With the music portion in full swing at SXSW, we’re bringing you daily recaps of the action from Austin. Here are 12 unforgettable moments from music’s first big day at the fest.
9:48AM — British garage-house duo Gorgon City man the decks bright and early at the Spotify House’s pop-up SoulCycle studio, where a room full of brightly attired South By-ers have come to expel a few toxins before St. Patrick’s Day fully kicks in. Gorgon City keeps the riders’ pace up by playing several of their own tracks (“Ready For Your Love,” “Imagination”) as well as their peers (Disclosure’s “When A Fire Starts To Burn.”)
12:30PM — Akeira Cramer always thought SXSW was “something other people came to and showcased at,” and had in fact never even been to Texas before. But as one of three winners of the Grammy Amplifier Program, the 21-year-old singer-songwriter from Maryland got to play four songs on the Rolling Stone stage at Mellow Johnny’s Bike shop, which she called “amazing, unexpected, nerve wracking but an incredible experience.” Cramer will be taken on tour with a national artist as part of her prize. The other winners of the competition — Minneapolis singer-songwriter West-Tone and New Jersey soul singer Chinah Blac – also performed Tuesday. Mark Ronson, Allen Stone, the Band Perry and Ziggy Marley served as judges and mentors
1:15PM — After noting “This is really early for South By; I’m not sure I’m awake” during her groups set on the Rolling Stone Stage at Mellow Johnnys Bike Shop, Best Coast frontwoman Bethany Cosentino dedicated “Our Deal” to Julia Louis Dreyfus, who she said she met on Monday night. “That was SO cool,” Cosentino gushed.
5:30PM — Legendary producer Just Blaze stopped by the Box headquarters just off Congress Avenue for an informal fireside chat with Steve Martocci, co-found of Splice and Jade McQueen, Managing Editor of Media & Entertainment at Box, about digital transformation of the modern music landscape.
6:00PM — Hot off an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live on Monday, Japanese country singer Tomi Fujiyama will celebrate the premiere of her documentary Made in Japan by performing at a party in her honor at The Speakeasy. During a rehearsal, she charmed a room full of SXSW Film and Music festival attendees with heartfelt and distinctively accented renditions of Hank Williams‘ “You’re Cheatin’ Heart,” Patsy Cline‘s “Crazy” and other traditional favorites.
6:40PM — Belgian sensation Stromae has sold over 3.5 million records in France, but is just now acquainting himself with American audiences (he plays Coachella before embarking on an extensive North American tour of mid-size clubs and theaters). But based on the frenzied reaction of one Midwestern fan who spotted the rakishly tall singer on the lawn of the Four Seasons, his days of U.S. anonymity may soon be gone.
8:00PM — Jorma Kaukonen, the Hot Tuna/Jefferson Airplane guitarist promoting his just-released Ain’t in No Hurry, is a spry 74-year-old whose dexterity runs circles around most players gathered in Austin this week. His material stands the test of time in a way that most others will not. And it’s likely his set contained the oldest music that will be heard this week at showcases. Kaukonen’s 40-minute solo set of finger-picked blues at the Lucky Lounge included “Hesitation Blues” from around 1915, “Nobody Knows When You’re Down and Out” from 1923, Leroy Carr‘s “How Long Blues” from 1928, the Rev. Gary Davis‘ 1935 composition “I Am the Light of This World” and the Lightnin’ Hopkins version of “Come Back Baby” written in 1940. He closed with the traditional tune “I Know You Rider,” noting he did not know who wrote it, but added, “It was neither I nor Jerry Garcia.”
9:12PM — It’s a good thing Samsung’s Supper Club studio didn’t have a roof, because Mary J. Blige would have blown it off. Blige dipped into her 90s catalog and also brought out her alter rap ego, Brooke Lynn, to a packed room of just over 130 guests (including 300 co-founder Kevin Liles, Atlantic Records EVP Camille Hackney, Mashable founder Pete Cashmore and Tumblr music chief Nate Auerbach.)
9:30PM — Just because South By is best known as a place to showcase the freshest young talent doesn’t mean a legacy act can’t bring down the house, because that’s just what The Zombies did at the Rolling Stone showcase at Mellow Johnny’s when they reprised hits from Odessey and Oracle, an album the publication voted one of the best albums of all time.
10:47PM — Should you find yourself cornered by electrifying Swedish singer/rapper/spitfire Elliphant, try to get on her good side first. As the headliner of Nylon’s SXSW Style party with Original Penguin at the Palm Door, Elliphant was decked out in a Wonder Woman-inspired boxing uniform, kicking her golden-hued legs towards the intimate crowd and giving off vibes of a hippie supermodel who plays riot-grrl music on top of her dancehall records. By the time her set was over, everyone could see why she was one of the first artists to be featured on-camera by Apple in a recent commercial.
11:34PM — “I need to see a lot more dancing and a lot less standing,” Mayer Hawthorne told the crowd at the Empire Garage — and he fairly quickly got what he asked for. Hawthorne and producer Jake One played the second full-band show ever with their new project Tuxedo, whose self-titled debut album came out last month. Billed as a surprise special guest (the six-piece group plays the same venue on Friday night) and sandwiched incongruously between two guitar-heavy acts — hometown favorite Gary Clark Jr. and New York’s powerful London Souls — Tuxedo kept the crowd moving with a smooth-as-silk throwback groove that unapologetically nodded to Chic, early Prince, Off the Wall era Michael Jackson and scores of Studio 54 favorites.
With Hawthorne and One sporting identical black sport coats and sequined shirts, Tuxedo glided through seven songs from the album, moving through “Number One,” “RU Ready” and “Watch the Dance” without a break before delivering “Designer Drug,” an iTunes bonus track from Hawthorne’s 2013 album Where Does This Door Go. Tuxedo also rolled through Chic’s “I Want Your Love” after Hawthorne talked about soliciting advice from that group’s Nile Rodgers, and it encored with “Hennyand Gingerale,” an iTunes bonus from Hawthorne’s 2011 set How Do You Do,” with Hawthorne directing the crowd through a spirited sing-along.
Tuxedo hasn’t announced any full-scale tour plans yet, but on Tuesday, it showed it’s styled and tailored for the road.
12:11AM — No one seemed more apologetic for the crammed conditions at Natalie Prass’ packed headlining set at Riot Act Media’s showcase than Natalie herself. “I just want to thank everyone for sweating it out with me in here,” she said to the overstuffed room at Cheer Up Charlie’s.