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SXSW: Where the Strange and Soothing Collide

Last week, 1,700 bands converged on Austin, Texas, for the annual South by Southwest music festival. For some of the biggest names in attendance, like R.E.M. and Vampire Weekend, the event was a coronation — a chance to perform for thousands while promoting new projects. For others, it meant draining savings accounts and driving across the country, for little more than the opportunity to live among the music industry for a few days.

From the strange (Wing, a Chinese woman from New Zealand who sings AC/DC covers) to the soothing (Sera Cahoone, a singer whose songs are like foot rubs at the end of a long night out), the music brought out power and beauty in unexpected places.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)

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