SXSW Review: NPR Showcase @ Stubb’s, 3/14

all photos by Jim Bennett

On Wednesday night, Austin’s famed Stubb’s BBQ played host to an amazing NPR SXSW showcase that featured Fiona Apple, Sharon Van Etten, Dan Deacon, the Alabama Shakes, and Andrew Bird. SXSW is the only place where so many talented, stylistically diverse artists can be found on the same billing, and a line of people hoping to catch some of the action extended around the block in front of Stubb’s gorgeous outdoor venue. This wasn’t an ordinary SXSW showcase, however — NPR streamed audio and video of the performances as they were taking place. If you weren’t able to watch live, visit visit NPR Music to check out archived video and audio of the performances.

We made it into Stubb’s just in time to catch Sharon Van Etten, who played a dark, droning set of love songs that seemed tailor-made for the moody purple lighting that colored the canopy over the stage at Stubb’s. Van Etten ended her set emphatically with the impassioned single “Serpents,” from her 2012 album Tramp.

Following Van Etten was Dan Deacon, an electronic artist who was oddly situated between the melancholia of Van Etten and the soulful roots rock of Alabama Shakes. After Van Etten’s downtrodden set, however, the audience at Stubb’s was in the mood to move, and happily obeyed Deacon’s instructions to form a interpretive dance vortex in the middle of the crowd.

Up-and-coming soul rockers the Alabama Shakes were up next. Since releasing their debut EP late last year, the ‘Shakes have been on fire, tearing across America and playing one sold-out show after another. With a full-length album due out in April, the band was thrilled to be at SXSW, and I spotted dynamic frontwoman Brittany Howard mingling with fans and soaking in the atmosphere before their performance.

Closing out the night was Andrew Bird:

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