Five Epitonic editors made the trek down the Austin for SXSW 2012. Everyone had their own agenda, but its doubtful anyone was able to follow those anyway. We crossed paths often, but had our own unique experiences.

Discovered Artists

I spent a lot of my time at SXSW with this specific goal in mind. The list is quite long, but sticking out are Za! from Spain and Paula & Karol from Poland. Za! rocked very hard and was extremely loud, but despite the blaring amps, I kept noticing an Animal Collective-esque feel within their music. Paula & Karol are a four-piece (or five, they may have been missing one) indie pop/folk-rock group full with a toy xylophone, mini accordion, and an antique violin. Their music was simple, but outrageously happy and fun. Far and away, these guys were the happiest to be in Austin. -- Patrick Van Wagoner

Having spent most of my life until the age of 18 as a weirdo in the safe, little bubble of Midland, Michigan, I developed my own world of music. I have since spent my time being weird in more open environments, but I am still growing, so forgive me when I say my favorite discovery of SXSW 2012 was Deerhoof. As late as I am on this boat, SXSW was the best place and time in my life to get hooked on their perfect spasticity. “Panda Panda Panda” sold me on their greatness. -- Parker Langvardt

I am proud to say, no lie, the Columbia College Chicago AEMMP Records day party turned me on to the best unknown bands I saw. Gypsyblood, Minor Characters, Dusted, and The Ivorys were my favorites. They all killed it and I was proud of my students for curating such a solid show. Admittedly, I did not see many upstart bands but these groups hold their own. Trust me. -- Justin Sinkovich

Best Performance

This is definitely not an easy answer, but I think I’ve cut it down to two shows. For straight-up electronic, the Star Slinger show at Red Eyed Fly was tough to beat. It was early in the day, but the music was perfect. Every song was played under the reds and it was still loud as hell, with booming bass and grooving melodies. The most impressive show, however, was the Matthew Dear set at the Ghostly International showcase. White LEDs on the floor and roses wrapped around every microphone stand created an ambience rarely matched. The drums were seriously impressive, always stealing my eyes even though Matthew Dear himself was directly in front of me. It was loud, it was rock, it was electronic, it was dance-y and it was fun. They are some serious performers. -- Patrick Van Wagoner

Thursday was the night that Sharon Van Etten stole my heart. This bright eyed singer-songwriter put on an amazing show that opened with one of my personal favorites “A Crime.” From there she showcased a number of tracks from her latest release Tramp and even managed to joke around with fans between songs. There was something so genuine and sincere about this entire production, from the song selection and stage setup to Sharon herself, that it was hard not to fall head over heels for this charming gal. -- Cristina Mendoza

Best Performance definitely goes to 1,2,3, who opened the Windish Agency showcase on Friday evening at ND (North Door). 1,2,3 was one of only three bands I had known before seeing them at SXSW. After meeting them a week earlier in Chicago, I was determined to rendezvous with them in Austin. And thank heavens I did -- they were even better the second time! Maybe it was their SXSW excitement, maybe it was the incredible venue, but whatever it was resulted in magic. Singer Nic Snyder’s mesmerizing stage presence, the perfectly-executed falsetto harmonies, and the flawless meshing of Motown and lo-fi rock. They're really cool guys who have fun with their music. -- Bill Ross

When I was fourteen (I think), I discovered punk rock through a mixtape that someone had put together and passed along in my small southern town, copy after copy until it hissed and warbled like crazy.  This cassette changed my life; this is how I discovered punk. On this tape were the best songs from some of the most influential punk bands ever, including Fear, Dead Kennedy’s, The Ramones, Agent Orange, Husker Du and Black Flag. I was hooked for life. While I am still a fan of all of the aforementioned bands, the second and third track off of Psychocandy by The Jesus and Mary Chain were the least punk, but hold up the best in my music collection over the past 25 years.

