SXSW 2016: Erykah Badu Lights Up Austin, Michelle Obama Delivers Keynote & More

Gary Miller/Getty Images
First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama attends the keynote address at the Austin Convention Center during SXSW on March 16, 2016 in Austin, Texas. 

As SXSW Music's second day kicked off, Billboard's staff was on the ground covering all the highlights. Here's what you missed from another big Austin celebration on Wednesday, March 16.

10:35 a.m.: First Lady Michelle Obama, Queen Latifah, Sophia Bush, Missy Elliott and Diane Warren. As one can imagine simply by the list of names, the energy and impact of these women together is astronomical. Ms. Obama hosted a keynote at SXSW Music to discuss the White House initiative Let Girls Learn. The mission of the government­-wide effort is to educate young girls across the world, specifically the 62 million girls who currently are not in school. But the discussion was more than informative; it was motivational. The five powerful, talented women empowered and educated those in attendance and those viewing through live-­stream. -- Erika Ramirez

2.20 p.m. -- The Zolas bassist Dwight Abel sounded like another SXSW late-night casualty during Wednesday's Canadian Blast day party. The Vancouver band's frontman Zachary Gray shouted out to Abel before the final song of its performance, "I know at every point of this set he's wanted to vomit." But Gray gave his bandmate a respectable excuse, adding, "All you people with food poisoning out there, this one's for you." -- Gary Graff

3:05 p.m. -- Three crew members with the German band Faust admitted that “we are sneaking away right now” as they hung out at Showtime’s Roadies House -- promoting the upcoming series created by Cameron Crowe -- in the Clive Bar just south of the Austin Convention Center. In keeping with the show’s theme of celebrating music’s unsung heroes, Showtime reached out to 1,600 roadies working with bands playing at SXSW, offering a VIP hang with complimentary food and drink, massages, swag and a portrait gallery. “I loved it,” says Cari Neff, who performs multiple tasks for Faust’s touring operation. “I didn’t know how sore I was until I got a massage.” Showtime’s Alysia Sands says the network received an “astronomical” response, both from roadies and the general public, with more than 8,000 RSVPs. The Roadies House runs through Friday, hosting private parties during the afternoons and serving as a regular SXSW venue at night. Series stars Luke Wilson and Carla Gugino host the Friday night showcase. Roadies premieres in June. -- GG

3:13 p.m. -- Lewis Del Mar hit the stage at The Barracuda club with a full band and Columbia Records execs aplenty, working in acoustic guitar solos and their own jambalaya of folk and hard-driving rock that's even more powerful than it is on their debut self-titled EP. The group utilized a great combination of space and dynamics that comes from having an extremely tight, well-rehearsed band -- and the lead singer's denim onesie was also hilarious. –Dan Rys

3:24 p.m. -- Convention Hall D at the Austin Convention Center isn't exactly the most rock n' roll room in the world: the sterile expanse is more in tune with, well, speeches from First Ladies than rock grit. But KCRW's day showcases in the room at SXSW always present some of the strongest acts at the fest (as anyone who was in the room for Alabama Shakes' career-making set just a few years back can attest), and this year was no exception. Austin's own White Denim, who've been on the rise for years thanks to opening stints for bands like Wilco, were the 2016 breakouts. Their southern-fried soul and musicians-first style reeks of the '70s, not to mention other pungent fragrances that'd normally be frowned upon in this buttoned-up environment. But they didn't hold back, and the crowd was fully appreciative, with heady and deserved applause every time there was an actual break in the jams. -- Jeff Miller

4:36 p.m. -- The Main II is one of a slew of personality-less bars on what's now known as Dirty 6th, but Wednesday afternoon, all the personality was onstage courtesy of L.A.'s Miya Folick, a pixie-haired rock chanteuse in the Courtney Barnett-meets-Dead Sarah school of rockers. To say she performs with a confident sashay is an understatement: at this party hosted by Buzzbands.LA -- L.A.'s local music bible -- she made eye contact with everyone in the room as she slammed through bar chords, daring and challenging the audience at once. -- JM

5:46 p.m.-- The Strumbellas came in hard to this SXSW: the Canadian group are working the momentum of a Kimmel appearance and a rising radio single, making them one of the buzziest bands of the moment. Though they're not reinventing the wheel, their Lumineers-meets-Arcade Fire Americana-laced gang vocals translated live at the Sidewinder, thanks in large part to the ultra-high energy of their keyboard player, who wears a hat with Dave spelled out in big letters -- and a shirt featuring his own face, wearing a similar hat. They're hilarious, and relentlessly engaging. -- JM

6:40 p.m.: Singer-songwriter Kehlani performed a 20-minute set at YouTube’s #YouTubeMusic showcase at Coppertank. Kehlani proved to the audience that this wasn’t her first, nor last SXSW, with the way she commanded the crowd. She plucked songs from her two mixtapes (Cloud 19, You Should Be Here). Rapper Lil Dicky was spotted in the crowd Vining along. Before closing her set, Kehlani brought out her Tsunami Mob artist Ambré to perform her song “Pretty.” Unfortunately due to technical difficulties and her soft voice, Ambré was a little difficult to hear. The audio issues flowed into Kehlani’s set, but she took a minute until they were fixed and kept going like a pro. Not surprisingly, the songs that hypnotized the most were singles “The Way” and “FWU.” -- ER

7:40 p.m.: Metro Boomin’ kicked off his heading gig at the Fader Fort pretty much right on time. He got the crowd hyped with Kanye West’s “Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1,” which features Future’s the notable ad-lib ‘If young Metro don’t trust you I’m gon’ shoot you.’ He continued to blaze through his production, eventually joined by DJ Esco and Lil Uzi. Before Esco and Metro played a few tracks off projects they’ve worked together on (including Future’s countless mixtapes), he shouted out Metro for being there for him after spending 56 nights in jail in Dubai for possession of marijuana. Metro was Esco’s first call when released, and it was to tell him that he wanted them to get to work. While the set was live, some were expecting Metro to bring out Future, considering he was playing at YouTube’s showcase later on in the night. -- ER

1:09 a.m. -- Sometimes you hear things at SXSW that make you want to see a band you've never heard of. In this case, it was that Stokeswood were managed by the team who've been working with Imagine Dragons -- in other words, see 'em now for bragging rights. The Atlanta band delivered a set of earnest electro-pop with an almost too-animated frontman, airy synths, and handclaps for an audience of about 30 people, all of whom no doubt were hoping that someday they may see them in an arena. And with the hugeness of the band's choruses, it's certainly a possibility. -- JM

1:28 a.m. -- After a long, extended wait -- which included a B.B. King-esque vamp by her band -- Erykah Badu emerged to the delight of the festival crowd at the Mohawk House of Vans show to cap the shoe company's 50th anniversary showcase, playing plenty of her hits. Her iconic voice is so angelic it could scream across Austin if she wanted it to -- and it did. What do you do with a talent like her? -- DR


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