SXSW Music: Best Discoveries of 2013

Half the fun of SXSW is that you can wander into practically any venue, bar, restaurant, whatever, in Austin and there will be a band playing that you’ve likely never heard of and they’re likely quite good. 2013 was a great year for discovering new (at least to me) music. Here are the top five acts that stood out as the best discoveries of 2013:

The Lonely Wild

I found the Lonely Wild at Cheer Up Charlie’s after I arrived a few minutes earlier for a Dan Croll’s upcoming set. I wandered inside during Dan Croll’s set up to find this band playing. The LA quintet looked very young, but had a sound that harkened back to an older era. I could here influence of the Doors mixed with modern bands such as Arcade Fire. It ended up blending for a unique sound that was all the Lonely Wild’s own.

Wynter Gordon

Perez Hilton’s party had a lot of female pop artists, and honestly, a lot of these lovely ladies blended after the first few hours of that show. Not Wynter Gordon. She stood out as one of the female-fronted artists at the Perez Party that had a diverse range of influences and sounds. She was also brave enough to sit in the middle of that big stage with an acoustic guitar for back up and go for a more organic, singer-songwriter sound. It was a risky move considering what her fellow artists on that stage had been doing, but it worked and made Wynter Gordon stand out.

Wynter Gordon

Wynter Gordon


Kiven was an unusual find for me at SXSW as I did not actually see them perform. One of the cool things about SXSW is that there are artists everywhere…not just hiding out backstage. I met Kiven while standing in a line waiting to see Prince. Since we were sort of forced together for a long time period, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop and learn that they had a connection to my home, Kansas City. That sparked some more conversations and before I knew it, our wait was over and we could finally see Prince. But I didn’t forget about my pleasant chat with Kiven and when I got home, I checked them out on Facebook. The trio surprised me with their rich sound and lush harmonies. I especially found their bass hooks addicting. Hopefully they come my way soon or play at next year’s SXSW because they just went on my must-see live list.

Mary Lambert (of Macklemore’s posse)

Mary Lambert has actually been around for awhile, but it took a Macklemore performance for me to really “discover” her. If you were in the dark like me, Mary is the guest singer on Macklemore’s “Same Love.” When I saw her with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis at a few of their SXSW sets, she almost stole the show each time. Her voice is Adele-like powerful, but also more vulnerable. Her performance was emotionally-charged. A lot of her solo music is also like this. While I can’t wait to see her gain equal fame outside of the Macklemore umbrella, I’m really happy that they brought her along to SXSW and introduced her to myself and many other new fans.

Mary Lambert with Macklemore

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

Twenty One Pilots

Twenty One Pilots win for being the most memorable act of SXSW. They walk the balance of memorable fun without being overly gimmicky. The duo plays piano music that is like pop-rock-rap…whatever it is, it works for them. They have big energetic numbers despite only being two guys and they get the crowd involved by jumping out to join them and giving them catchy singalong choruses. They guys also never stay still; they climb the rafters, have drum off competitions on stage and do back flips of this piano. Twenty One Pilots is something that I doubt anyone in the audience would forget anytime soon.

Twenty One Pilots

Twenty One Pilots


What were your favorite discoveries from 2013 SXSW? Share in the comments!

About Bethany Smith