By Ramon Gonzales
It is very easy to get romanced by the spectacle of long lines while cruising the streets of downtown Austin. SXSW has become a point of reference when it comes the intimate show with a massive artist. While it is incredibly cool to see an arena performance in a small, sweaty club, the ethos of SXSW was always about the emerging artist. The notion of a showcase is about presenting existing and potential fans with something new, budding talent deserving of such a platform.
Among the hundreds of promising prospects from around the world, Southern California was represented well in Austin. In fact, among the standouts were bands that have long been on the Locals Only radar. Boasting stellar performances and sometimes playing, 3, 4, and 5 times in a single day, it’s worth bragging about some of the hometown standouts that are successfully hustling their brand. Presenting a quality snapshot of the hotbed of talent that is the Southland, these artists are more than just buzzworthy, they are why SXSW remains an important destination in the discovery of what’s next in music.
Anchored by the charisma of frontman Joshua Ostrander, Mondo Cozmo proved to be one of the hardest working outfits of SXSW 2017. Bouncing between late-night club showcases to early morning radio appearances, the band’s sound is blissfully soul-bearing and tastefully eloquent. When it comes to singles, “Shine” has resonated on the charts for good reason. The tune functions as a glowing anthem of catharsis and showcases Ostrander’s chops as a songwriter that understands the balance of melody and narrative. Letting loose on jams like “Higher” and ‘Sixes and Sevens” the band flexes some versatility with stylish bursts that are incendiary on record, but absolutely electric when performed live. Working a full range of emotion, Mondo Cozmo is on track to have a fruitful 2017 and their showing in Austin reiterated why.
It would be irresponsible to ignore the band’s ties to rock legend, Tom Petty. As the story goes, the band caught Petty’s eye during a show and the chance meeting would lead to Petty producing both The Shelters’ EP and their 2016 self-titled debut. However, the endorsement should speak more to the band’s chops than Petty’s benevolence. From the outdoor stage at Banger’s to the parking lot at Waterloo to the ballroom at the Austin Convention Center, The Shelters flexed a penchant for guitar heavy rock n roll that keep fans captivated. The guys are plainly skillful musicians and while other players run the risk of getting lost in the groove, The Shelters use their skill to accent their tunes, not muddy them. Cuts like “Liar,” “Lost Woman,” and a live preview of their Record Store release with an homage to Emmit Rhodes’ “Really Wanted You” all work as shining examples of the band’s understanding for timeless sound.
Though this wasn’t vocalist Ben Grey and Dear Boy’s first trek to SXSW, 2017 definitely marked showing that asserted the band is hitting their stride. Summer of 2016 the band released their Parts of A Flower EP and managed to capture lighting in a bottle. Toeing the line between alt pop and post punk, tunes like “Local Roses,” Robbery Love,” and “Alluria” are a meticulous balance of delicate melody and dynamic songwriting. That duality is what makes Dear Boy so dynamic. There is a particular finesse in how the band craf6s their music. The collaborative effort both on record and onstage highlights an understanding of restraint and focus. The results are 4-minute ballads that clearly compelled their audeience. During a rowdy week in Texas, Dear Boy flexed a command of the stage without having to resort to spectacle.
If there was a single moment that best serves as an example of what SXSW looks and feels like, it might have been during Cherry Glazerr’s stage time at Cheer Up Charlie’s during their weekend matinee. Though the collective package of Cherry Glazerr make magic onstage, it’s tough to pay attention to anything other than their enimagtic frontwoman Clementine Creevy. From the get go, “Nurse Ratched” ran a full range of emotion, swaying from haunting to downright heavy. Tunes like “Instagratification” and “Told You I’d Be With The Guys” are slicing, straight-forward, and stirring in a way that incites the occasional spaz. Out on the road supporting their January release of their third studio record, Apocalipstick, their 2017 jaunt through Austin showcased a selection of songs that are succinct, evolved, and fantastic to drink tallboys to. Pooling influences from garage to punk, Glazerr nix the pretense when it comes to their product and just craft quality tunes that are obviously fun to play live.
Anyone familiar has already heard the story of how the band’s debut EP was actually recorded when the guys snuck into a studio. Churning out the singles “Turn It Up” and Favorite Liar,” there seems to be a common denominator that resonates with all things The Wrecks. From the impromptu origins of the music to the lively cadence of their sound, to the time the band spent onstage with smiles from ear to ear, the entertainment factor of a band like this is infectious. The Thousand Oaks natives make and play music that effortlessly energizes a room, regardless of whether the songs are recognizable. Drawing hefty comparisons along the lines of Weezer and Vampire Weekend, The Wrecks earned the critical hype but would’ve had a great time even if they didn’t.