Thursday was the hottest, busiest, and most rewarding day of SXSW Music festival yet for Bitch. We saw some great female-fronted bands, and had several more recommended to us. No amount of sore feet, sunburn, and waiting in line to only maybe get into venues could keep us down! Read below for our highlights from day three, jam-packed with female guitarists.
Thao and the Get Down Stay Down
Thao Nguyen is no stranger to Bitch, having written for the magazine, and she made fans of many of us in the office with her deft guitar playing and distinct, playful singing style. She even played our very own SXSW Day Party in 2011. So it was a sort of family affair stopping by her early afternoon show, where Thao rolled through some of the best of her indie-pop outfit’s catalogue. The San Francisco group’s latest album, We the Common, is a little folkier than previous albums, lending some twang to her unmistakeably joyful vocals. But don’t let the lilting fool you—Thao songs turn sharp and hard-hitting quickly and without warning. It’s one of the most compelling things about The Get Down Stay Down, in performance and on record: quicksilver flashes of mood in direct opposition to the music, and vice versa.
For fans of: Torres, Buke and Gase, Mirah
Still in the toddler-dom of what deserves to be a long, venerated career, Portland sisters the Shook Twins are spending their first SXSW playing tiny shows at pubs, restaurants, and PDX-centric showcases. I’ve been following the pair since they moved to Bridge City from their small hometown of Sandpoint, Idaho a few years ago, and am more than ever convinced of their magic. They play ten instruments between them, at last count, and write simple, personal songs about exactly the sorts of things folk singers exist to sing about: fresh air, making beautiful things with your hands and whatever tools you’ve got, family, home, and the way the world looks from a front porch. They’ve got some growing to do as songwriters, but as self-taught musicians, they’re unparalleled.
For fans of: Mountain Man, The Watson Twins, First Aid Kit
LA and Manchester, England-based singer-songwriter Jesca Hoop had enough sound trouble during her short set that she had to end early, but the songs she did perform kept the room enthralled. Her accent is unplaceable (it’s mostly of her own invention, turns out), her experimental, unclassifiable semi-folk music is enthralling, and her voice is breathtaking. She’s the kind of singer whose shows will silence a bar, until she finishes a song and the audience unanimously sighs before exploding into applause. If her musical persona isn’t enough for you, she also keeps up a dream blog that is just as enigmatic as she is.
For fans of: Mynabirds, Laura Veirs, Smoke Fairies