SXSW 2019: Vandoliers, Black Pumas, Edie Brickell, Mavis Staples – Rolling Stone
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SXSW 2019: 30 Best Artists We Saw in Austin

From Amyl and the Sniffers and the Vandoliers to Hayes Carll and Yola

Amyl and the Sniffers perform at SXSW in Austin, Texas.

Amyl and the Sniffers perform at SXSW in Austin, Texas.

A.F. Cortes

The annual South by Southwest Music Festival continues to be an overwhelming experience for both attendees and bands, as each hustle from venue to venue either in in search of the next buzzy thing or their own big break. This year, however, SXSW felt slightly more subdued, perhaps because Austin’s major schools were still in session ahead of spring break. Even so, crowds were everywhere — filling clubs on Sixth Street, parking lots on South Congress and even boats on the Colorado River — eager to hear breaking acts from the Vandoliers to Black Pumas and vets like Edie Brickell and Mavis Staples. Here’s the 30 best sets we saw.

Joshua Ray Walker

Jordan O'Donnell for Rolling Stone Country

Joshua Ray Walker

Joshua Ray Walker knew how to keep you guessing during his set at Rustic Tap on Saturday, rolling along to the rhythm of an 18-wheeler one minute and shifting into neutral for a loping bedroom ballad the next. The constant throughout for this country-tinged songwriter was his inexorable sense of storytelling, singing parables of self-reflection — and, oftentimes, evisceration — that were tortured by what his narrators could write in song but couldn’t say in person. Punctuating his haunting arrangements with even eerier high-pitched yelps, Walker finished things off, alone and seated in a chair, with the bold imagery of “Canyon.” J.G.

E.B. the Younger

Rett Rogers

E.B. the Younger

Birds were chirping overhead as E.B. the Younger — the new nom de plume for Midlake member Eric Pulido — performed at Hotel San Jose on Wednesday, and few sets could have been more perfectly in tune with the natural world. The song being played at the time was “Out of the Woods,” an airy, soft-rock piano serenade from the band’s new To Each His Own LP that transformed into a chamber-pop jam à la Grizzy Bear’s fiercer moments when the drums kicked Pulido out of his reverie. A timely added touch came from a taut cover of Harry Nilsson’s “Gotta Get Up” toward the end of the set. J.G.

Justin Townes Earle

Jordan O'Donnell for Rolling Stone Country

Justin Townes Earle

There are a lot of good ways to hear “Mama’s Eyes,” a decade-old song from Justin Townes Earle. Maybe the best is listening to him play it in a crowded room, with papa Steve Earle looking on as his son crooned the opening couplet: “I am my father’s son/I’ve never known when to shut up.” Earle showed the low-key charisma and top-line between-song banter that is his genetic birthright, playing solo to preview songs from his upcoming album The Saint of Lost Causes (on which, he said, “I got wordy”). For a closer, he broke out a letter-perfect cover of the Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait.” D.M.

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