Best live performances at SXSW 

click to enlarge Zola Jesus performed at The Fader Fort presented by Converse during the South by Southwest music festival. - JULIA CHAN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Julia Chan/The S.F. Examiner
  • Zola Jesus performed at The Fader Fort presented by Converse during the South by Southwest music festival.

The S.F. Examiner's music and nightlife column, The Beat, lists the top eight live performances of the 2012 South by Southwest music festival.

1. Theophilus London

Brooklyn rapper and crooner Theophilus London lit up the stage with a bright cast of bandmates at the Warner Sound and Nikon showcase at La Zona Rosa. He performed fresh, new jams off his upcoming album -- standout tunes include one produced by AraabMuzik.

2. AraabMuzik

The MPC king could do no wrong at the Does SXSW party. Playing tunes off album "Electronic Dream," Abraham Orellana used an MPC drum machine to produce rapid, rhythmic drum patterns while the songs played. His fingers were a blur as he tapped out beats and melodies using various samples and sounds all at the same time.

3. Chairlift

Chairlift chanteuse Caroline Polachek was a vision in black as the band delicately tripped through its latest material at Vice magazine's Noisey SXSW Showcase at the Parish Theater. Single "Amanaemonesia" was a set highlight.

4. Santigold

Singer Santi White, better known as Santigold, showed up to The Fader Fort presented by Converse complete with costumed backup singers, high energy and a crown. Missing in action in the studio since the 2008 release of her debut album, Santigold now has her sophomore effort, "Master of My Make-Believe," slated to drop May 1.


Masked producer Aaron Jerome and frequent vocalist Sampha kept the crowd on its toes at The Pitchfork Day Party at Mohawk. The live show consisted of Jerome on both electronic and acoustic drums, while Sampha sang, played keyboards and triggered loops. Their self-titled debut album was released last year to critical acclaim.

6. Zola Jesus

With her booming vocals and massive stage presence, the petite diva proved that size doesn't matter when it comes to music. The strong, dark and haunting Zola Jesus shook The Fader Fort presented by Converse to its core as she sang songs from her three studio albums. Her on-stage mannerisms perfectly matched every nuance of the music; she was truly transfixing.

7. The-Dream

The Grammy Award winner, born Terius Nash, drew many blank stares among festival-goers at Billboard's 2012 South By Southwest showcase at ACL Live. But those in the know sang along as the R&B artist jammed his way through singles such as "Falsetto," "Fancy," and "Love King." With live band accompaniment, The-Dream performed a smooth, hour-long set that had the audience craving more when the lights dimmed and he walked off stage.

8. Lionel Ritchie feat. Kenny Rogers

The legendary artist said "Hello" to SXSW revelers for the first time at Billboard's 2012 South By Southwest showcase at ACL Live. Alternating between singing alone at a piano and performing with a sizable band, Lionel Richie kept the audience grooving to tunes old and new, including a number of Commodore songs. Special guest Kenny Rogers wowed in a duet with Richie on "Lady."

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