SXSW is crawling with Berklee bands

SXSW is always always a hotbed of activity for alumni and student bands from Berklee and this year is no exception.  Scouring the Official SXSW showcases and parties, and Unofficial shows happening all over Austin, I spotted at least 60 bands/artists that include alumni or students. That means the real number is probably way higher. Of course, among these were the bands that played Berklee’s Seventh Annual Official SXSW Party on the Friday of SXSW Music. Check out videos from the show!

While putting on Berklee’s party is fun, it means we had to miss many alumni bands that were playing at the same exact time, including Dirty Dishes, Lost in the Trees, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Zambri, Sydney Wayser, Zorch, Sarah Blacker, Gentlemen Hall, Kishi Bashi, and more. Fortunately, before and after Berklee’s party, I did get a chance to check out some other alumni bands around the  festival.

OldJack: Dan Nicklin (center) and alumni Jason Meeker (left) and Ryan Peters (right)

On Thursday night, I had the opportunity to see the highly anticpated Big Star Third show. Led by Chris Stamey of the DB’s, the show featured full orchestration of seminal pop band Big Star’s Third album with a large cast of guest artists. I was pleasantly surprised to see alumnus Ari Picker from Lost In the Trees among the guest performers. He was in quite good company as the lineup also included original Big Star member Jody Stephens, Peter Buck from REM, M. Ward, and Tommy Stinson of the Replacements.

Later that evening, I  saw alumna Ximena Sarinana, an engaging pop singer from Mexico. I wasn’t able to get any photos because the club (well, it was more of a tent-covered patio) was so crowded I couldn’t get anywhere near close enough to the stage.

The lovely ladies of OldJack, and Dan Nicklin

On Saturday, huge Boston and Berklee representation could be found at both the DigBoston BOS > AUS afternoon party, and the Wadzilla Mansion show, which spanned from the early afternoon to about 2:00 am. I stopped by the DigBoston party, nicely set on the rooftop of the 512 Club, and caught OldJack and The Wandas. OldJack kicked-ass as always with their brand of soul meets classic rock. The Wandas ripped through a tight rockin’ set as well and had their own street team handing out free copies of their latest, self-titled album (vinyl and CD!).

The Wandas: alumni Brent Battey and Keith McEachern

Later that night, I headed to the Wadzilla Mansion’s Boston in Austin show at the Treehouse Pub. This was an all day/all night affair that included a slew of alumni bands: Mrs. Danvers, Dirty Dishes, Spanish Prisoners, Il Abanico, and For Sleeping or Jumping. I got there on the late side but did get to see The Shills (again as they played Berklee’s party the previous day), Grass Is Green, and The Thickness.

Grass is Green, noisy indie-rockers who the internets awesomely called “fast-paced psych-pop whisper-core,” played songs from their new album Ronson. This band is pretty much always on tour, probably one of the hardest working bands in Boston.

Grass is Green: alumni Andy Chervenak and Michael Jon Thomas

The Thickness, whose members Ben Maitland-Lewis and Chris Thomas are the masterminds behind Indie Ambassador, pummeled (in a good way) with their heavy yet catchy blend of metal and punk to close out the show.

The Thickness: alumni Tiny Smith, Ben Maitland-Lewis, Chris Thomas

Sadly, I had to call it a night and a Southby at that point.  So many alumni, so little time! Until next year…

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