Jessica Lea Mayfield – Mar. 17 @ St. David’s Episcopal Church
You can say this about the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach: The guy’s got good taste. Five years ago, he discovered a moody teenaged singer-songwriter by the name of Jessica Lea Mayfield on MySpace and has since produced two albums for the fellow Ohioan, including last month’s Tell Me, which sees the ingénue crooning about young lust, older men, broken hearts and gut-wrenching loneliness. Mature themes for a 21-year-old, but Mayfield’s got the chops, having performed with her family’s bluegrass band since she was 8. Now all grown up and on her own, Mayfield’s been garnering attention from the likes of Spin (who declared her one of the Next Big Things for 2011) and Rolling Stone. She displayed a sweet mix of nerves and humility at the two showcases we saw her perform (this one, above, and another at Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop). Her shy smile and sleepy thank yous after each song — as well as the braces we caught occasional glimpses of — only served to make her more endearing. But a careful listen to her hard-charging lyrics (“I’m drunk on thoughts of you, red wine and tequila too”) prove that she’s no wilting flower. — J.J.
Oberhofer – Mar. 17 @ Bat Bar
Most college students spend their spare time bumming around in intramural athletic contests or performing keg stands at frat parties. Not NYU music composition major Brad Oberhofer, who, at just 20 years old, has released six instantly catchy songs (which he recorded in his parents’ Tacoma, Wash., home) and wowed crowds at both New York’s CMJ Music Fest and, now, SXSW — all without the help of a record label. We caught Oberhofer’s Thursday-night set at Bat Bar, where, from the open windows, a hoard of would-be concertgoers stuck in the winding line on 6th Street (and some half-in-the-bag St. Patrick’s Day revelers wandering by) watched the baby-faced frontman and his three-man backing band bump into each other while rocking out on the tiny stage. Oberhofer had the blasé expression and the rock-prance mannerisms of a much more experienced performer down pat, almost making us forget just how young he is — until a delighted fan presented him with a shot after the set, which the not-yet-legal Oberhofer had to politely turn down. Aww. — J.J.
Young the Giant – Mar. 18 @ SPIN party at Stubb’s
We admit to not having been familiar with this Irvine, Calif., band before happening upon them (mainly in an effort to escape the heat) in the inside performance space at SPIN’s day party at the renowned Stubbs’ BBQ. And despite some early debate over what exactly the name of the five-piece was (“Young and the Giants? Young Giant?”) the artists formerly known as The Jakes quickly made their mark in our memory with a rollicking half-hour set that left no question as to whether or not they deserved the coveted slot between OMD (of “If You Leave” fame) and indie darlings the Kills. Decked in a neon-green tank top and third-day facial fuzz, frontman Sameer Gadhia looked every bit the cool Californian, switching between a standard microphone and one with an echo effect while frantically waving a tambourine in time with his caramel-coated, skyrocketing vocals. The group did their best to blow out the speakers on songs like “My Body” (above) and — dare we say it? — absolutely murdered follow-up act the Kills. — J.J.
Beach Fossils – Mar. 18 @ Buffalo Billiards
Throughout SXSW, this venue seemed plagued with sound issues (it was reported that Odd Future left the stage just 15 minutes into their set because they were so annoyed with sound problems, and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart also made polite mention of sound difficulties), and Beach Fossils were, unfortunately, also affected. The Brooklyn-based indie band (think reverb-heavy, lo-fi) offered up more than a few choice words for Buffalo Billiards, basically telling them where they could go — if you catch our meaning. On top of that, just a few songs in, lead singer Dustin Payseur broke a string on his guitar, and in frustration threw said guitar across the stage. Payseur then asked the crowd if we wanted them to continue (and of course, we did). Thus, after asking to borrow a guitar from someone — anyone — and after a few minutes off stage to regroup, Beach Fossils finally returned to end the show with such energy and power that they definitely redeemed themselves. While their somewhat unprofessional behavior left a bad impression on some, any way you cut it, the show was still good. And, hey, who doesn’t enjoy a good rock-star rant every now and then? — A.F.