SXSW 2015: The Best Acts to Hear This Year


Another year of SXSW music has come and gone, and our ears are still hungover from all the amazing acts we saw in Austin, TX. For five straight days, more than 1,000 official acts performed at this year’s festival at over 100 stages around the city. And as the conference approaches it’s 30th birthday next year, there was certainly no shortage of talent.

We kicked off the week right with a brunch, hosted by our friends at Vans, where we got fresh new sneakers to wear all week. Then it was off to the Mohawk, where House of Vans set up shop for the third year in a row, for an epic day party featuring acts like Viet Cong, Sophie and Rae Sremmurd. Because no trip to Texas would be complete without smoked meats, we recharged at Vans’ annual artist BBQ – catered by Salt Lick – before the official night shows began. Then we caught acts like Summer Heart, TV on the Radio and Real Estate at multiple venues around the city.

After catching another epic day party at House of Vans during day two – with an incredible lineup that included Title Fight, Twerps, Vince Staples and Migos – it was off to V Lounge for Sir Michael Rocks at Thrasher and Converse’s annual showcase. The night ended in a dance party with ODESZA at the Tumblr IRL show.

Hype Hotel was another favorite spot where we saw acts like Years & Years and Rae Sremmurd at an official showcase, then went back the next day for ISO50 and Unholy Rhythms’ booty-dropping day party with A. G. Cook, Sophie and Hudson Mohawke. We ended our SXSW at The Main with a party hosted by Check Yo Ponytail, Mad Decent and Fool’s Gold where we danced to JUCE, Beat Connection, Pomo and Sweater Beats, to name a few.

This, of course, is only a brief rundown of all the great music we saw this year at SXSW. It was hard to decide, but we broke it down even further with these six acts you need to hear this year. Have a listen and make sure you catch at least a couple the next time they roll through town.

Viet Cong

Viet Cong
The first thing you should know about Viet Cong is their drummer Mike Wallace had a broken arm during SXSW but can play with only one, and it was completely badass. Formed in Calgary, Alberta in 2012, their post-punk sound is a little noisy with sweeping, distant harmonies that make both their EP and album roaring and smooth at the same time. Check out “Continental Shelf,” the first single from their self-titled debut album, and rock out to their loud, lusty sound.

Get ready to dance because JUCE is bringing the fun, funky sounds you need to get those feet moving. Members of the London pop-trio met at a club when they realized they had chemistry singing Sly & the Family Stone’s “If You Want Me to Stay” together. And their harmony as a band was apparent during their high energy performance, which left no one in the room standing still. If you’re looking for a new summer anthem, “Burning Up” will get the party started in an instant.

Related: The Manual’s Austin City Guide to SXSW 2015

Rae Sremmurd

Rae Sremmurd
We saw a ton of great hip hop at SXSW this year, but no one throws a party quite like Rae Sremmurd. The Atlanta-based rap duo’s name is “EarDummers” spelled backwards, which is also the name of Mike Will’s label on which their debut album “Sremmlife” was released earlier this year. We saw them perform for boisterous crowds at both House of Vans and Hype Hotel where they were accompanied by huge cardboard cutouts of their faces on stage. Do yourself a favor and go see them when they roll through your city.

Kate Boy
You really need to see Kate Boy live to appreciate the electo-pop trio. Not because their record isn’t great but watching them perform takes it to a whole new level. Members of the Stockholm-based group always wear cool matching outfits on stage and their energy is palpable, especially from front woman Kate Akhurst who is endearingly all smiles following each song. Check out “Open Fire” off their self-titled record, which was just released last week, below.

A. G. Cook
Remember the 90s? Of course you do, and we do too. And there’s something about A. G. Cook’s sound – and that of the other artists on his label PC Music – that reminds us of electronic music 20 years ago. But at the same time, it’s futuristic. The hyper-pop, electro sound is accompanied by ultra saccharine lyrics and digital noises that give his tracks a satisfying frenetic energy, sure to make your feet tap more and more with every bleep and bloop. Any fan of a noisy, heavy set should go see him DJ immediately.

This jangle pop quartet from Melbourne is by no means new on the scene (they released their first album back in 2009), but their latest album just might be our favorite. Their sometimes lackadaisical lyrics are backed by a high energy sound inspired by noisy pop and 80s college rock that translates into a fun, high-energy show that had the whole crowd swaying and bopping their heads to the beat. Check them out live this year for a memorable performance.

Photos courtesy of Vans