SXSW 2016: The Five Best Things We Saw on Day Two
With Kacey Musgraves' rootin'-tootin' cover of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" and Sheer Mag's audacious punk anthems
With one sun-scorched day under festival goers’ belts, the 30th annual South by Southwest music conference continued louder than ever on its second day in Austin. Between private A-list shows in hidden hotel suites and quiet, introspective sets in the sweltering light of high noon, there wasn’t a moment to be missed, and SPIN was there to round up five of the best.
The raspy-voiced German singer-songwriter — she’s responsible for Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money” — got her turn-up started early in the day at Fader Fort’s annual east side gathering. “I feel like I’m the drunkest bitch here,” she said with a cackle, begging the fans gathered in the tent to imbibe at their quickest convenience. No need to drink; Bourelly’s soulful howls were all the intoxication anyone needed. — BRENNAN CARLEY
These Philadelphia punks might be stridently anti-capitalist, but there’s no mistaking their growing mass appeal. Playing an equal parts poppy and classic-rock-influenced set at the Fader Fort, the five-piece drew an impressive crowd for their mid-afternoon set, which featured fresher, politically conscious cuts from the group’s very recent (and Essential) III EP (the choppy “Nobody’s Baby” and “Sit and Cry”). Despite the Texas heat, lead singer Christina Halladay’s monumental pipes never once cracked — her high-toned growl no doubt got hips shaking (and people thinking) clear across town. — RACHEL BRODSKY
In no uncertain terms, there’s no festival set quite like that of country darling Kacey Musgraves, whose hourlong show blends class and sass. Much like she did at last summer’s Big Barrel in Delaware, the singer plucked her own hits and cowrites (we got “Mama’s Broken Heart” but no “Dime Store Cowgirl” or “Biscuits”), and sang her heart out. Fans went nuts for her jangling cover on Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” — the best rearrangement of the song this writer’s ever heard — but the real rhinestone-studded cherry was her always entrancing “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’.” It’s the type of homage that sounds too good to be true, but floors the crowd each and every time. — B.C.
Car Seat Headrest
Part of the excitement of witnessing a Will Toledo show is hearing a fully mature, deep-toned voice pour out of a physically slight, exceptionally young-looking person (the Virginia native is only 23). The other is Toledo’s irresistible gift for morose melody, which is immediately apparent whether he’s playing newer material (“Times to Die”) or a lovingly harmonized 2011 throwback from Twin Fantasy — one of the many records in his Bandcamp collection. Every element of the singer-songwriter’s agility shone through at his Under the Radar showcase, where he teased alt-pop tastes of his forthcoming Teens of Denial and let out a few self-deprecating comments (“Nobody cheered [for Twin Fantasy], so you probably don’t give a s**t”). Then he laughed to himself and kept right on playing. — R.B.
The Avett Brothers and Ryan Adams
Props to the JW Marriott for throwing one of the most exclusive and anticipated events of the night, a Universal double-bill fronted by the Avett Brothers and closed out by the effortlessly cool, 1989-covering Ryan Adams. Each boasting an hourlong set, the Avetts brought along a few new tracks from their upcoming album, True Sadness. Sprinkling in a hefty dosage of their hits while they were at it, the North Carolina natives barreled through new banjo-driven bangers like the gender equality-driven title track, “Divorce Separation Blues” (complete with yodeling), “Smithsonian,” and “I Wish I Was.” Later in the night, Adams — during one of his first live appearances of the year — brought his vintage arcade games and boyish charm to boot. “Thanks a lot, we just made that one up,” he joked after opening with his Ryan Adams single “Gimme Something Good.” Dare we say this double bill — one we never knew we needed — deserves its own touring revue? — B.C.