SXSW power rankings: Who’s at the top of the class of 2016?

We haven’t quite hit the halfway point of SXSW 2016 yet, but we’re already starting to get a sense of who’s “winning” the fest. These are the nine hottest artists we’ve seen so far:

Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals, perform at NPR Music's SXSW Showcase at Stubb's on Wednesday, March 16, 2016 in Austin, Texas. Erika Rich for American-Statesman
Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals, perform at NPR Music’s SXSW Showcase at Stubb’s on Wednesday, March 16, 2016 in Austin, Texas. Erika Rich for American-Statesman


Anderson.Paak & the Free Nationals: Everything about 30-year-old Cali artist Anderson.Paak is pure magic. He sings, he raps, he dances, he plays drums and he is an effortlessly amazing show man who exudes star power.

Kehlani: All the fly ladies want to be on Kehlani’s dance team.

Gallant: Over beats that straddle the line between R&B and rock, he performs with a raw intensity. He drives hard into the high notes with a falsetto that isn’t silky. Instead, it’s the tortured sound of emotion so explosive that it might actually burn a hole in his chest if he’s unable to release it. Facebook


Lydia Loveless: Full of punk attitude and raw grit, yet leaving open a glimmer of vulnerability in the aching melodies she writes, Loveless just feels, as the title of her last song of her Wednesday night Continental Club set summed up, “Real.”

Avett Brothers: Pretty much everyone knows North Carolina’s high-energy roots band by now, but the fresh angle on Wednesday evening at the JW Marriott was a strong spate of new songs that will be coming out in June on a new album called “True Sadness.” A late add to the SXSW schedule finds them at the Scoot Inn at 11 p.m. tonight (Thursday, March 17).

Capsula: Playing David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” album in full on Tuesday evening, the Argentinian band was possessed with the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll, confirming they were an ideal choice of the official SXSW Music opening party at Maggie Mae’s. They’ll reprise the performance on Saturday at 8 p.m. at Emo’s.


Jack GarrattBringing an Ed Sheeran-esque charm and a powerful voice to the dance music game, Garratt seems to be a name on everyone’s lips this SXSW. He tore up Spotify House, he hit up Hype Hotel and he was pushed hard at the MTV Woodies (along with Anderson.Paak). The beard abides.

AlunaGeorge: Similar to Garratt in that the sense that they are All Over The Place This Year, the British electro duo plunged Hype Hotel into a surreal 1 a.m. dream state on Wednesday. It’s been a hot minute since their album “Body Music,” but their new single is fire. Meanwhile, their brand of underground pop has hit the mainstream in time for them to reap the benefits.

PWR BTTMPouring their wistful hearts into garagey guitars and garish glitter, this New York band marries radical aesthetics to real-talk lyrics. I don’t predict radio success or anything, but I do foresee an exponentially growing cult. Facebook

View this post on Instagram

Surrealist indie rock drag queen band PWR BTTM. #SXSW

A post shared by Eric Webb (@ericwebb89) on

Author: Deborah Sengupta Stith

Deborah Sengupta Stith has been hanging out in dimly lit corners of the city soaking in the music scene for almost 20 years. Twitter: @deborific

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.