This past week was Austin’s annual SXSW Music Conference & Festival March 12-17 including over 2,000+ performers, 500+ international artists from over 50 countries, and somewhere around 100 stages and venues (and that’s only including the “official” SXSW-branded showcase).

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I headed down to Austin and for those who couldn’t make it – here’s the first of several recaps of the excitement.


Wednesday 16 March 2013

Hosted by FILTER Magazine, The Dutch Impact Party showcased several of the great artists coming out of the Netherlands. Many of them, already popular in Europe, were new faces to the American crowd.

THE BLACK ATLANTIC started off my morning with a great set, just enough raw emotion in singer Geert van der Velde’s voice with the right mix of acoustic sound to get ready for music-filled day and night. I feel bad for the girl that breaks his heart, because odds are he’ll turn it into a catchy pop-ballad.

A top personal favorite from the weekend – BOMBAY SHOW PIG showed there’s a new girl-boy duo taking over who’s sound is ready to kick your ass. An obvious synergy between Mathias Janmaat’s well-written unconventional pop melodies and Linda van Leeuwen’s high-energy on the drums has turned what began as a one-and-done project for the Amsterdam Conservatory into a now ongoing full-fledged musical entity.

Van Leeuwen says “we make crazy noise with real songs underneath” – and this is pure truth. Their LP Vulture Provider contains polished and cohesive songs that maintain that rock-edge craved by so many. The duo’s live set brought that and so much more.

As they took over the stage with an explosion of off-the-wall rock energy, the crowd immediately had a rush of lively movement and excitement and we’re definitely loving it. THE WHITE STRIPES who?

R&B/pop superstar USHER was even spotted during FILTER Magazine’s Dutch showcase looking more than impressed with the two. After BOMBAY SHOW PIG’s set the three hung out for a bit, showing the random, crazy, and all-around amazing coming together of artists from every country and across all genres which embodies SXSW.

A rush of garage punk overtook the stage next with TRAUMAHELIKOPTER . The band’s raw chords and power ignited a spark of the punk-rocker inside everyone, leading to the crowd creating of a pseudo-mosh-dance pit in front of the stage.

Singer MARK LADA told his fascination with animals, particularly wolves. All before (yep, you guessed it) their song Wolves, a track with an insane amount of howling noises from the band members that is inexplicably one of their greatest.

With such a pure 60′s sound, you would never believe JACCO GARDNER is only 25-years-old simply from his music. I was lucky enough to catch a small set at Death By Audio in Brooklyn pre-SXSW, which made his appearance at the Dutch Showcase that much more exciting.

Dreamy baroque-pop with a hint of raw psychedelic effects, the talented, multi-instrumentalist recently released his LP Cabinet of Curiosities, listening through each song you eventually lose yourself into another era.

Other bands are only capable in their ability to pay homage to their beloved eras and influences but aren’t able to produce the same quality or caliber without simply replicating the styles. GARDNER is the exception.

His entire set was captivating, each sound fluidly moving from one to the other with a technical-acoustic purity, that even upstaged his own LP recording.

Gazing through his shaggy hair while simultaneously singing and smoothly playing his keyboard, GARDNER’s voice made the entire crowd light up smiling.

(Being spoiled and having seen GARDNER twice, once an indoor venue and second an outdoor stage at SXSW, I will say the indoor show perfectly brought each unique and calculated sound so perfectly together as a result of the closed in space that it was the better of the two. However, they were both two of the best live sets I’ve seen in a few years.)

BLAUDZUNstarted SXSW with a bang that Wednesday morning, with singer-songwriter Johannes Sigmon pictured on the cover of the Austin AmericanStatesman.

Johannes Sigmon of BLAUDZUN on the Cover of The Austin American Statesman March 13, 2013

Johannes Sigmon of BLAUDZUN on the Cover of The Austin American Statesman March 13, 2013

Following JACCO GARDNER might be hard for most, but Sigmon and his seven-piece band took over the stage.

Johannes Sigmon of Blaudzun

Johannes Sigmon of BLAUDZUN

Many say he’s the Dutch ARCADE FIRE with a spice of RADIOHEAD, several critics consider him one of the best kept secrets of Europe. Well, the secret’s out.

Melodic indie-rock, a dash of folk, and passionate lyrics (although dark at times) radiated from their performance as they created what seemed to be the perfect soundtrack to the afternoon. BLAUDZUN provided the audience a trip through the spectrum of human emotion through each song.

I’m not sure if it’s a fluke that another of the rising top new artists of the year is Dutch, but they must be doing something right over there.

With such a large band and several instruments available, Sigmon and his band were able to build emotional layers via each melody – some songs complicated, some just one person with an acoustic ukelele.

Sigmon did evoke a few laughs. When explaining to the American audience it may be difficult to search the name online, he took it upon himself to spell it.

Unfortunately, he forgot the “U” and spelled “Bladzun”. Not to worry though, I think the search engines and Google will catch the one-letter error and the newly acquired fans he won over that afternoon will easily be able to find him and his music.