ACRN Live Review Roundup: SXSW Bands to Watch

[Photo of Algiers courtesy of Julia Weber]

By Julia Weber, Features Editor

This year’s South by Southwest ushered in an array of talented artists spanning across genres. Now that things have settled down in the wake of this year’s festival, here are a few artists you’ll want to keep an eye on.

Read more: Q&A: The Bobby Lees


Fresh off of their flight from Germany, I caught the band’s first ever performance in the U.S. during this year’s SXSW. The unofficial showcase was hosted by The Luna Collective in a backyard nestled in a residential neighborhood that made me question if I had the right address. By the end of the night, it was settled: where better than an Austin resident’s backyard to welcome Rikas to the country and to the festival? Before their headlining set of the night, local acts Redbud and Foam Star took the stage. Rikas, an indie pop outfit of four, delivered a high energy, playful and all around happy-to-be-there show for the collection of mostly-twenty-somethings packed into the small fenced-in backyard. Rikas are bouncy and energetic, lighthearted and down to earth. You can hear it in their songs and even more so in their live performances. I wasn’t sure if my forty minute walk to the show would be worth it by the end of the night, but I’m very glad I made the journey (although if given the chance to redo the night, I would take an Uber). Check out their latest single “Up All Night” or their 2022 EP Goodbye Sunshine.


Pearla played a delightful set at the Central Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas that left me even more enamored with singer-songwriter country music. Somewhat reminiscent of current country-folk artists like CMAT, Kacey Musgraves and Emily Frantz (Watchhouse), Pearla delivered a mostly quiet set with moments that built up to calamity and catharsis. Pearla’s 2023 album Oh Glistening Onion, The Nighttime is Coming is soft and sweet, tender and gut-wrenching, and everything I’ve needed recently. Nestled in this small church in Austin, Texas, the moments when Pearla and her band came together were beautiful, put simply. Following her set at the church, Pearla ventured to Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion festival to join a packed-to-the-brim roster of talented artists like Ethel Cain, Spoon, The War and Treaty and, of course, Willie Nelson himself. Following SXSW, it was announced that Pearla will play southeast Ohio’s Nelsonville Music Festival this summer.

The Lemon Twigs

The Lemon Twigs played a kickass and highly technically skilled set at South by San Jose, an unofficial annual SXSW event. The weather was great, the crowd was easygoing and happy to be there, and The Lemon Twigs’ upbeat, relaxed tunes were a perfect match for the energy of the showcase. In a sea of stressful and overwhelming events throughout the week, this was exactly the relief that I needed. Michael D’Addario was soloing so close to my face that when he jumped, he kicked up enough pollen to send my allergies careening for the next three days. Worth it. If you’re looking to dig into The Lemon Twigs’ discography, consider checking out their newest singles.

Sudan Archives

Last year, I saw Sudan Archives play at The Warhol in Pittsburgh before Kurt Vile’s headlining set. As soon as she started playing, I was hooked. I knew I had to see her again at SXSW and I’m so glad that I did. Even amidst a severe storm that eventually derailed almost every performance in the city, Sudan Archives delivered another unforgettable set that captivated listeners throughout Austin City limits. My highlight of the night was her performance of “Freakalizer” from 2022’s Natural Brown Prom Queen. She had great command of the crowd, energizing and engaging fans as well as attendees who were unfamiliar with her music. I cannot emphasize enough how strongly I recommend listening to the phenomenal Natural Brown Prom Queen.


Stereogum’s Range Life fest hosted some of the best acts I saw during the week. Algiers started the day off by delivering an earth-shattering and dynamic set. Hailing from Atlanta, the band defies the constraints of genres. Their command of the crowd and seemingly endless supply of energy offset the less-than-ideal weather and immediately set the tone for the rest of the day. Algiers are expansive and energetic, passionate as all hell – especially given their 12:30 p.m. set time during the rain-soaked festival. I’m already trying to figure out when I can see them live again. Their latest album Shook was released in February via Matador Records. It’s 17 songs totaling 54 minutes, and it’s absolutely worth a listen. 

Nuria Graham

Nuria Graham played a phenomenal, otherworldly set at the Central Presbyterian Church during Audiofemme’s SXSW showcase. The performance was stripped down and unadorned, leaving Graham’s devastatingly wonderful vocals as the star of the show. Instrumentation was light and airy, floating along and lingering both in the room itself and in the minds of attendees. Her voice reverberated through the church and I felt like I was having an out of body experience. I was floored. “Disaster in Napoli” welcomed more intense, looming instrumentation that culminated in a moment of dissonance that I’m pretty sure I’ll be thinking about for the rest of my life. If you’re looking to dive into her work (which you should be), consider starting with Cyclamen, her newest project released in late January.

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