MS MR at ACL Fest. The New York duo leading an entire crowd in a hypnotizing “Dance Yrself Clean” singalong: A kumbaya moment if there was one. Cult-like experiences and LCD Soundsystem covers aside, MS MR’s ACL Fest set was like watching a love spell be cast. Their debut album is a Gothic dream, but their live show was a lesson in electrifying charisma, full of mic swinging and infectious choreography. It was an unexpectedly exceptional first impression to make on a big Austin audience.
Tegan and Sara at Stubb’s. After years of folk rocking with the best of them, the Canadian sister act came out swinging early this year with a synth-soaked bid at widespread appeal, “Heartthrob.” So, September’s Tegan and Sara show at Stubb’s was unlike any other show Tegan and Sara show in Austin, including their just-OK set at last year’s too-hot ACL Fest. The shimmering dance-party ecstasy of hit single “Closer” rippled new songs and old favorites alike. Same band, great new flavor.
Reignwolf at ACL Fest. You know how they say blues musician Tommy Johnson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his talent? Well, maybe Jordan Cook, aka Reignwolf, watched “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and got some ideas from his forefather. With terrifying intensity and guitar work that gave goosebumps, the blues-rock upstart had festgoers saying, “No really, have you heard this guy?” in the span of one Saturday morning.
Delta Rae at KGSR at SXSW Live Broadcast. This is the only set I’ve ever seen at 6 a.m. (Part of me hopes it will remain the only set I’ve ever seen at 6 a.m.) Ungodly hours aside, roots-pop act Delta Rae blew the lid off a room full of people with airtight harmonies, a well-beaten trashcan, and some rhythmically gymnastic drumstick tricks. When singer Brittany Hölljes opened her mouth, angels sang — and not chubby cherubs, but the sword-wielding, biblical kind of angels that have lions’ heads and are covered in flames. No one stayed asleep for long.