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Eight artists that surprised us at SXSW

Kelis | Photo by John Vettese
Kelis | Photo by John Vettese

It’s been almost a week since the four-day nonstop multisensory rush that was the 2014 editon of Austin’s annual South by Southwest music conference, which has given me just about enough time to catch up on sleep, edit my way through thousands of photos and sort out my thoughts about the experience. Here are eight artists that grabbed my attention at this year’s SXSW, beginning with the woman you see above.

Kelis – The transformation of the onetime “Milkshake” hitmaker didn’t take me as unawares as it may have taken other festival-goers. A few years back, I caught her on tour with Robyn at The Trocadero, and saw that she’d moved on from her bubblegum dance days to a sleek and more sophisticated electropop sound. But still, this was impressive – her backing band was a dozen members strong, it had a sharp horn section and a disco-funk sound to die for, and the singer had enough awareness of nostalgia’s power that she dropped “Milkshake” in the final third of her late-night Friday set at the Hype Hotel. Which was totally fun, but it would have been a powerful performance without. Her sixth album, Food, was produced by Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio and is out April 18th on Ninja Tune Records.

Feathers | Photo by John Vettese
Feathers | Photo by John Vettese

Feathers – These Austin locals just got off a European tour opening for Depeche Mode, and their sound sits nicely alongside the 80s icons’ dark synth-dance tones. I caught them Saturday at the goth-leaning Red River club Elysium, and frontwoman Anastasia Dimou freaking owned the packed room. While their sound is decidedly hard-hitting, she has the presence and command of a pop singer – or, say, an alt-pop singer a la Emily Haines of Metric. Even when the power momentarily cut out, Dimou kept singing a cappella and off mic. Their Only One EP dropped in January.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: XPN Welcomes The Dismemberment Plan at Union Transfer, XPN Welcomes Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside at North Star Bar and more

Photo by Shervin Lainez
Photo by Shervin Lainez

XPN welcomes The Dismemberment Plan to Union Transfer tonight.  The D.C. indie rock band’s latest record Uncanney Valley dropped in October, ending a twelve year recording break that allowed band members to explore other interests.  The broadened horizons are audible on the record, which stretches it’s influences from Jackson Browne to R&B.  Tickets and information for tonight’s show with Yellow Ostrich can be found here.  Below, watch The Dismemberment Plan perform “The City” live in D.C.

XPN welcomes Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside to the North Star Bar.  Ford and her band of retro rockers have been in town a few times lately, performing a late night set at May’s Non-COMMvention and making a stop at Milkboy in July.  During her last stay in Philly, Ford recorded a video of “Roll Around” with Out of Town Films on Quince Street.  Watch the video below. Tickets and information for tonight’s 21+ show with Mount Moriah and Pine Barons can be found here.

Also Playing:

Big Freedia at Underground Arts (8:00 p.m., 21+, $14)

Tom Rush at World Cafe Live (6:00 p.m., all ages, $30)

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Let Big Freedia school you on “bounce” this Sunday night at Underground Arts

Big Freedia | Photo via www.bigfreedia.com
Big Freedia | Photo via www.bigfreedia.com
New Orleans Queen of Bounce Big Freedia will take over Underground Arts this Sunday night. Bounce music is pretty straight forward. The main purpose: to incite mass booty shaking and twerking. Musically, it is a blend of southern hip-hop and dance music. Freedia and 300 dancers recently set the Guinness World Record for the most people twerking simultaneously. In order to twerk correctly, all of the movement must be in the hips (which results in the booty shaking), not the knees, according to the openly gay rapper. Get tickets to the show here and watch Big Freedia and friends claim the twerk throne below. And if you’re too shy to try this in public, we’ve got a couple of Big Freedia jams below that you can bounce to in the privacy of your own home.