For the All Songs Considered gang, the second day of the South By Southwest music festival was packed with familiar favorites and new discoveries. On the heels of NPR Music's SXSW Showcase at Stubb's, Bob Boilen, Robin Hilton, Stephen Thompson and Ann Powers once again huddled in their favorite Austin churchyard to discuss the standouts and surprises from the day.
The lesson from this second late-night dispatch: If you want to get the most out of SXSW, go hard. Robin credits an "aggressive" calendar with helping him catch up on things he had missed before, including Torres, which the rest of the crew saw Tuesday, and The Lone Bellow, the folk-pop trio who provided his big "OMG" moment of the day.
Unique instrumentation was a highlight on Wednesday. Sydney native Jonathan Boulet charmed Stephen with his pummeling, percussion-filled set. Bob caught Japanese singer-songwriter Shugo Tokumaru, who kept things playful with toys for instruments. But his favorite performance of the day — maybe the best of festival so far — was put on by the four British women in Savages, whose charisma made their '80s-era post-punk sound into something their own.
Commanding performances were the theme at Stubb's, too, where NPR Music hosted its annual SXSW showcase. (If you missed the show on Wednesday night, we'll have audio and video up soon.) Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds won over the crowd as the sun went down (as Stephen says: "If there's anybody who can conjure the night ... ") with a surprisingly hard hitting, career-spanning set of songs. Mexico City-based Cafe Tacvba's undeniable blend of rhythms crossed the language barrier and brought out the dance moves from everyone in the crowd. In back-to-back sets, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O and New York rapper Le1f displayed similarly flamboyant moves, while the more-reserved Waxahatchee and Youth Lagoon fleshed out solo recordings with full band sets. The young British quartet Alt-J, recent Mercury Prize-winners for its debut album, rounded out the show with a carefully crafted, knotty songs that served as a palate cleanser for the night.