The Jesus and Mary Chain did not play those songs, but the chance to see that band for the first time in my life was a religious experience for me. The tracks they played off of their failed but brilliant comeback album Munki on Sub-Pop were oddly some of my favorites along with the Pyschocandy tracks of course. Overall amazing, although don’t get me wrong, the band was sloppy and the Reid brothers were arguing openly throughout the set.  Considering they were infamous for imploding onstage never to be seen again, that little bit of drama and tension made it all that more perfect for me. As a side-note, some dude jumped on stage fully clothed and then got naked in about three seconds, and then thrown off of the stage in three more seconds. That was the low-point, but added to the surrealism amidst the strobes and smoke surrounding this legendary band. -- Justin Sinkovich

Best Showcase

Though my fellow editors will probably say this is entirely predictable coming from me, Sargent House put together an excellent showcase at Bat Bar. Hazy Chicago rockers Gypsyblood opened, followed by the brand new post-metal band Marriages. The Canadian duo Indian Handcrafts used an octave pedal to create roaring guitar/bass sounds, yelling along to their slow, headbanging stoner rock. Irish instrumentalists And So I Watch You From Afar got the audience dancing with pumped-up post-rock anthems. I gladly saw dark singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe for the second time at SXSW, and an energetic Zechs Marquise made up for the performance I missed at the slip'n'slide earlier that week. Deafheaven closed the fantastic night with their frantically churning, possessed metal. -- Parker Langvardt

Ghostly International truly knows how to put together a great showcase! I was able to catch showcasing artists Shigeto, Tycho, Matthew Dear, and Com Truise with my fellow editors Patrick and Bill. This showcase was everything I expected it to be and then some. It also helps that I was able to stand a foot away from one of my biggest music crushes, Matthew Dear! -- Cristina Mendoza

I happened to be at both of the aforementioned events and couldn’t agree more with my fellow editors. Parker’s choice was, as stated, entirely predictable, but he’s right. Despite the lack of stall doors and the Billy Madison-style urinals in the bathroom at Bat Bar, Zechs Marquise, And So I Watch You From Afar, and Chelsea Wolfe made the Sargent House showcase the place to be. -- Patrick Van Wagoner

The only showcase that I saw a significant portion of was that of Sargent House. It was, as emphasized before, super loud and super good. Seeing Zechs Marquise for the first time was wild, but And So I Watch You From Afar stands out as the show-stealer for me. And although the sound quality was less-than-stellar, all of the Sargent House bands I saw there killed it with unmatched energy and talent. -- Bill Ross

I had to bounce around a lot, so I don’t think I actually witnessed anything close to a full showcase, but Sacred Bones was hard to beat this SXSW.  I showed up at Elysium in time to see several bands on my wishlist, including Zola Jesus, who were easily one of the most talked about bands down there, Psychic Ills, who I’ve wanted to see live for years, and The Men, who have been on the rise suddenly as well. All three combined were worth the trip to Texas alone. -- Justin Sinkovich

Best Day Party

Aside from the day party that my students from Columbia College Chicago threw for AEMMP Records, the only day party I really got to was the Mog Party. Their lineup was stacked with Blitzen Trapper, Cloud Nothings, Bob Mould playing Copper Blue, The Roots, and more. I actually left before The Roots and opted to see The Cool Kids down the street in order to meet up with a friend, but it was still super fun and I ran into a ton of friends there.  -- Justin Sinkovich

During the day party time period each day I was either working at the BrooklynVegan day parties or the AEMMP Records day party. BrooklynVegan was best on Wednesday. BV Chicago had Minor Characters, Gypsyblood, Maps & Atlases (who packed the room the room), and the smooth dancing JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound.  BrooklynVegan metal columnist BBG had Chelsea Wolfe and Deafheaven in the other room. -- Parker Langvardt

Favorite Moment

You haven’t truly danced your ass off until you’ve danced with hundreds of other people to SBTRKT’s “Wildfire” at FADER Fort. Also, Star Slinger dropped one of my favorite remixes at SXSW -- Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s “Crossroads”! -- Cristina Mendoza

