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SXSW Friday: 4 Bands We Loved

Our favorites from Friday’s action at SXSW Music Festival:

ContraBanned - Palm Door

The ContraBanned panel Friday afternoon brought together artists from some of the countries listed under the administration’s proposed travel ban: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, and Sudan. They spoke primarily about their trials as refugees and as immigrants to the U.S. and Canada, how they’re often misunderstood, and what they hope their music can do. After telling listeners about being a child of war, losing much of his family and how the persistent kindness he encountered in his new life changed him from within, Sudanese-Canadian artist Emmanuel Jal put it, “The one thing that made me want to be a musician is to be part of the solution. I went to school so I wouldn’t be a child soldier. We fight with love, and love will win.”

Later Friday night, the musicians on the panel played a wide-ranging showcase at Palm Door, from classical Persian songs to an effusive and emotional neo-soul set from Chicago artist (with Syrian roots), Bassel & The Supernaturals. - David Christensen

Yonatan Gat - Hotel Vegas
Yonatan Gat at Hotel Vegas - SXSW 2017

Yonatan Gat at Hotel Vegas - SXSW 2017

Mike Baden/opbmusic

Israeli-born Yonatan Gat dazzled an outdoor crowd at Hotel Vegas early Friday evening. The guitarist, his bass player and drummer performed ground level, circled by a large crowd twelve feet in front of the main stage. The instrumental set was executed with mathematical precision, rolling bass lines and fluttering guitar riffs that tingled the spine and left stunned and begging for more. - Mike Baden

White Reaper - Barracuda Backyard

It appears that White Reaper want nothing more than to absolutely rock your face off, and that’s exactly what I witnessed last night. Song after song was a driving, shouty anthem perfectly fit for fist pumping and sing-alongs. There is a certain Cool factor with White Reaper that sets them apart from other, more generic Emo/Indie bands. Their song craft and energy puts them on another level. They also win the award for Most Entertaining Keyboard Player - while he’s not playing, he’s dancing. And that dancing is both hysterical to watch and a perfect fit for the music. Their latest single is called “The World’s Best American Band,” which might seem a little hyperbolic until you’ve seen them live. - Matthew Casebeer

Annie Hart - The Belmont
Annie Hart at Clive Bar - SXSW 2017

Annie Hart at Clive Bar - SXSW 2017

Mike Baden/opbmusic

Synth pop starlet, Annie Hart took the stage at Clive Bar Friday night. Barefoot and dressed in a black leotard, Hart opened herself up to the audience emotionally and physically. She stepped down from the stage and immersed herself in the audience because they ‘had just as much to share with her, as she did with them’. At one point Hart sang while lying on the ground as concertgoers snapped photos with their cell phones. Hart, also a member of Au Revoir Simone, performed solo for the first time at SXSW this year. - Mike Baden

LVL UP - Cheer Up Charlie’s

Late on Friday night I found a chair with a back on it at Cheer Up Charlie’s. I know it sounds lame, but I didn’t want to move. But when LVL UP started playing, I was compelled to get a better look. Minutes later I found myself in the middle of the crowd enjoying a burst of energy fueled by this New York four piece’s set. The band’s loud and brash brand of rock music has that effect on people. It’s a sound steeped in the 90s alt rock explosion with thundering guitars, punishing drum fills, and breakdowns that make you want to sing along (I certainly did). - Jerad Walker

Dakha Brakha - Palm Door
Dakha Brakha at Palm Door - SXSW 2017

Dakha Brakha at Palm Door - SXSW 2017

David Christensen/opbmusic

My “Wow” moment Friday night was a band from Ukraine, Dakha Brakha. With two women singers, seated, straddling drums, a male singer playing accordion, and a woman plucking a cello as a bass, the group made theatrical and riotous music with Ukranian folk roots. The set began with extended bird calls, something that recurred throughout, and those eased into folk ballads with close harmonies and quivering dissonance. The tension was released by the start of the loping cello and finally by big flourishes of drumming. It was astonishingly good, and met with cheers and wild applause from the crowd in the Palm Door, proving once again that your favorite festival experience is likely to be the one you never saw coming. - David Christensen

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SXSW 2017 in Photos

Photos from SXSW Music Festival in Austin, TX, March 13-18, 2017