SXSW 2012: Bands Behind the Buzz

South By Southwest 2012 is a huge blur of bleeding ears, rumoured secret shows, super-sized acts debuting new material, beers, BBQs and thousands of emerging bands. The Olympics of the music industry, this marathon of official showcases, unofficial parties, music business panels and gear tradeshows is one you want to prepare for. Having made the trek last year I was confident, cocky and completely assured that I could tackle whatever the deep south could throw at me. But as it turns out, not even those familiar with the pressure cooker nature of Texas in South By season could be totally prepared for this year’s event which, in its 25th year, grew Austin’s population by 30,000.

Having secured lodgings within walking distance of SXSW’s 6th street, I set out on day one of the madness, list of ‘must see’ bands in hand, with a steely determination to I tick them all off by week’s end. It took less than an hour till said list was abandoned and I was swept up in a sea of lines, rumours and recommendations – on the hunt to find some amazing music.

SXSW picks: More than just buzz


Minneapolis’ Polica were top of many people’s buzz lists and played ten packed shows across six days. Their mix of ethereal indie, electro and RnB is stunning live, featuring two drummers, bass, synth loops, and frontwoman Channy Leaneagh’s dreamy vocals. With just a touch of Portishead about them Polica brought something truly unique to SXSW.


Brooklyn band Hospitality were well worth the (very) long wait in line, showcasing their self-titled debut and new track Drift with a quiet confidence. Their simple indie-pop tunes and Amber Papini’s vocals are infectious and much better live than recorded. Jangly guitar parts and sprightly melodies are given an endearing edge through Papini’s wry lyrics, documenting love and life in New York. Expect an Aussie visit in the not to distant future.

Screaming Females

While New Jersey three-piece Screaming Females have been around for some time now, their unofficial show in the thick of downtown won them a bunch of new fans. Pint-sized Marissa Paternoster’s nasally, off-pitch singing is endearingly grating, but when she shreds (which is often), even the sublime pulsating of their drummer and bassist fade into the background.

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