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Jaguar Jonze at SXSW 2023 (Photo: Tan The Man)
Jaguar Jonze at SXSW 2023

SXSW Music Festival 2023: Tuesday, March 14 (Austin, TX)

If you’ve never struggled to get out of bed after a night of indie artist showcases at South by Southwest, then you haven’t tried to see or hear all you can within a single day in Austin, Texas. Or you’ve practiced an enormous amount of patience and restraint.

It’s quite easy to get caught up in getting all the free food and beverages that companies offer in an attempt to get a bit of your attention. Sadly, I will admit my attention could be easily obtained in exchange for a free beer—any beer.

Last year was an unusual year with so many crypto and blockchain startups that have now probably gone bust. Most of the companies sponsoring this year’s showcases are the usual suspects like Dr. Martens, Dolby, and White Claw. As always, many record labels and music publishing companies are here as well. I caught a late afternoon set from Far Caspian (a Joel Johnston solo project) during the HFA showcase at Side Bar. Johnston’s indie rock stylings lean toward melancholy, especially his recent single “Arbitrary Task,” which muses on the mundane side of living.

Women That Rock SXSW 2023

Indie rock artist Far Caspian at SXSW 2023 (Photo: Tan The Man)
Far Caspian at SXSW 2023

Cheer Up Charlies hosted the Women That Rock showcase. Brooklyn-based Barrie (a dreampop solo project of Barrie Lindsay) performed songs from her upcoming album, 5K, complete with group choreography. Uplifting is the most appropriate word.

Indie pop duo Cafuné (singer-songwriter Sedona Schat and producer Noah Yoo) then made their SXSW debut. They have been riding high touring and celebrating TikTok fame with the infectious “Tek It” from their 2021 debut album, Running. The recently released single “Perspective” is worth a listen.

Jaguar Jonze (Taiwanese-Australian singer Deena Lynch) brought some much-needed excitement. Fresh off the release of her 2022 debut album, Bunny Mode, Jaguar Jonze pumped up the crowd with energetic rock tracks like “Who Died and Made You King?” and “Swallow.” The tempo was so consistent that I considered her cover of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” to be somewhat of a downer.

New York-based indie pop duo Overcoats was the last set I saw at the showcase. It’s actually the third time I’ve seen Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell at SXSW. The duo bounced between “Leave the Light On” (Young, 2017) to “The Fool” (The Fight, 2020) to “Horsegirl” (New Suede Shoes EP, 2023) with sprinkles of new dance choreography.

Warm Human at Iron Bear

Afterwards, I made my way to the newly relocated Iron Bear to see synthpop solo project Warm Human (Meredith Johnston). This Chicago-based performer had a pleasantly diverse set, mixing supreme downtempo (“That Eminem Song Where He Mentions that Phil Collins Song”) to pop anthems (“Better Than Who?”) to electropop (“Y U”).

Bluegrass by Bella White

Calgary native Bella White performed many songs at Swan Dive from her upcoming sophomore album, Among Other Things. Hearing that White hails from Canada can throw you for a loop when you also listen to her bluegrass tunes. Having grown up listening to bluegrass, White brings a unique take on a uniquely American sound with the emotional “Flowers on My Bedside” and “Break My Heart.” She closed with the “The Way I Oughta Go,” which she described as a song about being confused. I don’t think White was trying to make a point, but it’s still a good song.

At the Chess Club, I checked out Oakland-based electropop duo abracadabra (Hannah Skelton and Chris Niles). They have been consistently described as crafting unconventional pop music. It is definitely unconventional, but only if you think ’80s new wave is unconventional. To be fair, “At the Zoo” from the band’s sophomore album, Shapes & Colors, is really quite out there. “Talk Talk” is where the band does its best Talking Heads impersonation. But as an aside, it was hard not to be completely distracted being shoulder to shoulder with so many people in the bar-turned-sauna.

Respite came from Scottish piper Brighde Chaimbeul at Driskill Hotel’s Victorian Room. Hailing from the Isle of Skye, Chaimbeul performed traditional Scottish tunes with Scottish smallpipes that resulted in very layered sounds. They were rich in texture and deep in mood. Had she not paused to tell some stories, Chaimbeul could have easily played for 30 straight minutes with no one missing a beat. Great music to end my evening.

[Photos via Tan The Man]

About Tan The Man

Tan The Man writes mostly about film and music. He has previously covered events like Noise Pop, Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, South By Southwest, TBD Festival, and Wizard World Comic Con.

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