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The Ten Best Bands We Saw at SXSW 2024 (Pt. 1)

It’s no surprise that Austin, Texas’ South by Southwest Music Festival has evolved into the largest music event in the world. What started with a few live performances at German beer gardens in the late 1800s has steadily grown into a fusion of music genres, drawing thousands of artists from dozens of different countries to the Texas capital each March.

This year, we were excited to experience this eclectic musical heritage and immerse ourselves in genres that ran the gamut from Tejano to country to punk rock. During four sleep-deprived days we saw 40+ bands and attempted to see more but, there had to be a little rest in between.

It is important to note that there were 100+ bands that pulled out this year to protest the festival sponsorship by the U.S. Army and some of the other organizations that were either funding or manufacturing weapons used by Israel against Palestine. A few of those artists played unofficial showcases but, many of them, including all 12 of the Irish bands slated to play, boycotted SXSW. What’s happening right now is a tragic situation. We do hope to catch these bands in the future.

Here’s our list of the best bands we saw live at SXSW 2024:  

Ho99o9

Ho99o9 (Los Angeles), pronounced Horror, is a genre-bending blend of hip-hop, metal, and hardcore punk founded by the OGM and Yeti Bones in Newark, NJ, in 2012, then relocated to LA in 2014. They played a few shows during the festival, including the Third Man Records and Cream daytime showcase at the 13th Floor, a dark and intimate little venue. They exploded onto the stage and the audience immediately went into a mosh pit frenzy. For fans of Black Flag, Death Grips, and the early days of Bad Brains, this is for you. (Check out “A MACHINE OF” video, “BATTERY NOT INCLUDED,” and  “BITE MY FACE” featuring Corey Taylor, produced by Travis Barker.)

Alice Longyu Gao

Alice Longyu Gao (NYC and LA) is a Chinese singer, songwriter, DJ, fashion producer, video producer, and TikTok sensation known for her “bold hyperpop” soloist productions. (She’s also been on Lady Gaga’s “Women of Choice” Apple Music playlist for International Women’s Day.) To say this performance was a surprise is an understatement. When we arrived at Empire Garage, Alice was dressed in a “baby doll” satin dress with a “Hello Kitty-esque pattern” decorated with lace and bows, hair in braids and ribbons, quietly playing a pink electric harp. In the next moment, she broke into a punk rock ballad, lunging and jumping into the audience and singing at the top of her lungs. For fans of 100 gecs, Charlie XCX and Dorian Electra, this might be for you. (Watch “Come 2 Brazil” music video, and “Burn the Witch” a collaboration with PVRIS, Tommy Genesis, and Alice Longyu Gao.)

BALTHVS

BALTHVS (Columbia) is a psychedelic funk trio that has toured the world and released three full-length albums since forming in 2019. As Grammy.com described them, “the band aims to make ‘cosmic music’ that can combat anger and anxiety,” which felt very on point seeing them live at the Mohawk Outdoor Stage. Their performance was soothing and seemingly effortless yet somehow complex, with beautiful guitar riffs. Their most recent release, Third Vibration, incorporates funk, disco, soul, dream pop, and R&B into their music. For fans of Khruangbin, this is for you. (Watch this live rooftop video, and “In Lust” official video, which is so good.)

La Sécurité

La Sécurité (Montreal) is a Canadian quintet/collective that performs energetic dance music with catchy melodic riffs, art-punk vibes, and a whole lot of dynamic musical range. We caught them at a daytime showcase at Empire while wandering into the dark backroom stage. It was a trance-like set with old-school projector videos on the wall behind them and a large disco ball on the ceiling. With their throwback outfits, social commentary, and punchy baselines, fans of the B52’s, Le Tigre, and Maximum Joy should check them out. (Watch these “Serpent” and Audiotree Worldwide videos.)

Population II

Population II (Quebec) is a French-Canadian trio, that was also at the Empire showcase, that immediately captured our attention. They blew us away with their heavy psychedelic rock, face-melting guitar riffs, funky baselines, jazz fills, and sudden bursts of punk rock energy. For fans of Ty Segall, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, and Pink Floyd, this one is for you. (Check out “Helene” video, “Introspection Live,”  “Orlando,” and  “Ce n’est reve,” so good live.)

Check back here tomorrow for Part 2 of The Ten Best Bands We Saw at SXSW 2024.

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