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SXSW Music: 30 best bands we saw

Hear EW’s picks for buzzy newcomers who are poised to rule 2016.

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AP, Getty Images (2)

Each year, thousands of artists descend upon Austin, Texas for the annual South by Southwest festival — a week-long celebration of industry showcases, panels, free beer and BBQ, and artists trying to be seen. The annual bash has become such an event, even President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama served as keynote speakers this year.

Through a severe weather warning, unlimited tacos, and one surprise performance from Drake, EW was on hand to scout everyone from up-and-coming talent to superstars. Out of the dozens of daytime sets, evening gigs, early-morning showcases that we saw over the course of a week, these are the 30 stood out. Take note — you’ll be hearing a lot more from these artists in the coming months.

Drake

With his surprise performance at the Fader Fort Saturday night, Champagne Papi was the highest-profile musician to descend on Austin for this year’s South by Southwest. And though his set was brief — just six songs — he showed why he’s one of hip-hop’s best talents today. After an uneven — and also unannounced — showcase by artists from Drake’s OVO Sound label, Drizzy himself appeared, guns blazing out of the gate with “Energy” and “Know Yourself” from last year’s smash If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. He also indicated his braggadocio is still intact, busting out the Meek Mill diss “Back to Back” rather than bigger hits like “Hotline Bling” or “Hold On, We’re Going Home.” Drake closed his set with “Summer Sixteen,” the first single from his long-gestating Views From the 6, assuring fans that the album would drop in a matter of weeks. –Eric Renner Brown

Lavender Country

After more than 40 years out of the musical spotlight, Patrick Haggerty and Lavender Country experienced a major resurgence in 2014 when the music label Paradise of Bachelors reissued Lavender Country, the band’s 1973 album and often cited as the first openly gay country album. Now 71 years old, Haggerty stopped by SXSW to play a handful of excellent shows; he fine-tuned songs like “These C–ksucking Tears” and “Back in the Closet,” which resonated with the millennial crowd. During a daytime show at Pitchfork’s showcase, Haggerty slammed fascism and heteronormativity and thanked fans for bringing his album back to life. It didn’t hurt that earlier in the week These C–ksucking Tears, a short documentary about Haggerty, won honors at SXSW Film Festival. –Jessica Goodman

To hear more from these artists, check out EW’s SXSW playlist on Spotify.