Sixth Street is slowly becoming more impossible to walk down, which can only mean one thing – SXSW is building up speed and its attendees are getting ever more in the spirit. Here are some of the highlights of the third day of the annual music free-for-all in Austin, Texas.
Welsh-born, Aussie-raised Stella Donnelly’s breakout track ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ deals with the anger that comes in the wake of sexual assault. When she performs it at The Townsend, it’s a goosebump-inducing moment, her rage cutting through simple guitar melodies. It’s an important song, but there’s another side to Stella that’s lesser known. As well as being outspoken on the things that matter, she’s also incredibly funny. “I’m dry as a dead dog’s arse,” she tells the sound tech at one point, referring to her husky voice from the several showcases she’s already played. Elsewhere, she tells the crowd to inform her family back in Wales that, although her EP is called ‘Thrush Metal’, she doesn’t have a yeast infection, and gives knowing looks when singing lines about vibrators. It’s endearing and brilliant, and more than enough to win your whole heart.
Over at Neon Gold’s Empire showcase, New Yorker Morgan Saint is making her case for being the next great underground pop star. She comes on like a cross between MØ and Lorde, an elegant fun to her crisp, catchy melodies. Set closer ‘Just Friends’ is her highlight – a cool pop banger that asks “Why don’t we be friends?/Why don’t we make out?” 100 percent relatable.
Lucas Long seems like he’s raging as The Britanys start playing at Seven Grand. Whether it’s the girls down the front yelling at him to “play The Strokes” or just a surge of aggression at the end of a long SXSW day, his angry energy is working. He begins the set shrouded in a leather jacket and black hoodie, which he later yanks off and throws down on stage in a particularly surly moment. Old songs like ‘Basketholder’ suddenly become more electric, while the emotion in recent single ‘When I’m With You’ feels brilliantly, viscerally 3D. Afterwards, the frontman sports a busted lip from clashing with his microphone, but it seems like a small sacrifice to pay for a set quite this good.
South Londoners Goat Girl are on their first trip to America and SXSW, and draw one of the biggest crowds at Seven Grand tonight (March 14). Their expressions are, for the most part, still as gloriously unimpressed and nonchalant as ever; the likes of ‘The Man’ and ‘I Don’t Care’ delivered with poker-faced cool that’s even more alluring because of how little they seem like they care about impressing a single person in the room, Austin, or America as a whole. It’s a cover and a previous single that are the biggest standouts of the set – ‘Tomorrow’, taken from the Bugsy Malone soundtrack, and ‘Country Sleaze’. The latter is the perfect primer on what Goat Girl do best – deadpan satirical swipes at the world around them set to jagged indie-rock.