SXSW: The 10 Best Of The Fest This Year

This SXSW wasn't a pretty one by any means, with a camera boom falling on fans at Stubb's before Orchestral Manoeuvers In the Dark, Ben Weasel lashing out physically at unruly fans, the Death From Above 1979 police party, and the massive crowds seemingly dwarfing the numbers from the past few years.

Add to that Rebecca Black, the super-moon in the sky, and the UN allies bombing Libya, and it was a virtual pop-culture maelstrom.

But aside from the mace, Kanye West, and the harried SXSW staff, this wasn't a bad year for music at all. We found ourselves wide-eyed and grinning every night in front of one or two artists, thankful to be in the right place at the right time. Here are our ten favorite things we saw last week.

Honorable mentions go out to the Black Angels, Buxton, and especially Billy Gibbons for showing up to the Rachael Ray Feedback party and playing Elmore James' "Dust My Broom" with a bottle of his own BFG hot sauce in his back pants pocket.


Charles Bradley: This SXSW we found our soul in Charles Bradley & The Menahan Street Band, during their opening slot in front of TV On The Radio at Stubb's. Bradley's R&B wail and stage gyrations and shimmies were like watching a scratchy, forgotten 45 from the back of a dusty record store come to life. Great stuff, and we hope to see more.

Sallie Ford: The PR hype was correct; she was just a like a female Buddy Holly, glasses and all. Ford's set at the Creekside Hilton came with lines dissing a boy for listening to emo-pop and enough of a humbled glow to show that she is still new to the game, but not a shrinking Violet.

J. Mascis: During his opening set at the Queens of the Stone Age show, Mascis played us cuts from his new solo LP, Several Shades Of Why, proving that even without his stacks and stacks of amps and only an acoustic, he can still wail. Plus, the material is highly personal and affecting.

Wanda Jackson: The Queen of Rockabilly played songs off her new Jack White-produced album at Rachael Ray's day party, and gave us all the warm and fuzzies as she related her own Elvis Presley stories from her long and illustrious career. She's truly a gem to see live.

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Craig Hlavaty
Contact: Craig Hlavaty