As you probably saw from all of the coverage in The World-Herald and on Omaha.com, I recently returned from Austin, Texas, where I spent five days at the South by Southwest music festival.
It's always an incredible experience and this year was no different. I saw dozens of bands, I made some discoveries adn I have lots of new music to buy (and/or anticipate buying when it's released.)
You can read all of my coverage (and see all of my photos and video interviews) at my blog, rockcandy.omaha.com, but here's a handy list of the very best (and some of the worst).
Top Five Best of the Fest
This amazing British rock band doesn't come to Nebraska. Ever. But they're so amazing to see live that someone should jump on booking them. It was rock 'n' roll madness when the band played "I Predict a Riot," "The Angry Mob" and "Ruby." It was definitely the best thing I saw all week.
Jones debuted her new album, "Little Broken Hearts," at SXSW and I was lucky enough to get into the show and hear the sweet, endearing songs about lost love. I'm looking forward to picking up a copy of the album.
The Omaha band got people grooving on the dance floor. Though it has played in town many times, the band's refined sound after recording its album in Los Angeles made it one of the best sets at the festival. And they drew big crowds for a virtually unknown band that hasn't even released an album. Not bad at all.
This is a band that I've seen many times, but the whiskey-soaked, bluesy rock group was one of my SXSW favorites. Its new album, "Women & Work," was a tiny part of the set. Mostly, the band played old songs, and frontman Ben Nichols laughed with the crowd, took requests and took shots with his fans.
Watch out for this Alabama blues band. It came into SXSW with tons of well-earned buzz and it's going to be big this year. The band already has festival dates planned throughout the year.
Not So Great
I really like M. Ward and was excited to see him at Central Presbyterian Church, a quiet and acoustically beautiful old church. It's one of the coolest venues in town. But Ward made the set super-slow and laid back. All but a couple songs were ballads.
He ramped up the energy the next day with a performance at Auditorium Shores, but that was on a huge stage in front of thousands. I would have preferred that energetic set performed in the intimate church venue.
The Chain Gang of 1974
They're a great dance-punk band, but I could tell they just didn't have the energy when I saw them. That's one of the downsides of SXSW: Bands sometimes perform up to 10 times over four days and their lack of energy can detract from the performance. The Chain Gang admitted they had been performing a lot over the weekend.
River City Extension
I'm not sure I had heard of these guys until I walked in and they started playing. I was absolutely blown away. They played with a passion that's rare in a lesser-known band. They sang their hearts out and sometimes not for a harmony but just because they loved the songs. I hope they come to town soon.
Harouki Zombi is very hard to describe. Part performance art, part DJ duo and part pop group, the collective combined all kinds of stuff for a crazy set. You could dance or you could just watch the geisha-like dancers paint each other or throw glitter on the crowd. You'll be entertained either way.
I've never had better tacos than the ones from trucks in Austin. Grub House's steak fajita tacos were made with warm, fresh tortillas and tender steak. They were topped so high with lettuce, tomato and cheese that they spilled all over. The spicy red salsa they came with didn't hurt, either. I'll be eating there when I go back.
After informing the crowd they had one more song to play, River City Extension picked up its instruments and walked out into the audience. They played "Bone Marrow Twist & Shout" with no amplification and only a couple acoustic instruments. The band's harmonious voices carried the song and made for a moment I'll never forget.
During Harouki Zombi's set, Orenda Fink (of Azure Ray and O+S) played "Glass Danse" by The Faint, which includes Fink's husband Todd Fink and brother-in-law Clark Baechle. Fink and Baechle, standing behind me, didn't seem to notice and I'm not sure anyone else in the crowd did either. Harouki Zombi also played "Killer Babes" by Icky Blossoms, whose members were out dancing up a storm on the dance floor.
Lucero's Ben Nichols talking to crowd members, taking requests and doing several shots of whiskey was funny and endearing. When he capped the incredible set off with solo renditions of "Mom" and "Fist Full of Tears," it sealed it for me. Fantastic stuff.