows how long. Given all that, seeing them at 1 AM in the Barracuda Backyard, singing along to legendary songs like “Pink Frost” and “Heavenly Pop Hit,” was a high honor.


The Joy Formidable (Flinshire, Wales, UK)

SXSW 2019: The Joy Formidable Interview


The Welsh rockers have always embraced their heritage, but never moreso than on their recent fourth LP Aaarth, which saw them stopping by SXSW as part of their promotion. Their show with Everything Everything at Minneapolis’ First Avenue in April of 2016 was so much fun that I couldn’t wait to see them again--and they did not disappoint. Frontwoman Ritzy Bryan and guitarist Rhydian Davies have great onstage chemistry, and drummer Matt Thomas is one of my favorite life drummers I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing. These folks turned the British Music Embassy into a grungy Welsh pub, and it was all the better for it.


Odette (Sydney, Australia)

Odette - Take It to the Heart (Official Video)


The Neon Gold Records showcase at Empire Control Room saw the SXSW debut of one of Australia’s premiere lyricists: Odette. Blurring the lines between R&B, soul, and spoken word, Odette brings a unique and undefinable grace to the stage, holding an entire audience rapt with just a keyboard and her otherworldly voice. But what makes her truly great is her ability to blend the earnest, touching nature of her songs with her bubbly and downright hilarious persona into a downright dynamite show. Simply put: she’s awesome.


Wafia (Sydney, Australia)

Wafia - "I'm Good" (KUTX SXSW Pop Up Session)


Odette’s fellow Sydneysider, Wafia, graced the same stager later that night and let me tell you, I worked up quite a sweat dancing my ass off. Born in Syria and raised in Sydney by way of The Netherlands, Wafia’s “Bodies” is one of those songs that you dance to until you understand the deeper meaning of the lyrics--and then you dance with purpose. Following that up with “I’m Good,” one of the biggest bops of the DECADE, Wafia proved she can do no wrong, and her SXSW set only confirms that.


Jarryd James (Brisbane, Australia)

Jarryd James - Slow Motion (Official Video)


Quietly one of Australia’s most underrated superstars, Jarryd James struck gold in 2015 when his song “Do You Remember” hit number 7 on the Triple J Hottest 100 Countdown. After laying dormant for a couple years, he came back with his new single “Slow Motion” a couple months back, and stopped by SXSW to show off some of the stuff he’s been working on in the interim. And let me tell you: it’s worth the wait.


Lola Kirke (New York, NY)

Lola Kirke performs “Monster” | AVC Sessions


I’ve been a huge fan of Lola Kirke’s ever since I saw her perform as Lady Macbeth alongside my friend’s older brother in our high school’s production of Macbeth in 2008--Saint Ann’s represent! So seeing her play cuts from her country rock-inspired debut album Heart Head West on the SXSW stage was pretty darn special. And believe me when I say that she sings as well as she acts--really, she can do it all, making her a Renaissance Person (if you will).


The Colors (Ulanbaatar, Mongolia)

The Colors - Mind oddity


For one evening, the bar on Red River Street called Valhalla turned into Little Mongolia, as multiple artists from the world’s most sparsely populated country took the stage to show their stuff to the Austin faithful. The MVPs of Mongolia night had to be The Colors, whose soaring psych-pop was the perfect end to what had been a long, long day of sets. The crowd itself was split down the middle between westerners who were curious about checking out something knew and devoted Mongolian fans who made the trip all the way across the world just to see their favorite band. And then there was yours truly, who’s been a fan of The Colors since my time on exchange in Mongolia during college, when they were one of the many killer acts my friend Oyuka showed me. This one was definitely one of the ones I’ll remember for a long, long time.


