10 Breakout Artists of SXSW 2016

SXSW is a huge behemoth that attracts as many giant stars as it does up and comers. Any festival that can snag a surprise headline set by Drake is obviously as big as they come. While it’s true that there are larger artists playing Austin’s streets, it doesn’t mean that SXSW is any less of a necessity for newer artists. Whereas SXSW years ago was all about discovery, these days it’s more about solidification. Bands that already have buzz go down to Austin to prove definitively that they’re exactly as great as everyone on the internet keeps saying. It doesn’t mean that serendipitous discoveries in late night bars don’t happen — they do and they’re just as amazing as ever, but finally seeing an artist you’ve heard so much about can be just as impressive. We went down to Austin this year looking to see as many great sets as humanly possible, and we absolutely suceeded. Narrowing down the favorites from a week in Austin was rough, but these were the artists that stood above the noise and made the biggest impact.



We’ve been hearing how amazing Aurora was live for a little while, and with music as captivating as her’s, she would have to stand dead on stage for the show to be anything less than magical — still, she does the opposite. Aurora’s set at The Beehive on Tuesday was packed to the gills, yet she still managed to hush the crowd and drown out the noise with the sheer force of her presence. At only 19 years, Aurora has more charisma and force than people who have been performing many times as long. She’s truly a wonder to behold.  – Hannah Angst

Dilly Dally

Dilly Dally had a brutal run in Austin this year, playing a seemingly endless stream of shows. By the time we caught them at Pitchfork’s Day Party, they were already exhausted and over it, but they never let it dampen the blunt force of their music and show. Playing to a full audience a little past noon, the band screamed and thrashed like their lives depended on it. It helps that the music is so immediate and full of power, easily one of the best rock albums released in 2015. Dilly Dally cemented their status as newly minted punk icons. – Hannah Angst


Three sisters singing beautiful songs is never something to be missed, and the harmonies of Joesph prove that definitively. The Portland based sisters open their mouths and absolute beauty comes out. Mixing together pop and roots americana, the band is able to tap into everything wonderful about the genres and create perfectly crafted and perfectly sung songs that grab you immediately. Their set at Spotify House was so anticipated that the line to get in to The Porch stage was long and winding — no one could tear themselves away from the loveliness on display. – Hannah Angst

Julien Baker

One of the artists we most looked forward to finally catching was Julien Baker. Her arresting debut Sprained Ankle was one of the most emotionally resonate albums of 2015, and because of that, she was on seemingly everyone’s must see list. When we finally caught her play an official show at The Parish on Thursday it became clear that she would be topping most of the best of SXSW lists as well. The packed show was also the most silent of the entire festival, with people (who had been drinking all day) hanging on Baker’s every note. It was just as moving in person as recorded, and based on the amount of tears we’ve shed listening to the record, that’s saying something.  – Hannah Angst

Little Simz

Tumblr’s 79 cent party was one of the more interesting of SXSW, focusing on female artists and advocating awareness for the average pay discerpency between women and men. Little Simz was the perfect poster girl of the event. With a riotous stage presence and her intrecate and fascinating brand of hip hop and melody, she kept Scoot Inn firmly in the palm of her hands. With lyrical dexterity that was truly mindblowing, Little Simz had everyone screaming for one more song at the end of her set. In a coup that solidified her status as our new favorite badass, she told the venue she didn’t have time for one with an a capella rap and mic drop. It was the perfect moment to a party built around protest. – Hannah Angst

Margaret Glaspy

If you need further indication of the fact that we are in a golden age of female singer-songwriters, look no further than breakout artist Margaret Glaspy. She opened up The Beehive Wednesday with such force that it seemed impossible to go up from there. With only her guitar and voice, Glaspy held the early afternoon crowd in rapt attention. While her records have a full band, live she is still able to create the same full bodied sound by herself. It’s the perfect mix of rock and singer-songwriter asthetic and sure to be bound for bigger and bigger stages. – Hannah Angst

Miya Folick

What’s immediately striking about Miya Folick is how different the music is live than recorded. While her songs tend to be light pop jams on the record, they turn into gritty power rock on the stage. Armed with a guitar and scream that can send shivers up your spine, Folick creates a sound different from her records on stage but still grounded in the perfect pop construction of the tracks. They remain catchy but become startlingly forceful with the full band. It’s rare that you see so many facets of an artist’s capability live, but Folick proved that she’s exactly the kind of singer that absolutely must be experienced live to understand the whole package. – Hannah Angst


PWR BTTM’s songs are pure energy, sure, but it’s their stage banter that makes them such a joy. We were long looking forward to the queer-punk band’s set — their rolicking tracks sound like they were recorded live to begin with — but nothing prepared us for the pure fun of finally experiencing it. With a plethora of stories, jokes and a rapport that would put Abbot and Costello to shame, the band made every single space between songs a stand up show. Of course, it would mean nothing without the music to back it up, and PWR BTTM delivers with intense and incredible bursts of music that’s pure garage rock. – Hannah Angst


Whitney’s chill, lo-fi tracks are, if anything, even more magical live than they are recorded. Add in the visual of a drummer/vocalist and some expert brass instrumentation, and you have a perfect storm of sonic goodness. Their set at the Brooklyn Vegan party on Thursday was exactly that, and I’m counting down the minutes and seconds till they play in my city again. – Lauren McKinney

Sheer Mag

Extreme planning during SXSW can be a wonderful and terrible thing. Yes, you may get to catch all the bands on your “must watch” lists, but you might also end up losing out on everything else in between. During a year of careful planning, stumbling into the Sheer Mag set was one of my best one-off moments. I had heard the band’s endlessly catchy track “Fan the Flames” before, but nothing could have prepared me for the live version. Christina Halladay’s epic, explosive stage presence and soulful vocals are something to behold, and she’s backed up brilliantly by catchy guitar riffs and an incredibly fun band. Definitely one to see as soon as you can! – Lauren McKinney

Thanks Squarespace!