CHAI – Hotel Vegas, Sunday, Burgermania

Sunday is always a tough day at SXSW. Everyone is super hung over and dragging, but Japan sent CHAI to put more smiles on more faces than ever before. Music of the future with bits of Devo and Beastie Boys.

Whaja Dew – Volstead, Sunday, Burgermania

LA’s Whaja Dew played their hearts out but ended up on the floor.

A Giant Dog – Auditorium Shores, Saturday

The night before, Auditorium Shores held the best lineup in 10 or more years with Austin’s unstoppable A Giant Dog and Austin’s alien godfather Roky Erikson. A Giant Dog managed to take their club act to the big time effortlessly with the help of a dance squad and a never-before-seen stunt where the guitarist climbed some 50 feet in the air and threw his treasured guitar right into the strong, sticky hands of lead ass-kicker Sabrina Ellis. Unfortunately they decided to stick Shinyribs’ bullshit set right in between these two, wasting an hour of our precious time.

Poppies – Pearl Street Coop Pool Party, Saturday

NY’s Poppies played two fun parties thrown by Topshelf and Community Records. Nice harmonies and occasional Velvet Underground moments!

Breakfast Muff – Spiderhouse, Friday, Peelander Z Fest

The band with the best name of the year, Breakfast Muff, came from Glasgow to be the secret special guest at the always raging Peelander party. Reminiscent of T-Rextasy, who played the very same stage last year.

Peelander Z – Sliderhouse, Friday

Japanese superheroes Peelander-Z hold a big presence at SXSW every year. Even without a drummer or set times this year they managed to fill up the majority of Spiderhouse with rabid fans wanting so many Mike!

Melenas – Lazarus Brew, Friday

Perhaps the most poorly-named band of the year, Spain’s Melenas were a perfect start to a challenging morning. La Michoacana grocery right next door proved to be the food find of the year, with barbacoa and caldo de res to live for.

Girl Ray – Latitude, Thursday

London’s Girl Ray took second place for band of the year. The Gorkys Zygotic Mynci vocals are just too, too, too good. The songs are beautifully written, and damn if they didn’t hold up well to the tortures of seven shows in the 87 degree Texas sun. The only disappointment was their SF show at the Chapel, where the sound simply sucked.

The Jackson Pollack – Boat Party, Thursday

San Francisco-based, Italy-born label WWNBB threw the best party of the year. Two hours on the water with seven Italian bands and a giant cooler of Modelo. That is the way to do it.

Tawings – Maggie Mae’s, Thursday

The other top Japanese import this year was Tokyo’s Tawings. Shunning matching outfits, they relied on great post-punk songcraft. Excellent show.

Anna Burch – Cheer Up Charlies, Thursday

Detroit’s Anna Burch was simply glowing, and delivered an incredible live set that far exceeded her really, really good recordings.

Thick – Big Easy, Friday

Band of the year! Brooklyn’s THICK may not have the songcraft of Girl Ray, but they make up for it in the most reliably energy-charged, fun-loving, sing-alongs of the year. I’m Bleeding, Don’t Touch Me!!