Greenwave Beth (Sydney, Australia)

Greenwave Beth - "Against Me" @ Lucilles, The Aussie BBQ, SXSW 2019, Best of SXSW Live, HQ


Thursday afternoon was the G’Day USA Aussie BBQ at Lucille’s, which meant a full on day of Aussie acts to catch. One of the more under-the-radar of these Aussies was Sydney’s Greenwave Beth. Evoking memories of Ian Curtis and Joy Division both by sound and by the stage presence of frontman Charles Rushforth, GWB are more built for the indie disco than the front yard stage of Lucille’s Patio Lounge at 12 PM, but they brought it nonetheless. With only an EP out so far, I’m excited to see what’s next from these guys.


Quivers (Hobart, Australia)

Quivers - "You're Not Always On My Mind" (Official Video)


Currently based in Melbourne but hailing from the capital of Tasmania, Quivers are chamomile tea ice cream on a summer’s day. From the moment I heard their track “You’re Not Always On My Mind,” I was keen as all get out to catch them at Australia House--and they did not disappoint. What’s even better is they’re a band that knows their music: Their LP We’ll Go Riding on The Hearses is a hilarious tongue in cheek reference to Australian legend Daryl Braithwaite, and I had a lovely conversation with their Dundee-born guitarist, Phil, about what makes Scottish some of the best in the world.

Bloods (Sydney, Australia)


Another hidden gem discovered at the Aussie BBQ was this garage/pop punk trio from Sydney, whose song “Feelings” is a go to anthem for self-love in the ashes of a broken relationship. They got the Lucille’s backyard bumping in the sun, and proved yet again that there’s some seriously great female-fronted punk bands coming out of Sydney right now, live music lockout laws be damned. Oh, and speaking of those Sydney bands…


Body Type (Sydney, Australia)

Body Type - Stingray (Official Video)


I saw Body Type twice this festival: once at some dark and random house party, and once at Australia House. And let me tell you--they’re damn good no matter the environment. Their music goes hard, both melodically and lyrically. But as fierce as they are onstage, they’re as friendly offstage, as my chat with them about the best places around to get vintage hats proved to me. Like Melbourne’s Camp Cope before them, Body Type are poised to be the band that brings Aussie girl punk to the forefront on an international stage.


Denise Le Menice (Perth, Australia)

Stars by Denise Le Menice


The lovely and hilarious Ali Flintoff grew up in Western Australia before moving to Sydney and finally settling in Melbourne, but no matter where she goes, the quality remains. Formerly the frontwoman for Perth punk outfit Boat Show, Ali has recently stepped out and dropped some absolute tunas under her new moniker, Denise Le Menice. Combining aspects of hard rock, shoegaze, and dream pop, her song “Stars” is a shining example of the winning recipe she’s created--and she brought that recipe to Lucille’s frontyard stage, drawing a in crowd of passerbys who were transfixed by her sound.


Grace Turner (Newcastle, Australia)

Grace Turner - Easy I Fall (Official Video)


Grace was part of a delegation of Novocastrians at SXSW this year, one that included awesome acts like Vacations and FRITZ. And it makes sense, considering the city’s rich musical history (Silverchair, anyone) despite its relative obscurity compared to Australia’s larger ones. But of all the Newy acts, it was Grace who stuck with me the most. Maybe it was her badass shoulderpads, earrings, and shoes combo, or maybe it was her fuzzed out guitars perfectly complementing her irreverent and melancholy lyrics. Either way, she stuck--in a good way.


Haiku Hands (Sydney, Australia)

Haiku Hands - "Not About You" @ Lucilles, SXSW 2019, Best of SXSW Live onset, HQ


Never in my life have I seen a band quite like Haiku Hands. The combination of artistry, rap, dancing, bass, beats, and downright FUN is almost unparalleled. Given how unique and particular they are, Haiku Hands are a band you’ll either really love or really not--and consider me in the former camp. From the moment the first note hit til the sweat-drenched end, I was transfixed. I could see Haiku Hands a million times and never get tired of them, I had that much fun.


