Southbyscurvy: The Best of SxSW

By Niki D'Andrea

Well, I managed to survive another fun and frantic SxSW festival. While I'm laid up at home recovering, I thought I'd bring you some of the highlights from this year's fest.

Best Local Buzz Band: What Laura Says Thinks and Feels (Tempe)

Several solid artists from our great desert metropolis performed at SxSW this year, but it seems like everywhere I turned, people were talking about WLSTaF. Here are just a couple examples of the word on the street:

From Soundcheck magazine’s “Label Alert: The 411 for Lovelorn A&R Reps” section: “I don’t know what it is about Arizona. The entire state seems to have really stepped up in the past couple of years, producing a veritable army of truly remarkable musicians – and this year, they are invading SxSW. On the frontlines of this musical onslaught is What Laura Says…, a band that hates commas and haircuts, but loves crafting sunny melodies that fall somewhere between freak-folk and indie-pop. Some of their songs sound like Elton John fronting the Super Furry Animals; others sound like Devendra Banhart covering Sondre Lerche; still others sound like Ben Folds on a bender with Ariel Pink. Regardless of what bizarre combinations you might hear in their music, one thing is certain: they will slay you. But instead of using swords and guns, they use irresistible harmonies. And instead of dying of sharp force trauma and exsanguination, you will die of pure, unadulterated happiness.” – Emily Strong.

From the blog of Arielle Castillo, music editor at Village Voice Media sister publication Miami New Times: “First cool random discovery was What Laura Says Thinks and Feels from Tempe, Arizona; a bunch of shaggy, long-haired types with a really pleasant, tripped out, fleshed out psych-ey sound. Kind of like Devendra Banhart but not quite as weird, and with a big backing band. Awesome, creepy harmonies.”

Word to the label reps: What Laura Says…is currently UNSIGNED. Hurry up and check ‘em out, because I have a feeling they won’t be available for pickup much longer.

Check out the band’s MySpace page here.

Best Promo Swag: Cube Services, Inc. and Sprint

Cube Services, Inc. is a company that manufactures backstage passes and crew credentials for touring acts. Their promo boxes included a slew of collectible backstage passes from everybody from Prince and Aerosmith to Luciano Pavarotti and Tim McGraw.

Sprint was giving out 1GB flash drive fobs. Mine came in handy right away, when my Internet connection crapped out at the hotel and I had to transfer photos from the Dax Riggs show onto my friend’s laptop.

Best Nickname for the Illness People Brought Home: Southbyscurvy. I’ve been seeing the phrase on various social networking sites all morning. Apparently, a lot of people brought back more than promo swag from the festival (including myself). That sort of thing tends to happen when you’re on the streets until 4 a.m. with tens of thousands of people coughing into the air, and most of them are running off nothing but three hours of sleep and a six pack of beer. I’m going to the doctor today for my official diagnosis. It probably won’t be “Southbyscurvy,” though.

Best Celebrity Sightings: Michael Stipe in the VIP section of the Rhapsody day party, Sia outside Rio Grande Restaurant

Best Potential Celebrity Sighting That Never Happened: Billy Bob Thornton, who was allegedly staying at the same hotel as me.

Best Musical Discovery: P.D.A. If you haven’t checked out my blog and video clip from this Oklahoma hip-hop artist’s incredible performance at SxSW, hit it here. You’ll be seeing his name a lot more next year.


Best Free Booze: The BMI/Billboard Acoustic Brunch: Free mimosas, bloody marys, beer, and wine. I couldn’t beat my hangover with a stick, but the mimosas helped.

Musician’s Atlas’ homemade honey vodka: I took two shots after realizing I had caught the Southbyscurvy. I’m pretty sure it burned all my phlegm away, but I was too buzzed to care either way.

Best Overheard Statement: “We wish we could be lesbians.” (overheard twice at two different shows throughout the week)

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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea