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SXSW 2015: The Five Best Things We Saw on Day One

speedy ortiz, sxsw 2015, south by southwest

Despite the threat of impending rain, Austin’s annual South by Southwest music conference kicked off on Tuesday night, with performances by such big-name acts as Mary J. Blige, Best Coast, Ludacris, and TV on the Radio for its first full day of showcases. Below, SPIN throws a spotlight on the five best acts we saw — and in one case, heard — that made the biggest impact.

Hailing from Reykjavík, Iceland, GusGus — yes, like the fat mouse from Cinderella — featured a vocalist doing his best Bowie-gone-La-Roux-through-a-field-of-disco-balls imitation and another singer with flowing blonde locks who both kept the crowd’s hands in the air at all times. Though the band’s been around since 1995,(and have nine full records under their belt), their 2014 release Mexico does a great job of crystallizing their ass-shaking, “seriously, dance, now” mentality. — BRENNAN CARLEY


Possibly the most delightful part of watching Katie Crutchfield perform her acoustic bedroom confessionals onstage at the Mohawk was seeing her twin sister, former P.S. Eliot bandmate (and current Swearin’ member) Allison, hop up there with her — first to sound check, and then to perform Ivy Tripp single “Under a Rock.” That’s the unpredictable beauty of this time and place: Throw enough people together, and you’ll eventually have a family. — RACHEL BRODSKY

Fifteen minutes into Houston-based grime producer Rabit’s set at the vampirically lit Barcelona, and beats were sporadic at best. The DJ was still too busy composing scraping minimalist soundscapes that sounded so far post-apoclayptic that Judgment Day was a distant memory at best. Rhythm eventually showed in a combination of zombified trap rap, violent dubstep thuds, and even some classic techno breakbeats, much to the gratitude of a previously confused crowd waiting in suspense for drops that never came. As DJ Shadow would say, the shit was probably too future for them anyway. — ANDREW UNTERBERGER

Hudson Mohawke
Even though we rushed over as soon as Waxahatchee finished strumming her last chill-zone chord, it was impossible to fit into the incredibly tight inner Mohawk boiler room for Hudson Mohawke’s set, though SPIN did manage to catch most of the set via a side door that led to the stage. Mixing his own tracks with those of his famous friends — Kanye’s “All Day” even had the bartenders in the next room turning all the way up — the Scottish producer kept his cool in an otherwise sweltering space. Trap beats never sounded so real. — B.C.

Speedy Ortiz

Taking the stage at around midnight, the Boston-based ’90s throwback project looked the ideal combination of upbeat and nonchalant on the Mohawk Outdoor stage. Insisting that *NSYNC’s Joey Fatone was in the audience somewhere and should join them onstage (that didn’t happen, unfortunately), frontwoman Sadie Dupuis may have sounded barely comprehensible while knocking out chunky guitar-led pieces from the band’s forthcoming effort, Foil Deer (“Raising the Skates” and “The Graduate”). Someone should prep the “Pomp and Circumstance” — Speedy Ortiz are ready for their SXSW caps and gowns. — R.B.