Best Celeb Sighting
During South by Southwest, every third person you see on the street in Austin is in a band. It's just a fact. So after the first day, spotting indie celebs just seems normal: Oh, there's Zowie! There's Ben Kweller! There's Patrick Wolf! (Or at least I think that was Patrick Wolf…) But when I was sitting at the Four Seasons having lunch with the amazing New Zealand electro-pop band the Naked and Famous and spotted Hanson? Now that was exciting. And Alisa Xayalith, the Naked and Famous's lead singer, couldn't agree more. Turns out she wrote them a fan letter when she was 14—and they wrote back! Hanson took a seat at the table next to us and Alisa worked up the courage to introduce herself and ask them for a photo. They obliged, of course, and afterward Taylor Hanson (um, dreamboat) came over and asked where they were playing next and said he'd try to come. Earlier that day, Alisa got her photo taken with Jack White, so needless to say her first South by Southwest experience was shaping up to be pretty amazing.
We spent the rest of the lunch trying not to talk about Hanson and instead discussed New Zealand designers (Alisa is particularly fond of Juliette Hogan and Kate Sylvester—“and Kathryn Wilson for shoes”), how singer/guitarist Thom Powers has never watched a reality TV show in his life, and how bassist David Beadle shaved the underside of his long blond hair to resemble Ellie Goulding's. “I just want to rub my head against hers,” he said. We think he was joking.
Best folk-rock hoedown
Seattle's folk-rock sextet The Head and the Heart have been building a steady buzz over the past year, and after their afternoon show at Lester Pearl, we suspect they're going to be big. The place was packed, and when singer/guitarist Josiah Johnson entreated the audience to clap along to piano-driven, harmony-laded song “Ghosts” everyone did—happily, raising their hands up over their heads like they were at an arena rock show. Singer/violinist Charity Thielen—who looks like she could be Michelle Williams' sister—was absolutely adorable in an ankle-length pink prairie skirt and cream top with snowflake-like cutouts. So far she gets my “best dressed at SXSW” award.
Best Dance Party
Ellie Goulding took to the deks at the W Hotel yesterday for NYLON's party and looked like she was having as much fun as the crowd. She and her pals sang along to Britney's “Hold It Against Me” and screamed “Fuck You” along with Cee-Lo as they sipped margaritas and danced in the blaring hot sun.
Earlier that day, I talked with Ellie for NYLON TV about her love for Topshop, Tinie Tempah, and the color pink she was sporting (a delicious new pale pink lipstick from M.A.C that went perfect with the pink streaks in her blond hair). We told Ellie how David from the Naked and Famous had cut his hair like hers and showed her a photo, which made her crack up. She was definitely flattered.
I have to admit that I didn't know too much about British electro-soul singer Jamie Woon before I saw him play at the Friendly Fires showcase on Thursday night. I knew he went to the BRIT school (like Amy Winehouse, Adele, Jessie J, et al) and that he was a runner up in the BBC's Sound of 2011. But no one told me that he's making the sexiest music there is right now. This is baby-making music for the indie-rock set: all slinky beats, sparse atmospherics, and Woon's smooth tenor gliding over top. A friend of mine just signed on to be his publicist and she wants to get t-shirts made that say “I Swoon for Woon.” I'll take two.
Best Rock Supergroup
By far the most rocking set I've seen so far was by Rey Pila—the solo electro-rock project of Diego Solórzano, who used to be the leader of Los Dynamite (one of Mexico's biggiest indie acts). Last night, though, he had a full band—and not just any band: a Mexico City rock supergroup. He had Andrés Velasco from Chikita Violenta on guitar and Mateo González Bufi from Neon Walrus on bass, and boy did they kill it. A couple of weeks ago, I got to go to Mexico City to do a story on the music and arts scene for a NYLON Guys and I interviewed all three of those guys for their respective bands. It's safe to say I'm obsessed with all of them now. Their songs are like crack—one listen isn't enough.
After being thoroughly rocked, I decided to wind down my night with Boy & Bear, one of the bands I was most excited to check out at SXSW. The Aussie folk-rockers have a definite Mumford and Sons vibe—tight, haunting harmonies, rolling drums, acoustic and electric guitars—which is impossible not to like, and their song “Mexican Mavis” is my new obsession. The night's only flub was when singer Dave Hosking attempted to whistle the bridge of a song, but couldn't quite find the note. But no bother. He grimaced and then grinned—adorably—and kept on playing. I think the audience loved him more for it.