M. Ward, Lou Barlow, Laura Marling, and more help EW take SXSW

Sxswparty320At a festival full of over-capacity venues, it was nice to have at least one place where my fellow travelers and I knew for sure we could get in the doors with no trouble: the performance lounge that this publication put together at Smokin’ Music for EW subscribers and their guests on Thursday afternoon.

First up on EW’s bill were Annuals, with what one band member pronounced a "more acoustic than usual" set for them. Next, Laura Marling (pictured here, far left, with M. Ward in the sunglasses and Diane Birch far right, along with EW’s Rob Brunner, Leah  Greenblatt, Jason Adams, me, and Whitney Pastorek) brought us some very lovely finger-picked folk from the U.K. She can sure write a tune, even if she’s barely 19. Also: Maybe it was just the heat addling my brain, but Marling’s multialented accompanist on accordion/drums/finger-snaps/mandolin looked eerily like a young, British version of Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights. (Hey, that show does tape in Austin…)

M. Ward blew the crowd away with the short but intense set that followed. It’s not easy to straight-up shred on unaccompanied acoustic guitar, but he pulled it off. After a brief blast of slow-burning soul from Diane Birch, the afternoon closed with a powerful set from Lou Barlow with Imaad Wasif that mixed more recent material with at least one Sebadoh classic. Give Barlow his due: He’s been plying the melodic indie-folk road shared by most of our lounge’s performers for more than two decades, and he shows no signs of stopping.

All in all, we think we had a pretty awesome lineup, no? (Particularly astute observers might have noticed that all five of those acts are represented by Press Here Publicity, which co-sponsored the event.) If any of you reading this post were there in attendance, we hope you had a grand time, too!

More on these artists:
Album review: M. Ward, Hold Time
Album review: Annuals, Such Fun
The best new female singer-songwriters, including Laura Marling
I Love the ’90s, Lo-Fi Edition: Sebadoh

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