SXSW Night 1: Houndmouth, Rayland Baxter, Harvest Thieves

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Houndmouth performs to a packed house in one of the first music showcases of SXSW 2016.

While the SXSW Music Festival technically starts today, unofficial concerts have been going on during most of the past week.

Rayland Baxter
Nashville-local Rayland Baxter

Local Austin rock band Harvest Thieves kicked off the night, with a raucous set that gained energy as the night went on. Click here for the most-popular track off their newly released album, Rival. 

Rayland Baxter followed up and raised the bar for the night, right from the start with the guitar intro to “Bad Things.” As he sang his smooth and haunting melodies, his five-piece band led the crowd on a roller-coaster of emotion through building dramatic swells of energy into each song. During “Willow,” the band paused after the second chorus and then launched into a huge jam section led by a massive guitar solo from Rayland. The crowd was bobbing their heads as one, and from that moment through the last 3 tunes – “Yellow Eyes,” “Mr. Rodriguez,” and “Young Man” – the crowd was hooked and loving it.

Rayland was so appreciative of the crowd and noted that his first-ever tour was 2 years ago, when it was just him and his keys player, and they opened for Houndmouth. “So we’ve come full-circle tonight, and that’s awesome” Baxter said.

Houndmouth performs to a packed house in one of the first music showcases of SXSW 2016.
Houndmouth performs to a packed house in one of the first music showcases of SXSW 2016.

Then Houndmouth came on. It was a special night for the band – they had just flown in hours before their show from Florida, and were flying out the next day for a set in New Zealand’s Auckland City Limits (the lineup for which is pretty insane). Plus, it was keyboardist Katie Toupin’s birthday. As the Indiana-based quartet kicked in to “Black Gold” to start off the night, it was clear that all four band members were in high spirits as they smiled, laughed, and joked around with each other and the crowd.

Lead singer and guitarist Matt Myers was in rare form all night. Between laying down on his back while playing epic guitar solos, jokingly stripping as he sang “Hey there sugar mama..” and yelling “Spring Break!” several times throughout the night, it was clear that he was having the time of his life up there. And the audience was right there with him.

Keyboardist Katie Toupin being serenaded with "Happy Birthday" from the crowd. This is her 5th birthday in a row in Austin for SXSW.
Houndmouth keyboardist Katie Toupin being serenaded with “Happy Birthday” from the crowd. This is her 5th birthday in a row in Austin for SXSW.

Overall, Houndmouth delivered a performance that let the crowd see every side of the band – humor and heartache in the lyrics, playful stage antics, and incredible musicanship. Katie Toupin was the MVP of the night, with lead vocals on “Casino,” “Gasoline,” and a cover of Gary Wright’s “Dream Weaver” that had the crowd captivated – silent during the verses, and happily singing along with each chorus.

Be sure to catch these bands the next time they roll through Nashville. Here’s to Day 2!