I have literally seen Dinosaur Jr. about fifteen times. Although I’m a huge fan and they never disappoint, they were nowhere near the top of my priority list on this trip. The day of their show, my girlfriend was getting super excited about seeing them, revealing she’d never seen them and that they are one of her favorite bands.  I had no idea and would definitely never turn down seeing them. I mean, I did have a band when I was eighteen that played about ten covers off of their first four albums... We barely got into the “venue," a.k.a. the house with a tent out back, but when we did Dino unleashed nothing but their old classics in relaxed form. I was in the fourth row with my girlfriend who was as blown away as me. Yea! -- Justin Sinkovich

Singing along to Diamond Rugs playing their hilarious single “Gimme a Beer”...for the second time in the same day. -- Parker Langvardt

Biggest Disappointment

After hearing countless rumors of Drake and the Weeknd appearing as the specials guests at FADER Fort, I set up shop in hopes of catching what would have been the Weeknd’s first US performance. Once 8pm rolled around and Rick Ross took the stage, I realized that my hopes of hearing some baby making music were crushed. Also, I’m still very disappointed that I missed Okkervil River playing their surprise show at the BrooklynVegan stage. I can’t tell you how long I’ve been waiting to see them perform “Westfall” live! -- Cristina Mendoza

Speaking of rumors, a friend of mine and I stayed at the Sargent House showcase until the very end in hopes that At The Drive In may make an appearance, considering the label works with Rodriguez-Lopez Productions. No dice. I also didn't get to see Cloud Nothings or African pop artist Nneka. Emo's East was the most disappointing venue, between the travel time and the half hour or more changeovers during the Polyvinyl showcase (which was still a good show).  -- Parker Langvardt

I waited over two hours at The Belmont to make sure I saw The Jesus and Mary Chain. They did not disappoint at all, but listed after on the bill were “Special Guests” to finish off the show.  In my previous experience that means an awesome band that cannot list themselves officially. After a half hour change over at 2am, come to find out this band was a local band who got on the bill somehow, meanwhile I was exhausted with my hopes up. Equally my fault for thinking it was going to be someone I was hoping to see and theirs for taking so long to get started.  I don’t know what their name is, but don’t ever follow JAMC when you are not awesome and can’t get on stage quickly.  -- Justin Sinkovich

Favorite Street Performers

It’s wrong to call them street performers, but saying “favorite real band that played on the street” isn’t very pleasant. I really only caught the name of one of them, but I did that on purpose. Bensh, a trio from Austria and Wales, played in front of fellow editor Bill Ross, myself, and maybe 3 other folks passing by, and despite 3 cop cars with lights on pulling up to the near corner (they clearly weren’t supposed to be there), they continued playing their uber-European synth pop for us to enjoy. -- Patrick Van Wagoner

There was a wolf-man complete with wolf feet playing violin. Enough said. -- Justin Sinkovich

Favorite Venue

Great venues are not hard to find in downtown Austin, but I had a particularly excellent experience Thursday evening at Red Eyed Fly on 8th and Red River.  Surrounded by a small section of forest and a sweet looking creek, the indoor-outdoor rear stage immediately won my approval. Yellow Ostrich and Ramona Falls put on a couple amazing sets. Sound, atmosphere, and everything else was perfect. What I didn’t realize was that in the shuffle of passing through the ID and bag check, my license (my only form of ID) escaped my grasp. Upon realizing this tragedy later in the evening, I retraced my steps and spoke with Heath, the owner of the venue. In the middle of what was surely a busy moment/evening/week for him, he listened intently to my quandary, rushed around to his staff in search of my precious license, and told me to name-drop him at the door to get in to his fine establishment without ID. Fabulous.

Fast forward to the following evening where I trudged around SXSW entirely dependent on the kindness of door-guards to let my sorry behind into shows. Suddenly, a text from Epitonic’s own Patrick Van Wagoner informed me that my license had been found. I skipped merrily through the streets over to Red Eyed Fly, where I was graciously allowed inside by the door-guard and ultimately reunited with my lost identity. It was an emotional 24 hours, but some kindness and generosity made everything suck that much less. So big thanks to Heath and the Red Eyed Fly staff for hosting awesome shows and being damn cool. -- Bill Ross