San Mei (Brisbane, Australia)

San Mei — Wonder (Official Video)


When I like an Australian act, you may want to take it with a grain of salt. After all, I’m not your overly-critical critic, who sits back on their throne and likes only very particular things. But when I bring not one, but TWO friends along, with different tastes, and they both come away impressed? That’s when you know the act is good. And that was the case with San Mei, whose dreamy rock vibes resonated with both Jay AND my high school friend Connor who happened to be in town.


I Know Leopard (Sydney, Australia)

I Know Leopard - Landmine (Official Video)


So many Sydney bands, wow! No joke though, I was more keen to see I Know Leopard than almost anyone else the whole week. I mean, songs like “Perfect Picture” and “Hold This Tight” drew me in immediately and didn’t let go. But when they released “Landmine,” their lead single from their debut LP Love is a Landmine (out April 5th), I was a fan for life--and so was my good friend Matthew, who lists Landmine as one of his favorite tracks of 2018.

IKL came out adorned in sparkles and played their string-heavy, 70s-inspired glam rock to a crowd of adoring fans, myself in the front row--and it was spectacular. I’m so excited for the album to drop!


Two People (Melbourne, Australia)

Two People - I'm Tied, To You (Live from 2P Studio)


Formed from the ashes of the defunct and beloved Snakadaktal, Melbourne’s Two People are dark, brooding, earthy, sexy, synthy, soothing, and all of the above. They dropped their debut LP First Body back in January, and it’s an absolute gem, so I was particularly excited to hear them play some cuts off it live in Austin. And wouldn’t you know, it was as groovy and trance-inducing as I’d hoped. How great is the sax on “I’m Tied, To You”? The answer is very, and if you got it right, that’s ten points to you. If you got it wrong you get nothing.


The Gooch Palms (Newcastle, Australia)



I didn’t mention these guys among the other Novocastrians because they currently base themselves in Los Angeles, but they are Newy through and through. Not only that, they’re one of the most fun and original rock bands out there right now. Don’t believe me? Just take a gander at the “Summertime” video, and you’ll be a convert immediately. They bring the same energy and irreverence to their live performance as well, making them one of the smash hits of Australia House.


Kwame (Sydney, Australia)

Kwame - WOW (Official Video)


Kwame is one of the best young rappers in Australia right now, and he reps his hometown of Sydney hard. Oftentimes at a gig of a relatively unknown artist there’s a “semicircle of death” right in front of the stage, where people are afraid to stand for whatever unknown reason. Kwame did something very cool in his set: he saw the semicircle and said “fuck it,” and performed his entire show from that semicircle, thereby obliterating it and bringing the audience in to the performance--something we were all the better for.


Sam Fender (Newcastle, England, UK)

Sam Fender - Full Session (Live at The Current Day Party)


Unlike Grace Turner and Gooch Palms, Sam Fender hails from the O.G. Newcastle--the one in England, home of the Magpies and the Geordie accent. He’s also one of the undisputed MVPs of SXSW 2019, bringing a full house to every gig he played--from Lucille’s to the British Music Embassy to the Current Day Party at Barracuda. And how could he not? “Hypersonic Missiles” is one of the best songs of the year so far, and from that I will not back down. If you’re a fan of good rock and roll, check him out--you won’t be sorry.


WAAX (Brisbane, Australia)


And the award for best set of the festival goes to…WAAX! Seriously. I didn’t catch them until their final showcase, at Lucille’s at midnight Friday. That said, they definitely saved the best for last, because I haven’t seen a mosh pit go that hard in AGES. The crowd was frenetic throughout the entire show, thanks in large part to frontwoman Maz DeVita’s expressive vocal style and commendable dedication to her performance--but the moment the set became legendary was during the final song, “Labrador.” The song that made #88 on last year’s Hottest 100 was a group catharsis, with Maz and the crowd screaming the lyrics into each others’ faces--really, nothing I say here can do it justice. You’ve just got to take my word for it: WAAX were unbelievably, and we were damn lucky to be able to see that show.


