I survived another week in Austin, Texas at the granddaddy of all music festivals SXSW – my 15th in a row, damn – and caught over 40 acts and drank a lot of refreshing Lone Star Beer in the warm Texan sunshine, too. Here are my 11 favorite bands, I think.

(Photo by John Speirs)

(Photo by John Speirs)


I went into this year’s SXSW festival with very high hopes and expectations about this new Scottish electronic-pop trio CHVRCHES and thankfully they lived up to all the hype and buzz. (it would be the equivalent of a first round NBA draft pick that actually pans out and wins rookie of the year!) I caught them twice last week actually, once at the Hype Hotel day party –hosted by music/blog search engine Hype Machine- and at the SPIN party, too and was completely blown away. The combination of the haunting and ethereal vocals of the very lovely Lauren Mayberry submerged in a sea of pulsating 808 synth beats created quite a live experience.

depechemode630 02 Aaron Axelsens Top 11 Bands Of SXSW 2013#2 DEPECHE MODE

I normally avoid the big acts at SXSW each year, i.e. Bruce Springsteen, Justin Timberlake, Prince, etc, simply because my primary objective in Austin is to seek out NEW and emerging talent, but since DM are one of my favorite all-time bands I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to catch them in a very intimate club. (capacity: 1,000) I’m happy to report that the progenitors of electronic-synthpop AND one of the most important acts in the history of Live 105 did NOT disappoint! The boys played with the youthful energy and swagger of a Violator concert circa 1990 and broke out a strong and energetic set filled with vintage DM hits AND brand new cuts of the bands forthcoming 13th studio album DELTA MACHINE (street date: March 26) the band come to the Shoreline on September 26

RobertDeLong630-01#3 ROBERT DELONG

Robert ‘One Man Rave’ Delong embodies artistry in the year 2013: innovative, groundbreaking, the incorporation and introduction of new technology into his live set, etc, and successfully achieves all of this while not abandoning or sacrificing the important human element and soul of music. At the very core of all the glitchy electronic beats and dancefloor insanity you’ll fine incredibly well-crafted and introspectively emotive songs. I have a good feeling you’ll be seeing him in the SUBSONIC tent at BFD 2013, too

palmaviotels4x3 01 Aaron Axelsens Top 11 Bands Of SXSW 2013#4 PALMA VIOLETS

Holy sh*t this band was good! like blew all of us jaded industry dorks away with a raw and raucous rock-n-roll set full of mosh-pits and fist fights that reminded me of the first time I saw fellow British band The Libertines! Palma Violets are a young, upstart garage rock 4-piece from London, England that inked to the storied indie label Rough Trade records (home of The Smiths)

flume4x3 01 Aaron Axelsens Top 11 Bands Of SXSW 2013#5 FLUME

One of my top 5 favorite EDM producers of the moment would be one Harley Streten, aka FLUME, and in my humble opinion he’s making some of the most compelling and exciting new electronic music today. An amalgamation of house, R&B, trap and chillwave, FLUME makes his SF debut on March 28 at a sold-out popscene party that I’m thrilled to DJ at and recently he dropped his debut album via Mom and Pop Records (labelmates with Sleigh Bells, Smith Westerns, Metric, Polica, etc)

bastille4x3 01 Aaron Axelsens Top 11 Bands Of SXSW 2013#6 BASTILLE

Another act that arrived off the plane in Austin, Texas with a suitcase of buzz would be UK chart-toppers Bastille and they killed it! I caught them at the Filter day party along with fellow Live 105 night jock and music head Dallas and we were both very impressed with this new London act, especially with the remarkable and pristine vocals from frontman Dan Smith. I expect BIG things for this band in 2013 and they could quite possibly fall somewhere between KEANE and COLDPLAY status here in the states.

newpolitics4x3 01 Aaron Axelsens Top 11 Bands Of SXSW 2013#7 NEW POLITICS

It was pure pandemonium when Danish modern rockers finished their set at a standing room only party hosted by Crush Management and even though the majority of the capacity crowd were there to see special surprise guests Fall Out Boy, New Politics slayed that club and won EVERYONE over with a sweaty and frenzied punked-out set. I’d say that the average patron lost about 351 calories from pogoing and jumping around throughout the duration of their opening slot. They’d be such a great score for our Festival Stage at BFD 2013, too, if we’re able to score ‘em!

sancisco4x3 01 Aaron Axelsens Top 11 Bands Of SXSW 2013#8 San Cisco

Adorable Aussie indie kids SAN CISCO- who recently played SF’s legendary Fillmore opening up for The Vaccines- headlined the Australian BBQ day party up on the rooftop of Austin’s Maggie Mae’s and put on a fantastic set that featured the 2012 stalker anthem Awkward! This showcase also featured fellow Aussie up-and-coming notables like The Rubens and The Trouble With Templeton and you can catch San Cisco for yourself on Thursday, April 4 as they headline the Rickshaw Stop in SF.

the19754x3 01 Aaron Axelsens Top 11 Bands Of SXSW 2013#9 The 1975

After only a few hours of sleep I managed to stumble out of my hotel room on Friday and catch an early 1:30pm set at the Fader Fort from highly-touted new Manchester, England act The 1975! (and I’m super glad I did ‘cause they were like really good and stuff) Even though this young band comes from the same storied music scene as Joy Division, The Smiths Oasis, James and The Verve, The 1975 sound like they grew up listening to American indie and emo rock over the likes of Morrissey, Ian Curtis and the Gallagher brothers.

Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig (Photo: Alex Rauch)

Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig (Photo: Alex Rauch)


After seeing over 35 bands and DJs last week I closed out my SXSW 2013 in great fashion by catching my last band of the music conference: Brooklyn’s mighty VAMPIRE WEEKEND who headlined a late Saturday night show at Stubb’s. It was wonderful again to hear such VW nuggets like A PUNK, OXFORD COMMA and M79 mixed in with fresh new selections from the band’s forthcoming new album Modern Vampires Of The City, which hits the streets on May 7th (VW headline the beautiful Fox Theater in Oakland on April 17)

rudimental4x3 01 Aaron Axelsens Top 11 Bands Of SXSW 2013#11 RUDIMENTAL

Back in the late ‘90s -and an integral part of the early days of SUBSONIC- the EDM movement was anchored by a slew of big names from the underground Drum & Bass scene like Roni Size, Goldie, Dieselboy, DJ Rap, LTJ Bukem, etc, and now, London’s RUDIMENTAL is carrying that torch by serving up their own unique brand of D&B for the year 2013. This UK 6-piece dance outfit absolutely KILLED it at the Fader Fort last week and they make their SF live debut this Thursday night at the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco. (with Miles the DJ and I djing) Check out their colossal club smash Feel the Love, with almost 20 million youtube hits, and then come out on Thursday and dance around to it!


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