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SXSW Late Night Dispatch: Wednesday

PWR BTTM plays NPR Music's showcase at Stubb's BBQ, and Bob Boilen captures one of his favorite photographs of all time.
Bob Boilen/NPR
PWR BTTM plays NPR Music's showcase at Stubb's BBQ, and Bob Boilen captures one of his favorite photographs of all time.

Amid truck horns and the distant sounds of Montell Jordan's "This Is How We Do It," the All Songs Considered team gathered outside of Stubb's BBQ to recount a day overflowing with new musical discoveries and old favorites. On Wednesday night, NPR Music hosted its annual showcase at Stubb's. That event at that place has become as ritual as tacos and crowded streets for this crowd, but the show still astonished them. Stephen Thompson fell for Sylvan Esso's new songs. Bob Boilen photographed PWR BTTM and came away with one of his favorite pictures — a Pete Townshend moment of Ben Hopkins suspended in mid-air above the Austin stage. Robin Hilton was stunned by Lizzo's voice and the coordinated moves of her back-up dancers, the "Big Girls." Big Thief and The New Pornographers both delivered stellar sets to round out the night.

Each day of SXSW, we'll be sharing an early-morning recap of our favorite sets from the day before. Throughout the day, we'll update this page with short blurbs describing the best discoveries of the day from several public radio personalities currently at SXSW. For a full list of our coverage, check out yesterday's recap.

SYKES at The Blackheart

There was no shortage of impressive performances yesterday, but I was particularly taken with London trio SYKES. It was clear early on that a particular energy was building at The Blackheart's indoor stage. Singer-keyboardist Julia Sykes was leading the band through a set of synth-pop anthems that had a hard-rocking edge. By the set's conclusion, Sykes had the crowd — most of whom must have started the set with no idea who the band was — in the palm of her hand as she grabbed a guitar and shredded her way to an ecstatic conclusion. — Jay Gabler, The Current

Lizzo at Stubb's BBQ

Lizzo is a powerhouse performer with a thundering voice. Backed by a team of synchronized dancers and a phenomenal DJ, the Detroit native delivers a heady mix of funk, hip-hop, soul and rap for a sound that's impossible to sit still through. During her set midway through the NPR Music showcase at Stubb's last night, it felt like nearly everyone was dancing. But Lizzo's music can also bring you to tears with its beauty, its messages of love, unity and self-empowerment. Her all-too-short set, which we'll post later online, was the highlight in a night full of them. — Robin Hilton, All Songs Considered

Noname at Cheer Up Charlies

Her sound is mellow enough that it's possible to miss what an incredible rapper Noname is. Her pace is relentless even when her beats are slow; this is obviously a rapper whose mind is working a thousand miles a minute — which is approximately how fast I think her career will accelerate in the next year. —Katie Presley, NPR Music

Mondo Cozmo at Elysium

After darting around to a bunch of shows this evening, I managed to arrive at Elysium just in time for the last song of Mondo Cozmo's set. And it was easily the most memorable moment of my night. Mondo Cozmo's single "Shine" has been a staple in my rotation, and I expected them to finish with it. However, I walked in to something else entirely: "Bittersweet Symphony." That's right. Mondo Cozmo covered The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony" — complete with a string loop — and it was awesome. Hearing that one song made me realize I need to find out where Mondo Cozmo is playing next so I can catch the entire set. — Matthew Casebeer, opbmusic

Sylvan Esso & Lizzo at Stubb's BBQ

NPR Music's showcase was relentless in its entertainment value — after all, it opened with PWR BTTM and never really waned from there — but the night's midsection produced two bracingly powerful sets. First, Sylvan Esso showcased new and old songs with mile-wide showmanship, as Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn cranked through their electro-pop set with wild dance moves and boundless charisma. Then, Lizzo rounded out her self-affirming anthem "Good As Hell" with more evocative dancing, top-notch showmanship, odes to self-belief and, in the night's biggest left-field surprise, a powerful cover of ANOHNI's "Drone Bomb Me." — Stephen Thompson, All Songs Considered

Horse Thief at Easy Tiger

At almost any given SXSW performance, there are underinvested audience members who are prone to talking and texting. But Horse Thief didn't have that problem on Wednesday night. Although the crowd was small, they were captivated by the band's punchy songs, twin-guitar attack and twinkly keyboard arrangements. Without a doubt, this was the best sounding performance I've heard this week. And that says a lot about the Oklahoma City rock band's innate quality, because festival soundchecks come fast and furious. — Jerad Walker, opbmusic

Marian Hill at Lustre Pearl

Marian Hill brought down the house with an epic show that closed out the night. Singer Samantha Gongol's voice is beautiful on its own, but when she layers it on top of producer Jeremy Lloyd's sampling, it became something new, exciting and sexy. The heavy beats made everyone's hips sway, and the saxophone added a bit of playfulness to the music. — Mallory Yu, All Things Considered

She Drew the Gun at The Market

While Wednesday night featured NPR Music's killer lineup at Stubb's, my favorite set of the night came from an unexpected trek across town. As with any SXSW plan, mine changed and I made a late decision to walk over to The Market & Tap Room on Colorado Street. There, I found the Liverpool band She Drew the Gun. Lead singer and songwriter Louisa Roach sings politically charged, yet poetic songs with passion and purpose. Holy alliteration, Batman. Holy great band, too. It was definitely the highlight of the night. — Russ Borris, WFUV

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.