Another SXSW is in the books, and it has given us a taste of what’s to come in the music scene. We saw a comebacks, confrontations, and a strong showing of female-fronted garage rock. From the rowdy and loud to the poetic and perfect, here’s a list of all the best acts we saw at SXSW 2016.

Fally’s picks:


White Lung

White Lung! Newest apple of our eye! Terrorizing, menacing, and terribly frightening— this band is the real deal.

White Lung was one of those bands that had a showcase around every corner. We were lucky enough to catch them at both SPIN at Stubbs and The Mohawk. The singer reminds us of everything we love about Courtney Love— the unpredictability, the fierceness, the completely unapologetic nature of existing in such a form. Her glaring confidence had us over the moon as she bellowed and screamed into the mic while reaching out and assaulting the air with her claw. “Down with the Monster” is enough to jump start any stagnant heart. The rest of the band is equally vicious, with a staunch yet aggressive look on their faces that clearly shows they give ZERO fucks. White Lung may have been the most rock and roll thing we saw at all of SXSW.

Plague Vendor

Plague Vendor is irresistibly bothersome. This is a band that had a very captive audience. We were actually trying to leave a venue when we heard them playing from afar. We were legitimately late to our next appointment because we could not look away from this delightful train wreck.

The frontman is completely alarming, constantly pulling his shirt over his head, screaming into the mic, performing worrisome tasks with his arms that were really just uncomfortable to look at. At one point, somewhere in between the band’s screeching guitars the maniacal drums, the singer scaled some sort of desert wall behind the stage, clawed at the rock with his fingernails, came back to the audience, and blew what he had collected in his hands all over the audience (think Tinkerbell blowing pixie dust).

Plague Vendor is everything we love about a band. They were startling, threatening, and completely in your face without a damn care.

Just look at this god damn maniac:

Yes You Are

Yes You Are is a Kansas City band oozing in poppy goodness. Their set was moved off an outdoor stage at Midcoast Takeover when the rain started falling. This put them in a small corner inside, and believe us when we say that corner could hardly contain their energy. Yes You Are were bouncy, fun, and always on. They had a flair for theatrics and dramatics, even on their slower numbers (or “couples skate,” as they call it). The vocal harmonies are both soothing and upbeat, a difficult trait to master for any band. What is it about Kansas City? That town is so good at making all these feel-good pop bands.

Erykah Badu

Here’s the deal with the Erykah Badu show. Many people, from attendees to badge-holders and the even the media, waited HOURS for this show. They waited hours to get into the Mohawk, and once they were in they waited hours to claim their precious spots. She was set to go on at 12:40 but didn’t get onstage until nearly an hour later. The crowd was growing agitated. They were tired, dehydrated, and about to collapse. But then she took the stage in her crazy hat and all was immediately forgiven.

The woman was all attitude! She truly is one of the reigning queens of music. Her poetic words flowed out of her like a soft stream, but the words were full of attitude and she constantly flipped the bird on one of her ring-covered fingers. She calmed the crowd, she joked with them, and she reminded us what a true artist looks like with her timeless perfection and musical grace.

Would we stand in one spot for four hours again to see Erykah Badu? Probably.

Stiff Middle Fingers

As pointed out earlier, Stiff Middle Fingers is becoming a national treasure. They messed with Texas and somehow came out alive. The band’s new van, Randy the Dog Van, acquired multiple gasps, laughs, and stares across the festival. Additionally, singer Travis Arey donned a top dissing Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, as well as a pair of shorts with male genitalia printed on them, which makes him both a hero and a fashion icon. At their second showcase on Saturday, he sported a Texas thong (a “souvenir” as he called it). Don’t ever change, Stiff Middle Fingers.

Editor’s note: it must be said how impressed we were when Stiff Middle Fingers’ guitarist Aaron Swenson caught a piece of the falling stage that fell victim to an enormous gust of wind with one hand, while holding his guitar with the other. That guy is Hercules!

Vince Staples

As pointed out throughout this post, we’re fond of musicians who make the audience uncomfortable… and nobody does it quite like Vince Staples. We caught him at the SPIN show, where he spent equal amounts of time performing as he did sassing the audience. The man’s words felt genuine, poetic, and authentic. But when the must was over, he agitated the audience with truths they didn’t want to confront. Our favorite line was when he looked at all the cameras pointed at him, then glanced out at the at-capacity venue and declared “I feel like I’m at a slave auction!” The audience was hardly finished with their collective gasp when his DJ chimed in “This one has all its teeth!”

Earlier in the week, he played the Spotify stage… where he proceeded to rip Spotify for cheating musicians.

Vince Staples may have had the best, and most remorseless, SXSW ever.

Runners up: Tacocat (for embodying everything cool and fun about rock and roll right now) and Thee Oh Sees (who played Hotel Vegas every single day).

Aaaand here are Thee Oh Sees fans.

A video posted by I Heart Local Music (@iheartlocalmusic) on


Leroy’s picks:



This was Deftones’ SXSW debut, and we caught their second festival performance at Stubbs. Having just the night before played to an overwhelming audience at the much larger venue at Lady Bird Lake, Deftones didn’t show the least bit of fatigue and frontman Cheno Moreno seemed to have a hard time holding back his smile at the fist pumping, encore demanding crowd.

Japan Night

Japan Night is a SXSW staple notorious for crazy antics and this year did not disappoint… Unless, of course, a screaming and soaking wet Japanese man clad only in superhero underwear and a monster mask playing slip ‘n slide on the dance floor doesn’t qualify as crazy.
Words and photos by Fally Afani and Leroy Pristach



Fally Afani is an award-winning journalist with a career spanning more than 20 years in media. She has worked extensively in radio, television, newspapers, magazines, and more.

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