SXSW 2018 is in the books and, as always, we had an amazing time. Austin, Texas provides a unique landscape for this massive, de-centralized music festival; you not only get to discover incredible new bands but some pretty rad bars and venues as well. We saw a total of 53 bands this year across 4 days, and if you’d like to check out each band, we made a playlist just for you. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to see three of our top twenty must-see bands, but of the ones we did see they did not disappoint. We were also treated to some awesome surprises, including our favorite artist we saw during the week. Here are our highlights of SXSW 2018, and be sure to follow the playlist!

  • Vundabar

    There wasn’t a band with more chemistry at SXSW than Vundabar. They turned the dial to 11 on their already raucous brand of indie punk, performing show-stopping and often improvised renditions of “Holy Toledo” and recent hit “Acetone.” Their banter throughout the set was hilarious and added an almost theatrical element to their sets.

  • Morgan Saint

    The cramped Rainey Street bar Blackheart was the setting for Morgan Saints intimate afternoon set on the first official day of SXSW Music. She transfixed the crowd with her sultry, moody hits “Just Friends” and “YOU.” Morgan and her talented band definitely made the most of her 4 song set, and she put on a similarly excellent performance later on in the week at the Neon Gold showcase.

  • Hatchie

    With a lull in shows one afternoon, we hiked over to Red River bar Cheer Up Charlie’s to see if I could catch a couple bands. Aussie newcomer Hatchie and her band had just started their set and they grabbed my attention right away. There’s no doubt she made some new fans (us included) with spirited renditions of her only two songs on Spotify, “Try” and “Sure,” along with some excellent sounding new tracks.

  • Jade Bird

    Jade Bird was by far our biggest revelation of the week. This pint-sized 20 year old Brit with a heavy accent and a contagious smile belted out some Americana that can best be described as transcendent. Her voice is breathtaking and to see a talent like that live is truly a privilege. She somehow wasn’t even on our radar before SXSW but she certainly is now. Check out her 2017 EP Something American, especially for the songs “Cathedral” and “What Am I Here For”.

  • Plastic Picnic

    Plastic Picnic performed mid afternoon sandwiched between two punk bands at a grungy bar in downtown Austin. Despite playing to a crowd slightly more interested in the band succeeding them, they got the crowd to their feet with their sun drenched indie rock and ended with a bang playing their ultra-catchy hit “Bite.”

  • Young & Sick

    Having been familiar with Young & Sick’s 2014 self titled EP, I expected a super chill, laid back set from this solo act. Instead, myself and the crowd were treated to a set that brought the house down. With a full band, he played songs from his newest EP Ojai that are much funkier, soulful and downright dance-inducing than his previous work. As if the crowd could get anymore into the set after songs “The Road” and “Ojai,” they ended with an absolute fire rendition of Fleetwood Macs “Dreams” that left people screaming “encore!” If only that were allowed at SXSW.

  • Stella Donnelly

    Stella Donnelly’s set at Rainey Street bar Clive was another wonderful surprise. Accompanied only by her electric guitar, she sang songs from her new EP Thrush Metal. Her incredibly charming presence and quirkiness are uniquely endearing while her songwriting ability is extremely impressive. Her songs can be heartbreaking and hopeful all at once (Boys Will Be Boys and Mean to Me), or just downright vengeful (Mechanical Bull and Talking).

  • Salt Cathedral

    This was such a fun show, thanks in part to an open bar but more importantly to Salt Cathedrals outrageously catchy pop music. The duo had a lot of fun during their longer than SXSW-usual set, bantering between songs and playing their hearts out during. “Always There When I Need You” is even better live and was stuck in my head for days after.

  • Natalie Prass

    Taking a sharp turn away from her soft spoken and orchestral debut album, Natalie Prass debuted a number of new songs from her upcoming album that are drenched in soul and R&B. We saw two of her sets at Clive and Cheer Up Charlie’s where she played her first single “Short Court Style” with the confidence of someone who is truly in her element. Her excellent band played with equal enthusiasm, creating a retro soul vibe that translated so well to a live show. I am so pumped to hear a recorded version of their opening song that featured some incredible vocal work from Natalie.

  • Jerry Williams

    Far exceeding our expectations going into the festival, Jerry Williams blew us away with her incredible voice and stage presence. Despite playing to relatively small crowds at both sets we caught, she played as if she were in front of thousands. Charming, confident and powerful, Jerry gave energetic performances of “Mother” and “Grab Life,” buoyed nicely by a fittingly talented band.

  • Forever

    We have to give a lot of props to Montreal “bedroom pop” artist Forever. She opened the Gorilla vs Bear showcase to a criminally small crowd in a bar that should ever be used as a concert venue. On top of that, the SXSW police shut her set down before she could play “Falling.” Despite all of that, she and her band performed their set with swagger and confidence, with spellbinding performances of “Stolen Car” and “Heaven’s Mouth.”