The SXSW Radio Day Stage was sponsored by our partners at VuHaus on Friday and they hosted a bunch of great artists, including Bombino, CHVRCHES, The Heavy, Hinds, and Jack Garratt. There, opbmusic’s Matthew Casebeer introduced our favorite artist of the Radio Day Stage: Lucius.
Formed in Brooklyn, Lucius has grown their sound and their look (see photo) into a formidable presence. Having just released their 2nd LP, Good Grief, Lucius took control of the stage and captivated the Radio Stage crowd. The set included some of their quieter songs (Dusty Trails, Go Home), but even those songs held the audience in complete silence awaiting the next impressive, explosive vocal harmony. Whether you are a fan or not, Lucius is a live performance you need to check out. They play the Wonder Ballroom in Portland on 5/9.
We started our night at St. David’s Church with Kevin Garrett. The easiest way to describe Mr. Garrett is to call him an “American James Blake,” but that would be selling him short. His songs are keyboard-heavy and full of melody. It was great to see a relatively unknown artist who was completely comfortable with the space not only between songs, but also between the small phrases within those songs. His smooth voice, along with the combination of live and sequenced drums, made Kevin Garrett an artist to watch.
Shortly after Garret’s performance, a series of fast-moving thunder and hail storms passed through the region. The weather temporarily shut down many of the outdoor venues and scattered the opbmusic team, but several hours later we were back at it in time to catch a solo performance from English singer Jake Bugg (also at St. David’s, which played host to several incredible mostly-acoustic shows throughout the week).
Bugg launched onto the music scene in 2012 with his debut record, which featured the young Brit’s gritty take on Nottingham life, and a sound that recalled Johnny Cash and the Louvin Brothers among others. In Friday’s set, Bugg led with his well-known “There’s a Beast and We All Feed It” and his unusual two-stroke guitar strumming on “Slumville Sunrise” before sliding into what he called “his country song,” one of the few slow songs in his set, “A Song About Love.” He ended, fittingly, with his song, “Lightning Bolt.”
The venue Palm Door seemed to be the place for “international”-leaning acts. Tucson Latin rockers XIXA were playing when we arrived, and Noura Mint Seymali of Mauritania would be playing when we left. On the patio, we found one of our favorite sets of the festival, by Banda Magda. The group is singer/composer Magda Giannikou, backed by jazz and funk ensemble Snarky Puppy. Banda Magda played a wide-ranging set that moved from sexy French and continental chansons, to brassy Brazilian pop, and directed the crowd in how to sing along. It was infectious. Giannikou is a charismatic and funny performer I wouldn’t miss a chance to see again. On a night breezy night that quickly turned much colder into the 50s, Banda Magda got everybody warmed up, moving, and wanting more.
We ended the night at the Sub Pop Records showcase and caught performances from Mass Gothic and former Smith Westerns frontman Cullen Omori. Although the lightning had long passed, Omori still lit up the stage with an energetic performance. The catchy and jangly songs from his debut album New Misery took on a louder and more menacing live sound in the humid night air. It was a fitting end to this stormy Friday in Austin, Texas.