SXSW Awards – 2017

How is it possible we’re already through SXSW hangover week? It seems like only yesterday the ATH crew was hanging at Hotel Vegas, with Lone Star in hand, kicking off the week a couple of Sundays ago with the awesome lineup put together by Nathan and our boy Mr. Laird. As always, we move on, reflect on the fun behind us, and plan for the next great lineup or festival. Such is the beauty of living in the live music capital of the world. To look back on the festival, Nathan, Brian, and myself came up with an arbitrary list of awards with each of us picking our choice for the category.

Hit the jump for our awards, final thoughts and a few related pics from a fun, exciting, and draining week.

Top Bands (pick 3)


  1. Summer Cannibals– Straight rock and no B.S.
  2. Hoops– Easily the tightest band musicianship wise
  3. Living Hour– So dreamy and perfect for a Tuesday night


  1. Annabel Allum – Have you listened to “Rich Backgrounds”!?
  2. Kane Strang – Dole wave pop meets Weezer.
  3. The Pooches – Scotland never had it as good as these lads.


  1. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Take Real Estate meets DIIV with Aussie pop sensibilities.
  2. Omni – Three pieces, complex yet accessible, quirky without being nervous.
  3. Caroline Says – I don’t know why, but their set at ATHvsSOTO struck a chord. I was grinning like an idiot. Loved.

Best Venue

RayRay: Cheer Up Charlies – Love the sound on both stages and ample places to sit and relax for a bit.

Nathan: Beerland – Not going to lie…this place provided respite on several occasions. Also, pretty sure they kept their beer prices the same as always.

Brian: The Sidewinder – They had such a SxSW vibe, inside, outside, overlapping sets, ice in the urinal. Good party lineups, but not the acts that were too big. Sound was solid and I saw some of my favorite things there. Friendly faces behind the bar for us locals.

Band Living up to the Hype

RayRay: PWR BTTM – We don’t tend to see a lot of huge bands, but these guys sounded great on the Stubb’s stage.

Nathan: Lizzo – People said she’d be the breakout artist this year…her performance at Pitchfork’s Party even had me want to get up and shake it.

Brian: At The Drive In – I hate to bandwagon, but that show was truly nuts. I mean, nuts. I had so many friends that I ran into and so many more that I didn’t. It is the situation where the combination of crowd and venue and band all made it bigger than any piece by itself and since the hype was because of ATDI, the award is presented.

Band Falling Short of the Hype

RayRay: Jay Som – A lot of people were into this, but man it was really boring for my taste.

Nathan: Cherry Glazer – I actually picked this group as one to watch during the festival, but in the end, it was all antics and little substance. Still love the latest LP though.

Brian: S U R V I V E – Before you start drafting the hate mail, understand that this is based strictly on the fish out of water. It felt like they “had to be” at SxSW and they had to play day parties. For the inverse of my ATDI reasoning, sorry gents. (see also: heaped praise after their set at Day For Night)

WTF Moment

RayRay: Terminal A– Please don’t try to lick me again. Thanks. Helluva performance though.

Nathan: Cheetah Chrome and Johnny Blitz playing Young Loud and Snotty. Probably shtick and nostalgia, but teenage Nathan felt right at home.

Brian: Terminal A – Fully concur, most interesting thing award, best use of a half empty venue featuring leg humping, airborne spins, licked frat boys and solo circle mosh.

Best Front Person

RayRay: A-Claude from Duchess Says – Described by Stephanie as “like watching an exorcism”.

Nathan: A-Claude from Duchess Says – I promised Ryan and Brian and a performance, and as always, she delivered.

Brian: A-Claude from Duchess Says – Kathy Griffin’s death stare. Honorable Mention: Sara Taylor from Youth Code.

Band I Loved but Knew Nothing About

RayRay: Analgoix – Japan’s answer to Ratatat.

Nathan: Darkbird – Rarely does an Austin band get by my radar, but don’t sleep on these cats.

Brian: The Dumplings – Polish synth pop that draws from the earliest days of electronic from a duo that are barely out of their teens. I can’t wait to see what they do, the music online cannot capture the new stuff that blew me away.

Best Drummer

RayRay: Toto Miranda/Josh Lambert from Octopus Project – While Toto typically assumes main drummer duties, I’ve loved watching these guys play for years. They bring insane amounts of energy and never miss a beat.

Nathan: Niall from the Spook School – Finally a drummer gets his day in the sun! Charming, entertaining and never drops a beat.

Brian: Marie A. Uhler from Eureka California – All over them skins. Really enjoyed their set at the Athens in Austin party.

Best Guitar/Bass Player

RayRay: Zac Schneider from (Sui Zhen & Totally Mild) – Watched him lay down slick bass lines for Sui Zhen and then kill it on guitar for his main band Totally Mild.

Nathan: Alex Lahey – She’s got a Courtney Barnett vibe, only with greater pop sensibility.

Brian: Adam Todd from the Spook School – One reason -> EPIC JUMP SHOT. See below.

Best Line-up

RayRay: ATH vs. SOTO @ Hotel Vegas – Hey I didn’t technically book this one so I’m allowed. Also the only day I never strayed from one venue.

Nathan: Glasgow Bucakroo Ball @ Mohawk – Friends and Scottish rock n’ roll. Nothing more to say on that note.

Brian: Sound on Sound/BV @ Cheer Up – Multi-day event and lineup, give me the early lineup from each day, cause that is when I was there.

Best Austin Band

RayRay: A. Sinclair – Always great live.

Nathan: Darkbird – Can’t be biased with our own bands, so see above. Also, Skin Drips.

Brian: Can’t pick one. Sorry. Caroline Says, Growl, Octopus Project, Basketball Shorts, Moving Panoramas, Tres Oui, Mean Jolene, Pollen RX, Melat, all of the things…

Final Thoughts

RayRay: One could really feel the lack of huge corporate sponsors this year and everyone I spoke to welcomed the change. Crowds seemed smaller and overall vibe was more geared towards seeking out up and coming bands, and less about getting in line for Lil Wayne. Hopefully this is a trend moving forward that will continue to grow so the festival can get back to what it’s always been about. I likely saw more bands this year than I ever have in years past as lines were shorter and venues felt less packed. This was one of my favorite years in recent memory. Keep doing what you’re doing.

Nathan: In line with RayRay here. There was nothing spectacular, just an overwhelming sense of good. Nowhere I ventured was overcrowded, every venue/bar person did their best amidst the madness…ultimately, I just smiled a lot. I will also note that I’m either proud of the festival, or the world. One day I watched 18 bands, only 4 of those featured all male members…the ladies were represented well, as they deserve to be. Might be cliche in the current climate, but I was stoked to see so many powerful women dominate the fest. I’d gladly take another year like this one, any time.

Brian: SxSW is trying to get back to being a conference and not a festival. I read a dumb article today, total bandwagon dissing of the branding and the lack of music discovery, etc. I won’t link to it because it deserves zero added readership. Why? Because the fuckface that wrote it was until recently the CMO at Converse, the very brand that asked all my photos from the Fader Fort be tagged as “Fader Fort presented by Converse” as a stipulation to have access to the media and photo wristband. It was easy to discover something new. It was easy to find something you loved already. As SxSW gets more money from Interactive, I can only hope that the reliance on the pure festival atmosphere for music continues to wane back into the controlled chaos that holds dear in our hearts. The use of the giant free shows at Auditorium Shores and shutting down affiliation with tent covered drunkfests is working and can only help with earnest music discovery. I am truly looking forward to next year. …and one more echoed observation, gotta give it up to the women making bad ass rock these days. Gone are the days of the on stage sausage fest and I for one love it.

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