Earlier this month, Grazia left behind the UK’s arctic climes and headed to Austin, Texas for South by South West Festival. It was a week of fish tacos, margaritas and blazing hot sunshine (sorry) – and a tonne of amazing music. For six days, the city is overtaken, with bands playing in bars, car parks, hotels, even the street (we caught one on top of a double decker bus).
Besides attracting some of the biggest names in music – Prince and Justin Timberlake both played intimate sets this year – the festival (which also has interactive and film strands) has a reputation for being the first place to spot new talent.
It was here that Haim first wowed the music industry last year, and where Lena Dunham’s debut film Tiny Furniture premiered in 2010. Basically, a band you stumble upon at 2am in the corner of a parking lot while chomping on beef brisket could be selling out Wembley next year.
Here's our pick of what we saw…
1. Angel Haze
Grazia caught Brooklyn rapper Angel Haze three times at the festival (yes, she was that good). Announcing she had just split up with her boyfriend, she apologised for not being on form - but she really needn’t have. The girl’s got class, too. Talking about her twitter spat with Azealia Banks earlier this year, she said: “As far as I’m concerned, it’s totally over. I wish her the utmost success, and it shouldn’t have happened on such a public platform, so that’s all I regret.”
New York band Skaters won over fans not only with their frenetic shows, but by handing out free baseball caps. By the end of the week, there was a whole tribe of Skaterettes milling around town. We spotted Alexa Chung watching them (and sporting an aforementioned cap). Single 'I Wanna Dance But I Don’t Know How' is out next month, and the band tour the UK in May – go see.
Showbiz is in the blood for Theo and Sasha from duo Wardell – their dad is film director Stephen Spielberg. Sasha is also a fashion muse, appearing in the latest House of Harlow campaign. Luckily, they’ve got the talent to back up their Hollywood credentials, with dreamlike pop songs such as ‘Opossum’. Listen and swoon.
4. Conner Youngblood
Fans of indie troubadour Bon Iver will fall for Yale graduate Conner Youngblood’s haunting songs. Grazia caught him in the sizzling midday sun – and his gorgeous melodies and falsetto voice soothed our tequila bruised heads.
Haim first grabbed people’s attention at last year’s SXSW and 12 months on the three sisters (and one mister) returned, triumphant, to play to hundreds of people at legendary venue Stubbs. Clad in leather, they looked and sounded like Thin Lizzy scrapping with Fleetwood Mac, i.e amazing. Soon, they’ll rule the world.
6. The Weeks
Nashville’s The Weeks were the biggest draw at a showcase for Kings of Leon’s new record label, Serpents and Snakes, sponsored by clothing label AllSaints. Long hair, loud guitars and big melodies – what’s not to love?
7. Kendrick Lamar
He’s fast becoming the hottest rapper around, with Jay-Z recently remixing his track 'B*tch Don’t Kill My Vibe' (despite Kendrick having previously released a track declaring his love for Jay’s missus, Beyonce). So no surprise Kendrick’s headline slot at the Spotify Live show caused queues around the block. Grazia was lucky enough to squeeze in – and see one of the best shows of the week.
8. Parquet Courts
Buzz built all week for this Brooklyn-based band, and by the time they played their final show in a small sweaty club, the queues were down the street. Their Strokes meets Television style tunes might not be anything new – but when they’re this good, who cares?
9. Twenty Feet From Stardom
SXSW isn’t just about music - it’s also premieres some of the best new independent films. This year, documentary Twenty Feet From Stardom was a surprise hit. Telling the stories of backing singers who are often heard but rarely seen – it was unexpectedly poignant. One of its stars, Darlene Love, wowed the audience by appearing on stage to sing after the credits rolled.
Even the most chin-stroking of indie fans couldn’t resist Solange Knowles at SXSW. Like her sister, BK, she’s a local girl – hailing from Houston, Texas. Her 70s soul meets 90s R’n’B - as filtered through wonder kid writer/producer Dev Hynes – is pop perfection. Those days as a Destiny’s Child backing dancer seem a long way off.
By Clare Thorp; @thorpers