SXSW 2023: Walking Through Austin

Chatting up some of the acts at this year’s festivities in Texas

SXSW 2023 official poster (Image: SXSW

Walking. Walking. And more walking. That’s something you can always count on at South by Southwest.

Yes, most venues are centered around downtown Austin, but you can expect to do lots of running from venue to venue. Also, expect to do plenty of exploring outside of band-hopping.

Take it from yours truly. I added up all the steps I walked during a week in Austin and came up with over 148,000 steps. Luckily, I was checking out amazing shows and interviewing amazing artists. Read on for more.



Britain has a rich folk tradition, yet its Welsh musical heritage is overlooked. Enter the Trials of Cato: two Welshmen, Tomos Williams and Robin Jones, and one Englishwoman, Polly Bolton. The trio’s new album, Gog Magog, plumbs their country’s history with originals like “Boudicca c. AD 60” alongside their take on the traditional song “Boys of Bedlam.” 


AUDIO: Trials of Cato interview 



Brisbane-based singer Jaguar Jonez delivered a fierce, flamboyant set at Austin’s Swan Dive Patio. Half-Taiwanese and half-Australian, Jonze uses her voice to address identity, marginalization, and bullying. She’s also collaborated with singer Haru Nemuri and covered Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box.” Here, she also talks about anti-Asian bigotry, battling COVID, and the response from her fans.


AUDIO: Jaguar Jonze interview 



Jane Weaver’s latest album, Flock, was greeted by a string of four-star reviews and became a Top 30 album hit in her native UK. In March, she touched down at SXSW for her first headlining American tour. Weaver’s shimmering pop, with electronic flourishes and Weaver’s own wispy vocals, is retro and futuristic at once. As this interview shows, it’s one chapter in a decades-long, eclectic career.


AUDIO: Jane Weaver interview 



Over thirty years ago, the Chickasaw Mudd Puppies emerged from Athens, Georgia with a swampy, earthy take on music. During their original run, the band collaborated with Willie Dixon and fellow Athens resident Michael Stipe. The Puppies reunited decades later, and on a chilly March day, the band reunited, played a stomping set at Still Austin Whiskey Co., then sat for a lively interview.


AUDIO: Chickasaw Mudd Puppies interview



By the time she embraced the blues, Dana Gillespie already had a colorful musical career, beginning with 1960s folk-pop and then moving on to 1970s glam. (Her friend David Bowie co-produced her 1973 album Weren’t Born a Man with Mick Ronson.) In addition to blues, Gillespie has also recorded albums of devotional songs in Sanskrit. And check out her YouTube series, Globe-Trotting with Gillespie


AUDIO: Dana Gillespie interview 



Social Lubrication is the forthcoming album from London’s Dream Wife. The band’s barbed-wire punk is served with fearless, witty lyrics. How can you not love a song titled “Hot (Don’t Date a Musician”? Dream Wife may address the dilemmas of women and LGBTQIA+ people in today’s chaotic society, but they do it with a smile.


AUDIO: Dream Wife interview 



Lara Price’s first music lessons were at the piano with Howard Jones (that’s right, synth-pop legend Howard Jones). It’s one stop in a journey that began in Vietnam, where she was part of “Operation Baby Lift” and then adopted by American parents. Today, she’s an acclaimed soul blues singer whose voice has earned comparisons to Mavis Staples and Gladys Knight. In this interview, she discusses her evolution as a vocalist, the technical side of singing, and much more.  


AUDIO: Lara Price interview 



New York queer punks Sorry Mom took the stage at East Austin’s JNL BBQ, one of the band’s many shows at SXSW, with a scrappy set of originals plus a cover of Alanis Morrissette’s “You Oughta Know.” The band’s approach to music and activism recalls the Riot Grrrls of the 1990s, zines and all, but with a more inclusive take. Their first album, babyface, comes out in May.


AUDIO: Sorry Mom interview 



Psychedelia never goes away and never goes out of style. Just ask Meltt. “Another Quiet Sunday” and “It Could Grow Anywhere” evoke inner-space atmospherics that would do Pink Floyd and Hawkwind proud. Then, on “Only in Your Eyes,” swirling melodies are wedded to dance grooves. The band recalls their origins in Vancouver and describe what psychedelia means to them. 


AUDIO: MELTT interview 




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Robin Cook

Robin E. Cook is a freelance writer living in New York City.

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