Songs of the South

The Kamals
Photo: Stephen Carradini

Taking place March 12-17, the event’s switch from the single-story Friends Bar to The 512, a two-story location, allowed for two stages without too much noise interference, which is almost always a problem at SXSW.

The open-air upstairs stage had a bit of peripheral sound invasion, but even during Samantha Crain’s set of gentle folk tunes, she played it for a joke. The Shawnee native claimed that all the excess drumming had been recorded into her new album, Kid Face, and that SXSW merely was providing accompaniment that already was there.


The biggest surprise for me was Tallows, an Oklahoma City quartet playing experimental indie pop. The band combined atmospheric electronic elements, vocal melodies and intricate instrumentals into a head-turning, unique amalgam.

Tallows juxtaposes intimate, delicate arrangements with zooming, towering rock moves. “Small Talk,” which found three members tapping out melodies on their fretboards, was an especially impressive turn.


Crain’s aforementioned set was a highlight, as she played new tunes and some old favorites. Her voice was in full form, and she wowed with her dramatic, absorbing melodies.

Her ability to turn a hectic event such as SXSW into a warm, friendly space is a testament to her songwriting prowess. This is a credit to her band as well, which moved the sound along without impeding her voice. It was a thoroughly enjoyable set, as I found myself head-bobbing, toe-tapping and singing along.

Desi and Cody’s set of country, folk and even a little bit of Western swing also carved out a unique space amid the festival’s hustle and bustle. Desirae Roses’ alto vocals are engaging from the first second, as she knows how to set a mood with the tone of her voice.

The Tulsa duo’s performance was incredibly tight, making the whole set feel stately, cohesive and not at all like a slapdash SXSW set. The striking vocals, appealing instrumentals and strong collaboration between both created tunes that were among the festival’s most memorable.

Tulsa’s The Del Toros played a particularly thundering set of rock, not watering their tunes down with any adjective modifiers. They came out with heavy riffs and rode them through the entire set.

In an era where rock songs almost always drop into a softer section for the chorus, it was exciting to hear a band continue the energy and passion through the choruses. Those riffs, however, proved the highlight: two guitars and a bass melded together into one freight train of a sound.

Oklahoma City’s The Kamals also leaned heavily on riffs. Their bluesy, hard-rock sound hearkened to ’60s and ’70s rock, but this is no simple retro band.

The barely contained fury with which they attacked their instrumental sections was amazing. In the middle of one particularly loud tune, lead singer Zak Kaczka also broke out quite possibly the most intimidating harmonica solo I’ve ever heard. The heavy, thrashy sound was gripping to hear and watch live.

Hey! Read This:
• Samantha Crain’s Kid Face album review      
SXSW 2013 preview     
SXSW 2013: Bowlsey / Desi and Cody / Brave   
SXSW 2013: Guardant / The Del Toros / The Kamals / Josh Sallee   
SXSW 2013: Horse Thief / Colourmusic   
SXSW 2013: OK Sweetheart / Defining Times / Samantha Crain   
SXSW 2013: Paperscissor     
SXSW 2013: Tallows   
SXSW 2013: Zach Winters / Parker Millsap  

Stephen Carradini

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