Psychedelic Porn Crumpets (Perth, Australia)

Psychedelic Porn Crumpets - High Visceral {Part 1} (Full Album 2016)


The final Aussie act I caught at SXSW was Perth psych rock outfit Psychedelic Porn Crumpets, and with a name like that, you’ve got to have great music to match. Luckily, they did! If you’re a fan of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, which many are outside of Australia, then you should get your ears around these guys, because they’re following right in King Gizz’s footsteps. If Gizz is Mike Alstott, PPC are Michael Pittman, forging a killer backfield tandem. That would make Aussie music the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers in this situation--one of the best football teams of all time, and a title which is well deserved both by the Bucs AND by the Ausmusic scene.


Broken Social Scene (Toronto, ON, Canada)

Broken Social Scene - 7/4 (Shoreline)


Perhaps the most established of all the artists we saw at SXSW was none other than BSS, Canadian indie rock royalty of the highest order. We were unable to get into their set at Canada House where they were playing the album You Forgot It In People in full, but we did catch them at the Historic Scoot Inn on the festival’s final day--and I got to live out my dream of hearing the horn outro to “7/4 (Shoreline)” played live. So, it was a big win in the end.


Curtis McMurtry (Austin, TX)


One of the most pleasant surprises of the fest was when Connor and I wandered into a church that had some live music going and ended up finding one of our new favorite singer/songwriters: the darkly humorous Austin native Curtis McMurtry. A brilliant lyricist, McMurtry had my friend and I rapt for his entire set, sharing knowing looks back and forth whenever we both acknowledged one of his lines that was particularly brilliant--of which there were many. Part of why I love Curtis so much is how we happened upon his show by chance, but regardless of circumstance, Curtis McMurtry is all quality. If you’re into Americana folk-adjacent music (or “Ameri-kinda” as he described it), I highly recommend giving him a listen.


Collapsing Stars (Minneapolis, MN)

Collapsing Stars - The Storm


Collapsing Stars have been favorites of mine since I got the chance to chat with them at SXSW last year, and their technically expert, human emotion-evoking brand of apocalyptic folk sounds as good now as it ever has, and is poised to be even better with the recent addition of second cellist Khang Quach. They played the upstairs stage at the iconic Cooper’s BBQ in Downtown Austin and their set was even juicier than the prime rib. All in all, a top experience.

Darling West (Oslo, Norway)

Darling West - The Sweetest Tune


Playing after Collapsing Stars on the same stage were this indie country folk group from Norway, who reminded me of other lovely Scandinavian acts like First Aid Kit and AURORA. They played tunes off their new record When I Was Asleep, and I braved the end-of-the-week late night exhaustion/desire to be asleep myself to catch them play…it was worth it.


J.S. Ondara (Minneapolis, MN)

J.S. Ondara - Smells Like Teen Spirit


Seeing J.S. Ondara play was a real, real treat. One of the rising stars of the Minneapolis music scene, the Kenyan born, Minneapolis raised singer/songwriter may have a slight frame--but he has the voice of a titan. That much is evident on his debut LP Tales of America, from which he played a litany of gorgeous tracks. But it was a song that he didn’t write which was the highlight of the set: Ondara gave the most unique, breathtaking cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” I’ve ever heard. It was barely even recognizable as Nirvana--in fact, it took my friend until most of the way through the song to place the lyrics…and he played in a Nirvana cover band!



Har Mar Superstar (Minneapolis, MN)

Lady, You Shot Me - Har Mar Superstar


How else could I have closed out this year’s SXSW experience than with Minneapolis legend Har Mar Superstar? I closed out last year’s Minneapolis Art-a-Whirl in the same fashion, and it was spectacular. That was the first time I saw Har Mar, but since no two of his sets are alike, I was curious what was in store this time. And this one had its shining moments: Har Mar brought multiple special guests, including his friend Sabrina Ellis (of Sweet Spirit and A Giant Dog), his girlfriend (who is not a professional singer, but sang with him anyway), and a full on horn section who just happen to be from Austin. He also did a shot of tequila with the whole band onstage. So yeah, I guess you could say SXSW 2019 went out with a bang for me.

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